After watching film of Saturday's Camp Tontozona scrimmage, Todd Graham wanted his Arizona State defense to turn up its intensity.
The group responded with one of its best efforts of camp. Now it's time to start preparing more narrowly for the Sun Devils' first opponent, Texas A&M in Houston Sept. 5.
"Defense had a really, really good day. It's good that it keeps going back and forth," Graham said. "Our challenge is to be 1-0 every day, continue to get better. We'll start installing our A&M stuff starting (Tuesday).
"I think sometimes we get a little monotonous. I want more energy, more enthusiasm, more passion. (Sophomore linebacker) Christian Sam has been incredible. He's really stood out. Basically we've got four linebackers. We've got to figure out how all those guys get on the field at the same time, they're really good. More than anything, guys sustaining the passion and energy, I didn't really like that."
Up front, the Sun Devils have a lot of capable players but no stars going into the season. Figuring out the two deep has been tough, much less solidifying the starters. At Devil backer in particular, there's been a lot of players cycling in and out, including starting senior WILL Antonio Longino for the first time Monday.
"(Junior defensive tackle) Ami (Latu) stepped, up, (sophomore tackle) Tashon Smallwood, (freshman defensive lineman) JoJo Wicker, then (redshirt freshman lineman Renell) Wren, (sophomore tackle Emanuel) Dayries, things (junior tackle) Mo (Latu) can do for us.," Graham said.
"I feel good about the depth. We have the best depth we've ever had, we just have to make sure we have the best [first-team] we've ever had."
One of the things coaches have focused most on in camp has been avoiding giving up huge chunks of yards or even a touchdown with one miscue. That was a bit of a sore spot with Graham following the scrimmage, which saw several long receptions and runs. Of course, that also conveys a capability of his team's offense.
"I thought we did a lot of good things, the biggest thing was giving up big plays," Graham said. "I think our offense has a lot of big play capability. I was pleased, I was really pleased. I thought Christian really played well, I thought (sophomore field safety) Armand Perry played extremely well, (senior cornerback Kweishi (Brown) has been outstanding, he's been dominant at corner. He's really, really playing well. I saw a lot of good things from the young guys. I want more passion from Renell, from Dayries. it's okay to get excited. We've asked Christian to do that, he started doing that, he started playing better."
Longino works at Devil
Senior WILL Antonio Longino appears poised for a big season in 2015, but some uncertainty crept in Monday as to exactly where that will happen on the field.
Last season Longino flourished following a mid-season move from Devil back to WILL, and he's practiced exclusively at WILL this year in spring ball and preseason camp.
Graham's tried no fewer than 10 players at the Devil backer position in the last two weeks, with Longino being the latest guinea pig. But he doesn't feel that way
"I already did it before so it comes more natural," Longino said. "It's not, 'I've got to pick this up' [now]. A lot of the things I already know so it's helping me out a lot. It gives me a lot of advantage because we are near the first game. You don't want to start from square one.
"I feel comfortable. Just put me on the field. That's what I'm ready for."
Ultimately, ASU may just go with a linebacker at the Devil position in their 30 front "Okie" personnel grouping, which is more of a third down look, or something that may be used against spread teams.
On base downs (first and second as well as third and short), the Sun Devils will probably go with a 40 front look with the Devil being a bigger hand-down lineman, perhaps true freshman Joseph Wicker or junior Edmond Boateng.
With the 30-front Devil, the question is whether Longino, sophomore D.J. Calhoun, redshirt freshman Ismael Murphy-Richardson, true freshman Jay Jay Wilson, or another player, is the best fit when also considering the rest of the team's personnel.
Longino just wants to see the veteran players rise to the occasion, whatever the circumstance.
"It starts with upperclassmen. I's our last year, we've got to make everybody feel like you can't have nobody come in and play as a freshman.
"Everything is personal. I take everything person. I plan on having a big year. I've got to give it all I've got."Notes