Fall camp is over for Arizona State, but the evaluation process for Sun Devil players is continuing to ramp up.
After Thursday's practice, head coach Todd Graham said the Sun Devils' Saturday scrimmage will help the coaching staff sort out numerous ongoing position battles ASU is keeping close tabs on heading into the season.
The most high-profile position battle yet to be settled is at quarterback, where sophomore Manny Wilkins and redshirt freshman Brady White are trading reps in a quest for the starting job. Graham said the players' performance in the team's upcoming scrimmage will play a pivotal role in their overall competition.
"Saturday is going to be a big evaluation day and I think that every day we come out of evaluation with the most important position, quarterback, and we say exactly where we are," Graham said. "It's been very competitive but Saturday will be a huge evaluation for the quarterback position as well as every other position but that is the most important thing."
Graham said ASU is still monitoring other position battles closely, especially on the offensive line where the team is replacing four starters from last season and in the secondary as the Sun Devils finished with the nation's worst pass defense last year.
"Offensive line, quarterback, secondary, I mean, there's competition at linebacker, there's competition up front," Graham said. "You know, we've had a lot of not major stuff, but a lot of missed practices and stuff and we have to go back in and get some steady there."
Graham highlighted a number of players during his media availability session on Thursday, but focused closely on the progress of senior linebacker Carlos Mendoza who has worked with the second team linebacker unit for much of camp. Mendoza has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but Graham said Mendoza enjoyed a great day of practice on Wednesday.
"He's a great young man, a great family, and it's interesting that you bring him up, because I think he's had his best practice he's had since he's been here yesterday," Graham said. "Being physical, obviously he's had some challenges but, he's a young man with great faith, great character and a guy that we've got a lot of confidence in."
News and Notes
- Senior linebacker Salamo Fiso spent part of Wednesday's practice at Muscle Beach, but began Thursday's practice participating in individual drills with the linebacker unit. Fiso did not participate in an 11-on-11 team period, but ASU was using its nickel defense and Fiso typically doesn't play on nickel downs.
- Junior defensive back Marcus Ball was out of a green jersey and participating in individual drills with the safeties. Ball had tape on his right calf, but has progressed well from an injury suffered earlier in the week that left him in a walking boot.
- Junior safety James Johnson participated in some individual drills for the first time since he started wearing a knee brace late last week, but during ASU's team period, Johnson went over to Muscle Beach to work out.
- Redshirt freshman defensive tackle George Lea was not spotted at practice during the media viewing period.
- Junior college transfer Deion Guignard and redshirt freshman Malik Lawal worked with the inside linebackers during individual periods. Lawal had been working as a pass rusher in skill development periods with the ends and Devil backers, but told SunDevilSource on Wednesday the coaching staff wanted to look at him as an inside linebacker.
- Junior college transfer Koron Crump continues to practice with the ends and Devil backers as a pass rusher, and Crump played on the wide side of the field with the first team nickel defense as a pass rusher.
- In the team's 11-on-11 end of game situation period, Manny Wilkins took first team reps with the offense and after completing a pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Cameron Smith on the first play of the period, Wilkins struggled to move the ball. On a 4th and 10 situation, Wilkins threw a checkdown pass to running back Demario Richard which came up five yards short of the first down marker.