SunDevilSource Mid-Spring Hot-11

Which Arizona State players have impressed us most relative to expectations through the halfway point of the program's spring practice schedule?

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1. John Humphrey Jr. -- A long-speed athlete, Humphrey is undoubtedly one of the fastest offensive players we've seen on Arizona State's offense in recent years, and especially at the wide receiver position. He claims to have run a 4.26 second 40-yard dash on three occasions. We'll see if that's verified whenever Humphrey competes at the NFL Combine or on his ASU pro day. What is undoubtedly true though is that Humphrey is a speed weapon on the outside at the Z-receiver position, and very complimentary to sophomore N'Keal Harry on the other side of the field. At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Humphrey is very explosive releasing from the line of scrimmage and has shown the ability to evade bump coverage, albeit against a group of ASU defensive backs that is very undeveloped at this juncture. There's very real potential for Humphrey to be as good of a deep threat as the Sun Devils have had in years, and also for him to gain separation from defensive backs underneath the defensive backs as a result of how players have to account for his speed.

2. Chase Lucas -- The main reason Lucas is listed as the top defensive player on our mid-spring Hot-11 is the significant physical transformation he made in his redshirt season. Lucas has gained 20-25 pounds since arriving in Tempe last summer at 156 pounds. ASU coach Todd Graham told us that he considered playing Lucas last year around the fifth week of the season because he was impressive in practices, but that ultimately they held back and think it'll be proven to be a good decision in the long run. From our view, that certainly appears likely, as Lucas has the type of length, mobility and natural football instincts to project as a very good defensive back. Whether that will be at cornerback or as a coverage safety remains to be determined, but Lucas has showed positive signs of development in skill periods of practice in recent weeks and been given first-team reps at cornerback from the outset of the spring. It appears coaches are very interested in getting him on the field a lot. 

3. Frank Darby -- Last year on the scout team Darby earned a lot of positive reviews from ASU coaches and teammates for his play as a wide receiver. It was expected that Darby would be a factor in competing for a two-deep spot this spring. But when the Sun Devils took the field for their first practice, Darby was wearing a white defensive practice jersey. Within a week he was getting a first-team look at the Spur position, which Darby seems to be a very good fit for. He has the size and rugged style as a player to handle the physical demands near the line of scrimmage and in the box, but also can run and cover like a defensive back. Darby has looked like a natural in the position work and has a very good natural football savvy. He's been one of the best looking players on the hoof in a defensive jersey this spring, and has backed it up in skill work. 

4. Malik Lawal -- A third-year sophomore, Lawal is a defensive wild card for the Sun Devils due to his versatility. He has enough flexibility as an athlete to be able to play inside linebacker, Devil backer and Spur, and has in fact worked at all three of the positions in just the first half of spring football. Lawal told us ASU coaches want him to primarily be an inside linebacker, but with returning starting-level players Christian Sam and D.J. Calhoun atop the depth chart there, other options are being explored. One is to play Lawal as a Spur situationally, which could be a way of getting another pass rusher on the field who also can handle some limited coverage duties. Another possibility is using Lawal at the Devil backer position if starter Koron Crump is aligned elsewhere or off the field. There's still a good chance that Lawal ends up being primarily a backup player this season, but he's got the explosiveness and pursuit to at least push others, if not be a sub-package weapon. 

5. Ryan Jenkins -- Over the last several weeks, Jenkins has made clear he's not to be overlooked in the battle for a spot on the two-deep at wide receiver despite being a walk-on -- and that's likely to change in the fall. Jenkins is one of the most likely players to be given a scholarship when classes resume in August. A former Tennessee scholarship player, Jenkins will have spent the necessary two years with ASU in August to be awarded the scholarship and Graham has hinted at it being a strong possibility. Jenkins, even according to other ASU wide receivers, is one of the best route runners on the team. He's received a fair amount of praise from new receivers coach Rob Likens on the field for his route execution, and Jenkins looks leaner and a little quicker this spring than in the past. He really sets up his routes nicely at the top of the route before the break. 

