Player Capsule: Marcus Ball
Weight: 223 pounds
2015 season quick review: In 11 games as a reserve at Spur Ball had eight tackles, one (impressive) interception, one fumble recovery and one tackle for loss as a third-year sophomore.
Defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take (in 2015): "Marcus is talented, athletic, smart, looks like a football player. He just hasn't had the best luck as far as staying healthy and getting a lot of practice reps and experience and that's a big part of it. Moving to Spur was kind of an adjustment for him too, everything is closer and happening faster and you have to be aware of what's going on and have some different techniques. He's learning and if he can stay out there and keep working and being a student of the game, I think it's going to all come together for him."
SunDevilSource.com analysis (08/2016): A hybrid safety-linebacker type athlete who prefers to play safety but is athletically best suited to be a Spur, Ball is striving to become a starter in his fourth season in Tempe. He has flashed with some impressive play-making, most notably a terrific interception against Washington that capped a comeback win and seemed to hint at the potential for strong play as a starter.
With Ball, the key word has always been potential. He looks the part physically and is a very smart and dedicated to his team. He has great intangibles. But he's never been able to stay healthy and on the field, and he's always had to make additional gains from an execution standpoint in order to become a starter. He has good movement skills and flexibility but could benefit from increased physicality making plays coming up, blitzing, and warding off blocks in the alley.
Just when there'd started to be some continuity with Ball's health he showed up to practice days after Arizona State's Media Day in a walking boot. Within days of that, sophomore Tyler Whiley was getting first-team reps at Spur and doing very well in multiple practices including a scrimmage. Ball's going to have to fight to become a starter for the first time in his career as a junior.
(03/2015) When he suffered a broken clavicle at the camp-ending Tontozona scrimmage as a true freshman in 2013, Ball was derailed from the first-year playing opportunity that seemed inevitable at safety. He remained non-contact in the spring after surgery for the injury and then last summer was diagnosed with a medical condition that necessitated a slow build up back to normal football activities that led to missing a lot more on-field reps. When he was finally cleared in full, Ball found himself at Spur full time, a position that is different in a lot of respects from ASU's field and Bandit safety positions.
Expectations have been high for Ball since he arrived at ASU due to the way in which head coach Todd Graham and others on the staff have spoken about him, but a lot of unexpected hurdles have popped up along the way that slowed Ball's assimilation to college football at this level. If he's able to remain healthy and on the field, especially now that he's had a year to adjust to Spur, he may be able to get some continuity that improves his capability.
While Ball is very smart and cerebral, he has had more missed assignment and alignment errors as a percentage of his scrimmage and game snaps than others who are ahead of him on the depth chart. Certainly he's one of the best looking guys on the roster fro a football physique standpoint, and moves well for his size, but he's got to take the next step from a mental processing standpoint. He's been too slow to recognize, identify and adjust on the fly, and prone to mistakes pre-snap and immediately post-snap that can lead to yielding big plays.
Projected depth chart status: At the outset of preseason camp it appeared Ball was the likely starter at Spur this season as ASU coaches prepared to slide senior Laiu Moeakiola from that position to a back safety position. In the third week of August though we've seen sophomore Tyler Whiley get first-team reps at Spur and Ball is certainly going to be challenged to become a starter in his fourth year in Tempe. Ball was in a walking boot and missed action but it appears to be minor and he'll be battling for that starting job.