Video: ASU spring drills

With five new assistant coaches on staff, Arizona State has introduced a variety of new drills this spring including many which are geared toward helping the Sun Devils play with proper pad level and footwork.

Defensive line drills (0:00-0:22): Under new assistant coach Michael Slater, Arizona State's defensive linemen have focused on their stances, pad level and ability to maintain leverage at the line of scrimmage this spring. In the drills we filmed, ASU's players are working on firing out of their stances and reacting to the key read an offensive lineman gives them. Once the Sun Devils' defensive linemen establish their leverage at the line of scrimmage, they simulate shedding a block and taking an angle to approach a tackle that allows them to get their head across the body of a ball carrier to ensure a proper wrap on the tackle. There is an emphasis on making aggressive, purposeful initial steps when firing off the snap of the football. 

Offensive line drills (0:22-0:46, 1:27-1:38): For much of the spring so far, new offensive line coach Rob Sale has focused his drills on ensuring that his offensive linemen are playing with a low pad level and maintaining that level when they fire off the ball at the line of scrimmage. In the drills we filmed, Sale is calling out a specific play ASU's offense would run and asking his linemen to simulate their footwork for that play. Sale wants his linemen working low to high off the line of scrimmage so that they can maintain leverage against defenders and force them back off of the ball to re-establish the line of scrimmage. By having all five linemen work in sync on this drill, ASU's players develop an understanding of where their fellow linemen are going to be in relationship to one another once the play starts. This is important for combo blocks in which multiple linemen are blocking the same defensive player immediately at the snap. ASU's tight ends are also participating in this drill, but they're working just to the side of the offensive linemen. In the second sequence of offensive line clips we show, ASU's linemen are essentially working on the same drill, but they're doing it with players aligned in front of them to simulate how they would block particular plays. When ASU is out in the field, its players are working on pulling plays so that its guards understand how to fit their blocks when they're moving laterally along the line of scrimmage during run plays. 

Inside linebacker/Devil backer drills (0:46-1:10, 1:16-1:26): With Keith Patterson returning to coach inside linebackers and Shawn Slocum staying with the Devil backers this spring, not much has changed in the way ASU's drills are conducted for these position groups. Early in the spring, Patterson has worked on redirection drills with his linebackers and also focused on helping them re-learn and master key reads. In the drills we filmed, ASU's inside linebackers were focusing on their footwork and redirection skills while also working on keeping a low pad level and keeping their eyes fixed on what lies in front of them. As the inside linebackers step over bags, they're moving laterally as quickly as possible while keeping their pad level low so that when they redirect forward, they can do so in a position in which their eyes are straight ahead, their head is up, and they have enough leverage to make a tackle. In the particular drills Patterson's players are working on, they finish drills by redirecting and recovering a fumble or shooting their hands up and catching an interception. The drill we shot of Slocum's Devil backers is based entirely off of understanding leverage, key reads and how each player should fit running lanes as a contain defender. Though the drill is essentially a walk-through, ASU's Devil backers are learning where they need to step when offensive linemen take their initial steps at the line of scrimmage, and what they're responsible for should a run play come in their direction. 

Cornerback/Safety drills (1:10-1:16): In each of ASU's spring practice sessions, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and defensive backs coach T.J. Rushing have worked on backpedals and footwork with the Sun Devils' cornerbacks and safeties to ensure that their players have a thorough understanding of the fundamental technique required to play defensive back, especially in man coverage. Though we only included one clip from ASU's most recent practice, much of what the Sun Devils have been working on is backpedaling, redirecting out of backpedals and reacting to keys provided by Bennett and Rushing to simulate their break on the ball when it's in the air.

Offensive skill position drills (1:38-2:41): For the final minute of our drills video, we mixed in clips of ASU's running backs and wide receivers working on various skills. Under running backs coach John Simon, ASU's backs are drilling pass protection and their approach to the line of scrimmage on plays in which they're asked to block. Simon wants to ensure that the Sun Devils' running backs are the players delivering the initial blow to defenders upon first contact near the line of scrimmage, and this spring, he's worked on helping ASU's players understand how to use their hands and pads to their advantage when they're approached by a defender. By delivering the first blow, a running back can drive a defender backward, but it's important that the initial contact is made when a running back has his feet gathered below his shoulder pads to maintain balance. In ASU's receiving drills, new assistant Rob Likens is working on helping his receivers make their routes as precise as possible and helping his players keep defenders off balance with clean releases and stems at the line of scrimmage. In one drill, Likens is helping his players work on beating press coverage and then turning their eyes in anticipation of a pass while in another, Likens is demonstrating how to maintain leverage against a cornerback on a slant route. In every drill that Likens facilitates, he stresses key details like taking a hard in cut on a slant route geared toward helping ASU's players understand the finer points of playing receiver. 

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