ASU Camp: Wednesday sights and sounds

Arizona State opened fall camp Wednesday in Payson with a new assistant coaches and new wrinkles to its offense and defense.

-- One of the changes new offensive line coach Chip Lindsey implemented in spring ball was having his quarterbacks and all skill players start practice by throwing a lot of quick slants and then transitioning from that to intermediate fade routes. Lindsey has Air Raid and pro-style experience in his background in addition to the Gus Malzahn hurry-up no-huddle. The Air Raid in particular gets the ball out very quickly and incorporates a lot of quick slants, which is something we've not seen much of in the last four years at ASU under former coordinator Mike Norvell. There's a major emphasis by Lindsey on trying to make these completions at a very high rate. To that end, Lindsey repeated more than a few times to his quarterbacks in the drill, sophomore Manny Wilkins and redshirt freshman Brady White, "never overthrow the ball" on the fade route. The reasoning? An overthrow results in an incomplete pass every time. But if the ball is a little under-thrown, there's still a chance for a completion and a greater likelihood of a defensive back getting a penalty. 

-- New drills in preseason camp shouldn't be a surprise with an assistant coaching staff that is half new, and we saw several on display Wednesday. The most enjoyable to watch had to be ASU's version of musical chairs on the football field. Five defensive players would get closely together in the middle of the field, do an up-down and then sprint at full speed to the sideline where four balls were waiting, staggered at five yard intervals. The guy who doesn't end up with a football in his hands has to do up-downs immediately after the rep. It's a fun way to get players further conditioned and also foster competition and promote the idea of running on and off the field, which ASU coach Todd Graham is a huge proponent of. It's a little unfair when linebackers were matched up against defensive backs, or defensive linemen against linebackers, and star players weren't immune. Senior linebacker Salamo Fiso found himself doing up-downs as did others including redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Jalen Bates and George Lea and even junior defensive back Chad Adams.

-- Another wrinkle put in place incorporated a new piece of equipment ASU is using for the first time. It's essentially a five foot tall doughnut-looking red circle bag that players have to tackle as it rolls along the turf. ASU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson wanted his linebackers to work on mirroring a ball carrier who stutter stepped twice at five yard intervals before turning their attention to tackle the moving target. "Gathering feet," Patterson repeated to the linebackers who were being asked to show physical composure within the reps. "You want to work inside-out" to get into proper position to make the play on the ball-carrier, Patterson said. It was probably the first time any of these players had to tackle the big doughnut.  

-- One-on-one wide receiver vs. defensive back drills afforded an opportunity for some of ASU's best athletes to stretch their legs and really get out and run on some vertical shots. Not surprisingly, nobody handled this opportunity better than senior Tim White, who is capable of making a lot of defensive backs quake in their boots, especially when lined up in the slot. With no sideline to help, defenders are exposed in space to White's explosive route stem and how well he sets up leverage. If they give a wide berth he's going to break it sharply in or out and have a big cushion. When they come closer he opens up the throttle and can leave them five or more yards in his wake. White had his way in this drill but a couple of the big play opportunities were just missed on the throw. Oklahoma transfer John Humphrey Jr. also had a good showing. On one rep he dusted Texas cornerback transfer Bryson Echols and made a great play on the ball in the end zone on a 50-yard touchdown connection. Junior wide receiver Cameron Smith also was able to access his top end speed a couple times and looked good in the process. ASU's secondary has a lot of questions to answer this year after an abysmal 2015 and junior safeties James Johnson and Chad Adams were on the short end of the stick in this segment. Johnson didn't have the speed to hang with ASU's receivers down the field and Adams was indecisive. ASU secondary coach T.J. Rushing got frustrated with Adams for not hustling after being beaten and not chasing the reception to the sidelines. "Finish the rep," Rushing said. "Never get beaten outside" in that particular coverage.

-- It wasn't all bad though for ASU's secondary, as sophomore Kareem Orr undercut a White pass on a route that was likely misinterpreted by White because it wasn't run well. Orr saw it and quickly dipped under to make the play. It was one of several he made on the day, with another being an impressive close down on zone coverage that allowed him to break up the pass as it arrived a split second late. While Echols had somewhat of a hit-or-miss day in his first ASU practice and senior De'Chavon Hayes worked on offense and junior college transfer Maurice Chandler was in a green jersey and limited, the options were still a bit limited in the secondary. It wasn't much of a surprise to see Orr and sophomore Armand Perry show the most poise and competence in these drills. Moeakiola isn't ideally suited for man coverage in the open field but is smart and understands how to manage the space about as well as he can in one-on-ones. 

-- Whether he could have snapped or not is unclear but junior long-snapper Mitchell Fraboni didn't participate Wednesday and was in a green non-contact jersey. It opened up an opportunity for freshman Cohl Cabral to test his ability snapping the football but with mixed results. Cabral -- who physically looks fantastic for a true freshman at a legitimate 6-foot-5 and 286 pounds and with good flexibility -- had a lot of velocity on his snaps and was getting the ball back in a hurry, but it just wasn't always accurate. He sailed one ball well over the head of senior punter Matt Haack and bounced another one. He wasn't missing left or right much, but didn't have control of the vertical axis. Even so, Haack had a huge day punting the football and is looking like he's poised to compete for all-conference honors this season. The amount that Haack has improved in his ASU career is nothing short of remarkable. 

-- Newcomers didn't practice with the rest of the team to start the Wednesday session but head coach Todd Graham engaged with them nonetheless. Talking with highly touted freshman wide receiver N'Keal Harry and others at the position as they took a knee on the sideline, Graham said, "Every single rep, we want to see your best out here." Throwing the gauntlet down right away, Graham knows something not all freshmen do: it's going to take a great next couple of weeks for any freshman to play his way out of a redshirt, and there's no time to go easy on any reps, much less have any bad days. 

- There is a serious indoctrination process to playing football at the major college level. It's nothing like what the incoming freshmen have experienced. Every new crop learns this the hard way at the outset of their first practice, particularly with a coach as strict as Graham when it comes to the process by which a team takes and leaves the field. When the newcomers practiced and went to their first 11-on-11 period, they were called on and off the field multiple times for not hustling, or not lining up properly. So many coaches and voices were barking at them that it had the feel of boot camp as much as football camp. 

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