Arizona State senior wide receiver Tim White worked at cornerback Wednesday during position drills for the first time in his Sun Devil career.
White, who transferred to ASU last year from College of Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, said he actually approached ASU head coach Todd Graham about playing on defense a couple times when he first arrived.
“We had always planned on looking at him there,” Graham said. “That’s something we talked about before spring. I just think his athleticism and his ability with ball skills, and he’s long and he’s always come up to me, ‘Hey coach, man, I can play corner, I can play corner,’ and he wants to do it so we’ll let him try to do it just a little bit.”
White specifically emphasized his request over the past couple weeks, so Graham said he finally decided to give White a shot – just to look at him as an option and not an official move.
White, who had 57 catches for 633 yards and eight touchdowns last season for ASU after overcoming a broken hand in preseason camp, said he played a couple snaps at corner at junior college “for fun” and liked the position.
“Actually he (White) has asked me every day of spring (to play corner),” Graham said. “Well, not every day. That’s not truthful. Almost every day.”
Graham said he sees White as someone who can just play third downs or in ASU’s nickel defense. If White keeps on progressing at corner, then more options are open to explore, but as of Wednesday, Graham said White looked “pretty good” and “pretty natural.”
And while White probably won’t end up playing most of his snaps on defense, Graham sees potential in White, citing it takes a “really special player” to play both ways.
“I think Tim is a guy that can do that,” Graham said. “With (redshirt senior De’Chavon) “Gump” (Hayes), he will primarily be on defense, but he’ll have some plays, some special plays (on offense). You can’t play full-time both ways. In my opinion it’s hard to do. If you do it, it takes a skilled player to do it or a guy like Myles Jack (at UCLA). Our whole deal is working and trying to create as much depth as we can and get the best guys on the field.”
With White getting looks as a corner, that makes three offensive players who are either trying out or solely playing at corner this spring.
Hayes was already taking reps at corner last year, but he is continuing to do so this spring, as well as working with the offense in his original position – running back.
Last week Graham said ASU is also trying out redshirt senior Eric Lauderdale – previously wide receiver – at cornerback. Lauderdale has been getting some second team reps at that position this past week.
“I think that gives him a chance (to play) and that’s what he wants to do,” Graham said.
Even with the moves, ASU’s secondary overall is not locked in and is seemingly thin depth-wise with walk-on defensive backs mixing in with the second team during team periods media are able to view.
“This spring we’ve had nagging injuries,” Graham said. “I think we have more people with the guys we got coming in. The problem is we’re going to have more newcomers than we’ve ever had.”
But with the addition of White to the players getting looks at corner, that means White’s list of duties now include playing corner, wide receiver, taking reps on special teams, and also when he’s not playing football, looking to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in triple jump.
“I don’t find it hard,” White said, regarding managing multiple positions. “I get out there and do it and have fun and be careful about the reps and everything and they manage it pretty well so I feel good about it.”
On special teams, White looks to be a prominent player in an improving unit.
Last year, White was one of ASU’s kickoff returners and was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in ASU’s 34-18 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City in October 2015.
White’s special teams score was ASU’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2012.
This season, Graham said he is looking at White to return kickoffs and punts in addition to Hayes and junior running back Kalen Ballage.
As for the special teams unit overall, Graham said the difference has been “night and day” since the arrival of ASU special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum.
And this year with senior punter Matt Haack and senior kicker Zane Gonzalez both veteran leaders of the group, Graham even went as far to say the unit has “improved dramatically” and is “remarkably better.”
“I think we’ve punted the ball extremely well,” Graham said. “One of the things was the accuracy of the field goal kicking and we’ve had a heck of a spring so far with that and with both kickers, (redshirt sophomore John) O’Brien and Zane, and then obviously Zane is a weapon kicking the ball off. I think the skill players, our kickers and snappers, punters have really gotten better and I think we are more knowledgeable in every position.”
-- Junior linebacker Christian Sam (hip), senior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola (shoulder), freshman offensive lineman Marshal Nathe (knee), senior tight end Kody Kohl (leg), and junior tight end Grant Martinez, were all in green non-contact jerseys Wednesday. Moeakiola was warming up in his position group, but did not participate in any individual drills or team periods media were able to observe.