As the season opener against Northern Arizona approaches for Arizona State, head coach Todd Graham offered a rundown of his expectations for the personnel who should start on the Sun Devils' offensive line.
With just one returning starter in senior left tackle Evan Goodman, ASU entered fall camp with four positions up for grabs. And with preseason practices coming to an end, Graham indicated many of those positions remain in flux.
Despite practicing with a consistent group of five players along the offensive line for much of fall camp and into game preparations for Northern Arizona, Graham listed off seven to eight players he indicated could start for the Sun Devils this season.
Though sophomore left guard Sam Jones and redshirt freshman right tackle Zach Robertson seem relatively secure in their positions, Graham said the team is still determining where senior Stephon McCray will start and whether to keep sophomore Quinn Bailey in the lineup or go with junior college transfer A.J. McCollum.
"There's more than five, but I would tell you that right now, I project the starters being Stephon (McCray) or A.J. (McCollum) at center, Stephon or Quinn (Bailey) at right guard," Graham said. "I think Evan (Goodman) and Zach (Robertson) at the tackles, with you've got Stevie Miller, you've got Alex (Losoya) as a backup left guard right now, and then Quinn can kick out to tackle and obviously we've got Cohl Cabral at the other tackle. That's kind of the group that's working."
McCray has the versatility to play both center and guard, and has worked with the first team offense at center for most of camp. On Wednesday, though, McCray began taking a greater share of reps at right guard, which could indicate the Sun Devils are taking an extensive look at McCollum at center.
A transfer from City College of San Francisco, McCollum spent the first half of fall camp sidelined with a hamstring issue, but has performed well enough to merit starting consideration since his return to the practice field.
"He (McCollum) is a very tenacious young man, very physical, almost kind of somewhat of a throwback center," Graham said. "I don't know if you know what I'm talking about, he's kind of just a mean tough guy, you know what I'm saying. He's still got a lot of work to do fundamentally, but he's done well and helped us."
Graham also said offensive line coach Chris Thomsen has been impressed with the work of the group as a whole, including depth options like Miller and Tyler McClure. Miller suffered an injury earlier this week that forced him to watch Thursday's warmups on the sideline in a walking boot, but Graham said Miller has the potential to contribute this season.
Graham did say one of the drawbacks of breaking in four new starters along the offensive line has been an increase in the number of penalties in practice, but overall, the head coach is satisfied with improved depth at the position group.
"We are talented, I do think there's more depth, than what we've had in the past, but we're going to have to know where that line is of keeping it simple," Graham said.
News and Notes
- Senior safety Laiu Moeakiola was not in attendance at practice Friday during the media viewing period. Moeakiola missed Thursday's practice to see a specialist for his hamstring, and after practice, Graham said safeties Chad Adams and J'Marcus Rhodes are competing to start at ASU's bandit safety position in Moeakiola's absence.
- Redshirt freshman defensive tackle George Lea wore a green jersey at practice for the second day in a row. Lea was injured last week, and has not participated in individual drills open to the media since his injury.
- Miller arrived in a walking boot to Thursday's practice, but was out of the boot on Friday and working out at Muscle Beach during the individual periods of practice.
- Junior defensive back Marcus Ball wore a green non-contact jersey and did not participate in individual periods at practice. Ball wore a walking boot for a day of practice at the beginning of last week, and has not participated in any team drills open to the media since an injury suffered two weeks ago.
- Freshman Kyle Williams worked at safety for the third consecutive practice after spending most of August at wide receiver.
- Freshman wide receiver Jack Smith worked with the quarterbacks during the individual periods of practice Friday, and Smith is expected to lead the scout team offense.