Arizona State signed what is objectively its best recruiting class of the century in February and yet only a handful of freshmen saw the playing field in 2015 due to a senior-laden, veteran team.
After using those redshirt players on scout team for the last three months, ASU coach Todd Graham was again reminded of the potential of his youngsters as they scrimmaged during bowl practices on Friday and Saturday.
"I'll tell you, that's two really good days of bowl practicing," Graham said. "I'll tell you, it looks completely different. You look at the bodies out here. I like how hungry they are too. We're very unhappy with how we underperformed as far as our expectations and I like the guys' mentality."
True freshman linebacker Khaylan Thomas intercepted sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins and not long thereafter forced a fumble during the team's inside run session. True freshman quarterback hit sophomore receiver Ellis Jefferson on a perfectly thrown in-stride touchdown behind the defense. But he's just several of the young players who've made a positive impression.
"(Wide receiver Terrell) Chatman looks really good, (redshirt freshman offensive lineman Connor) Humphrey looks really good. I'll tell you, (walk on sophomore offensive linemen Tyler) McClure, he's a guy who has really come on, he's kind of stuck out to me. Obviously the young defensive linemen, (freshman tackle) George (Lee), (redshirt freshman tackle) Rennel Wren, (sophomore tackle Emanuel) Dayries, (freshman Devil backer) Bo Wallace has done some good things. The two running backs. We even gave the ball to (freshman 3-back) Jay Jay (Wilson) some today. Jay Jay and (freshman running back) Jason (Lewis) kind of stuck out to me a little bit. (Freshman) Tommy (Hudson) is going to be a heck of a tight end."
Graham also singled out freshman Zach Robertson at left tackle, and said the Sun Devils are going to continue to try to get bigger and strong via recruiting, with an emphasis on trying to offset the loss of four starters on the offensive line.
"No doubt [development of returners is] important," Graham said. "I think their development is going to be really big. Obviously the recruiting process is going to be big there with some of the junior college guys we're looking to bring in. We've got to replace our quarterback and some pretty good warmups."
Even though ASU has Bercovici for one more game, the quarterback competition that will determine who starts at the position for ASU at the beginning of the 2016 season is now underway in earnest. White had an impressive showing on Saturday after Perkins had a great effort Friday.
"I'm excited about it," Graham said. "It's already started. We've got three really talented young me and there will be four in the fall, so we're excited about it."
Cameron Smith takes big step in rehab
ASU learned before the start of the season that returning starting junior wide receiver Cameron Smith would miss the year due to knee surgery. Smith has a redshirt year available and will be a fourth-year junior next season. Saturday, Smith ran routes at full speed and caught the football in a drill that didn't have any defensive players.
"It was really, really nice to see Cam Smith running around and catching balls today, especially those deep balls," Graham said.