In the spring, injured Arizona State cornerback Kweishi Brown could only watch from the sidelines as fellow senior cornerback Solomon Means played well enough to warrant consideration as the team's starting field corner.
Now two weeks into preseason camp, Brown has bounced back from a self-reported meniscus tear in his knee and has all but solidified his starting spot at the position after an impressive couple of weeks at practice.“Kweishi Brown has had the best camp he’s ever had,” ASU coach Todd Graham said last week at Camp Tontozona. “I've been on (senior cornerback) Lloyd (Carrington) because I say he’s having a better camp than Lloyd and Lloyd has been pretty consistent.”
At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Brown is a big, physical press corner who will be playing his second – and last-- year with the Sun Devils after transferring from Grossmont (Calif.) College last season as a junior.
Brown struggled early trying to learn ASU’s complicated, blitz-heavy defensive scheme, but earned the starting field corner role in late September when ASU played UCLA.
He totaled 46 tackles – good for fourth-best on the team – and tied for first with three interceptions.
“Coming in last year, first year, kind of getting my feet wet, I had an alright season,” Brown said. “But I knew I could have done better. This year is my chance to show that I can do better and I got to go to the next level. So I’m pretty confident in myself.”
Brown’s confidence is showing on the field. ASU secondary coach Chris Ball said Brown was the best nickel back on field Saturday during the scrimmage at Camp Tontozona.
“He’s having the best camp out of everybody at the corner spot,” Ball said. “You know, Means is doing well too. Competition really makes things competitive and makes people step up and we’ve got more competition going on in our secondary since we’ve been here.”
From a physical standpoint, Brown has the capability to be a top-level cornerback like Carrington, but with only two years in a Division I program, the question lingers if Brown has enough time to thoroughly develop his game and get to the next level.
“Just trusting your training, that’s my motto,” Brown said. “Got to trust my training and that’s what I’ve been doing, just trusting myself, trusting my instincts and it has taken me pretty far.”
While comfortable with the team’s defensive approach, Brown said he still has work to do on some of his techniques, especially his footwork at the line of scrimmage.
Over the summer, Brown said he worked on being patient and giving the receiver some space instead of reacting too quickly to the first move the receiver makes.
“You’re not going to have a perfect day so I still have my days when I’m off and I’m kind of lunging and what not, letting my fatigue get to me, but for the most part, being a little bit patient letting them come to me is what I’ve been doing,” Brown said.
Brown has the foot quickness to recover quickly on defense and stick with receivers, but if his techniques aren’t down pat, especially at the line of scrimmage, Brown could yield big plays in the passing game given ASU's man free coverage frequency.
Helping Brown get down his techniques and turn into that next-level type of player is not only Ball, but also Graham, who serves as ASU’s cornerbacks coach in skill periods of practice.
“[Being coached by Graham is] tough, but a blessing,” Brown said. “Having the guy that runs the whole team as your coach is an advantage and we have an advantage, but it’s on us as players to actually seek his attention to actually take it all in and do what he tells us to do. Because if we don’t, we lose, not him, we.”
Time will tell if Brown can at least get close to reaching his ceiling as a football player in his last year with the Sun Devils, but for now he remains focused on trusting his training and playing alongside a talented secondary group.
“Just being with the players I’m surrounded around, that’s what helps we come out each and every day to play this game,” Brown said.
Joseph Wicker, a versatile freshman defensive lineman, will play this season and likely start according to Graham. In the last week alone, Wicker has played with the first-team at the 5-technique end, 3-technique tackle, and Devil backer position when ASU has been in its 40 front look.
"He's been phenomenal," said Graham, who views Wicker as a 3-technique tackle long term but may play him elsewhere this season out of necessity.
Graham said cornerback Kareem Orr and fullback Nick Ralston will also play. Orr is a special teams player and likely ASU's No. 4 corner. Ralston is a third-down and goal line option when ASU operates out of an I-formation with its quarterback under center.A handful of other freshmen continue to be evaluated by Graham and no determination has been made as yet on redshirting. That list includes Jalen Bates, who took first and second team reps at Devil backer in nickel situations Tuesday.
A day ahead of the start of classes at the school ASU held a closed scrimmage Wednesday, its first practice in Sun Devil Stadium of preseason camp.
"Our initial deal was obviously just our game management and -- it's why I don't have a voice -- trying to get our kids to take over it," Graham said. "When you sign with the Arizona Cardinals, they're not going to be over there, 'c'mon boys, let's go.' Our guys have been very self-motivated."
The Sun Devil offense had 100 percent ball security Graham said, but there was no full tackling as a measure of keeping players safe.