In a week in which Arizona State will be without junior Spur linebacker Marcus Ball for one half of play due to a targeting penalty, the Sun Devils were hopeful that fellow junior linebacker Christian Sam would recover from an injury in time to play against Texas Tech.
However, head coach Todd Graham indicated the Sun Devils' linebacker depth will be thin against the Red Raiders, as Sam did not practice Thursday. Sam injured his right ankle early in ASU's season-opener against Northern Arizona and walked off the field Saturday evening in a walking boot.
"He (Sam) didn't practice today, so obviously he's doubtful," Graham said.
Ball was disqualified from Saturday's game in the third quarter after being penalized for targeting, but will be eligible to return to the field for ASU in the second half against Texas Tech. Sophomore Tyler Whiley filled in for Ball at Spur Saturday evening.
Without key personnel, ASU's challenge of stopping Texas Tech's vaunted Air Raid offense is compounded because the Red Raiders have such an explosive offense. Texas Tech put up 69 points in its season-opening win against Stephen F. Austin last week, and Graham said quarterback Patrick Mahomes is among the best quarterbacks in the country.
"You're going against I think the No. 1 offense in the country from last year, probably, watching on film, there's probably not a better quarterback in the country at what he does, absolutely phenomenal," Graham said. "Great skill players, very, very explosive offense, so obviously special teams, scoring points, taking care of the football, but it's exciting."
The Sun Devils surrendered 369 passing yards against Northern Arizona in week one, but ASU allowed just 13 points as the Lumberjacks only connected on one long touchdown. Texas Tech is known for its passing attack, and Graham said even though the Red Raiders have the capability to run the ball well, the Sun Devils' top priority this week is taking away what Texas Tech does best.
"You have to play defense, the whole deal is that you have to take away what they do best," Graham said. "These guys are really good, I think the least they scored last year was 26 points, most of the time it's 40 plus. Tremendous quarterback who can really extend plays, very big, very powerful, the tailback is very explosive. They can run the ball and throw the ball."
News and Notes
- Redshirt freshman right tackle Zach Robertson was limited in warmups and position drills earlier this week, and on Thursday, Robertson did not work with the first team offense during an 11-on-11 two-minute period open to the media.
- With Robertson on the sidelines, ASU used junior college transfer A.J. McCollum at center, senior Stephon McCray at right guard, and sophomore Quinn Bailey at right tackle. McCray started at center and Bailey started at right guard in the team's season-opener.
- Senior safety Laiu Moeakiola was on the field with the first team defense during the 11-on-11 period as an additional defensive back. Moeakiola missed Saturday's contest against Northern Arizona with a hamstring injury.
- ASU used a light package with six defensive backs on the field during the 11-on-11 period which is an indication of the type of personnel package the Sun Devils could use against Texas Tech.
- Sophomore Spur linebacker Tyler Whiley had the best rep of any defensive player during the 11-on-11 period as he batted down a pass from sophomore Manny Wilkins on a crossing route over the middle of the field.