6. Jordan Hoyt -- A former standout at Chandler High, Hoyt started six games for California-Davis in 2014, including against Stanford. He transferred to ASU as a walk-on, where he's been a reserve the last two seasons and is now a fourth-year junior. Like Jenkins, Hoyt is not only in contention to be awarded a scholarship, he's very much in the mix for playing time in the fall. Hoyt, 6-foot-2, 275 pounds, has clearly been as good as any of the other nose tackles practicing under first-year defensive line coach Michael Slater from a skill standpoint. He works his feet through contact and is able to sit in against a double. Though Hoyt isn't especially big or athletic, he's probably more capable at executing what's asked of him functionally in position-work. Coaches have rewarded Hoyt with some first-team reps in the tempo segment of practice, though it'll be hard to be a starter in the fall. 

7. Marshal Nathe -- Even though he's currently working with the third-team at center behind seniors A.J. McCollum and Tyler McClure, Nathe has made a big impression on us relative to expectations. An ACL injury at the tail end of Nathe's high school career led to a slow immersion at ASU as a freshman, but since then, Nathe has fully rebounded. He looks leaner and more athletic than we've ever seen, with good foot quickness and balance. Even though it appears that McCollum and McClure are locked into a battle for the starting spot, Nathe is looming as a player we think could end up having a very promising career considering he's still just a redshirt freshman. There's an opportunity there, seemingly, for Nathe to be the odds-on favorite to become a starter in 2018 as a sophomore. 

8. Jalen Harvey -- One of the most selfless and well rounded players on the team, Harvey has become an impressive player to watch in a practice setting due to the great maturation he's experienced over the last couple years. Though Harvey isn't the biggest or most athletic wide receiver on the roster, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior is tough as nails and probably the best blocker at the position. He's also very competitive for the football and has the ability to make catches in traffic. Harvey is sneaky athletic, which shows up in his adjustment to the football and how he makes contorted catches, even when draped. He's continued to develop as a route runner and as a student of the game. Now the Sun Devils are moving Harvey into the box more in the offense by coordinator Billy Napier, where his physicality is even more of an asset. 

9. Quinn Bailey -- A former basketball standout at Gilbert's Higley High, Bailey has developed significantly from a skill standpoint as a Sun Devil. At 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds, he's trimmed up a bit as a redshirt junior because ASU is looking at him as a starting right tackle option. Bailey has played guard and tackle in the past, and is probably further along as a guard. But the Sun Devils need him at tackle and he's working on handling the speed rush that gave the team troubles in the last two years. Bailey is an excellent down blocker for his height as a tackle, and generally very good against the run. He's a lunchpail type, someone who just shows up and gets the job done. As he improves his kick step range and technique with his hands, he should become a very competent right tackle option. 

10. Jared Bubak -- A year ago Bubak was adjusting to playing tight end for the first time in his life after being a high school quarterback in Nebraska. It wasn't easy. He struggled at the Semper Fi All-American Bowl in his first ever practices from a three-point stance with SunDevilSource in attendance. Things were better two months later in his first ASU practices, but it was still a very steep learning curve ahead. Now, Bubak looks a lot more comfortable in his second spring. He doesn't obviously look like a player who has just changed a position. Bubak also looks better physically. His weight fluctuated transitioning from quarterback to tight end, looking big but not necessarily ideally composed. Now he looks very well put together at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds. 

11. Cohl Cabral -- A former three-star recruit out of Southern California, Cabral arrived on campus at ASU last fall as one of the most physically impressive freshmen linemen to come through the program in recent years. Though Cabral likely wasn't ready to contribute from a skill development standpoint, ASU wound up burning his redshirt and giving him a taste of the field in the Sun Devils' "Sparky" formation. The playing time Cabral did earn could prove pivotal, as he's now the odds-on favorite to win the starting left tackle job and grow into an anchor along ASU's offensive line. Even as a true sophomore, Cabral appears capable of helping ASU at any position along the offensive line, and may even have NFL potential at every position, but the program needs a left tackle and Cabral is one of the only players who has the body type to fit in that role. Cabral boasts high hips, a strong punch at the point of attack and fluid feet, and if he's able to make a significant leap under new offensive line coach Rob Sale, ASU will have solidified its future at a key position. 

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