At Arizona State's Friday practice, sophomore Tyler Whiley lined up with the first team defense at the Spur linebacker position.
Whiley entered fall camp outside of ASU's two-deep on the depth chart as a cornerback, but has found himself with the first string at times over the last week.
"Just really is mentally matured and one of the things too, we've kind of found a spot for him (Whiley)." ASU head coach Todd Graham said. "He just really came back a different guy, it just sometimes takes kids a little bit to mature and he's really matured mentally and I think physically he's developed himself. He's faster, and it means something, he wants to play. He's been one of the bright spots of this camp. A guy that has turned it around and still has a lot of work to do. But a guy that I'm really proud of and have a lot of confidence right now."
Whiley said he began transitioning away from a true cornerback role at the beginning of camp when ASU's coaches looked at him as a nickel corner, and performed well enough to earn repetitions at the Spur linebacker spot.
Like Graham, Whiley cited his maturation process as key to his development, and also talked about controlling his weight.
"I feel good, I feel like I've finally matured, I've got my weight down, I feel a lot better and that coach has finally given me a good opportunity to make plays out there," Whiley said.
Whiley said he currently weighs between 200 and 205 pounds, but has lost weight recently to get into better playing shape. In high school, Whiley said he weighed about 190 pounds.
With injuries sidelining junior Marcus Ball and senior Salamo Fiso for parts of the last week, ASU's coaches have been creative in mixing and matching personnel. Ball started camp at Spur, but has since moved back to safety. Fiso, meanwhile, did not participate in ASU's team period during Friday's practice which allowed junior D.J. Calhoun to slide from Will to Sam and junior Christian Sam to play Will.
With a void at Spur, Whiley has stepped in and performed well, and the local product out of Chaparral High School said the position suits his skill set and body type well.
"It gives me a chance to kind of be involved in the run and also the pass," Whiley said. "I feel like I'm a bigger type of DB so it's good to be involved in the run and I can cover as well so it helps."
Graham said one of ASU's focuses during fall camp has been adapting the team's defensive scheme to maximize the abilities of the Sun Devils' personnel. Whiley's shift in roles is a prime example of that focus, and Graham is excited about the possibilities ASU has explored so far.
"We really work on adapting our scheme to our personnel, not really what the other team's offense is," Graham said. "Then you go in each week and you're going to game plan according to taking away their best run plays and pass plays and then their best players. You can't tailor what you're doing around somebody else's personnel, but you can game plan that way. So we're really adapting to the skills and talents to our players and what they can do."
News and Notes
- Redshirt freshman defensive tackle George Lea was not at practice for the second day in a row.
- Sophomore Devil backer Joseph Wicker did not participate in individual or team drills, and worked out at Muscle Beach during Friday's practice periods open to the media.
- Junior tight end Raymond Epps arrived at practice about 10 minutes after the rest of the team Friday with a heavy wrap on his right hand that included multiple fingers wrapped. Epps wore a normal maroon offensive jersey and participated in individual drills.
- After participating in the first round of individual drills, senior linebacker Salamo Fiso did not participate in the team's 2-minute drill and then went over to Muscle Beach to work out.
- Sophomore defensive back Das Tautalatasi was wearing a green jersey and did not have a helmet on during warmups. Tautalatasi watched warmups off to the side wearing sunglasses.
- With Wicker and Fiso not participating in ASU's team period, junior college transfer Koron Crump lined up with the first team at Devil backer and Whiley played with the first team at Spur.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Brady White took first team reps with the offense during the team period open to the media. ASU simulated an end of game situation with the ball on the 48-yard line, no timeouts, and the offense trailing by two. After completing his first pass on a slant route, White targeted running back Kalen Ballage, who bobbled the pass which was then intercepted by junior linebacker Christian Sam.
- After the interception, sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins took over and completed a checkdown pass to Ballage, threw a pass out of bounds on a quarterback hurry, and then hit junior wide receiver Ellis Jefferson on a back shoulder fade for a first down. After spiking the ball and handing off to Ballage, the field goal unit came on the field and senior Zane Gonzalez kicked a 45-yard field goal to end the drill.