ASU football simulates Navy’s unorthodox offense in practice

Coach Todd Graham and his coaching staff has made several changes in the practices leading up to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to counter Navy’s triple-option offense, including one that featured freshman wide receiver Parker Rasmusson as the scout team quarterback. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

Navy versus Army was the only game broadcasted last Saturday, so Midshipmen freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds received a lot of national attention.

He has also caught the attention of the ASU defense.

Navy’s triple-option offense is something that ASU has not faced the whole season. It is a different style of play, but Navy has shown that it can work.

ASU coach Todd Graham said Reynolds is the reason for the Midshipmen’s success.

“He is the key to their offense,” Graham said.

First and foremost, the Sun Devils are preparing for Reynolds’s legs. In the triple-option system, the quarterback is more of a second running back. He is always going to be a run-first threat.

ASU is doing a lot to combat it in the practices leading up to the bowl game.

The coaching staff started with a quick change at scout team quarterback.

To simulate Reynolds’s running ability, ASU took out pocket passing quarterbacks like redshirt freshman Danny Lewis and freshman Taylor Cohan.

Instead, Graham said more athletic players have been taking snaps on scout team.

Freshman wide receiver Parker Rasmusson has been trying to simulate the Navy quarterback as much as he can.

If last Saturday’s game is any indication, Reynolds is not just a running quarterback. Even though he is bound by the option system, he can occasionally use his arm.

“I’ve been very impressed,” Graham said. “They came out and ran a lot of spread against Army. He can really throw. He throws well on the run. He’s not just a one-dimensional guy.”

Before Navy even snaps the ball, it shows an unorthodox look. The Midshipmen’s offensive linemen set up with bigger distances in between one another, and they lean forward ready to get off the ball.

The running backs are only a couple feet behind the quarterback to prepare for a quick hand-off.

The straight-ahead running system Navy has mad it difficult for ASU to get pressure on the ballcarrier and make plays in the backfield they’ve been creating all year.

“Our strength has been to sack the quarterback and our ability to stop the pass and disrupt things on offense,” Graham said. “Their strength is a challenge for us because obviously, if there is anything that we need to make the most improvement, (it) is the run defense.”

Navy’s offense will be a very different challenge for ASU. The Sun Devils, however, are not going to change their scheme.

Graham said they are going to continue doing what has given them success all year.

“When you try to do a bunch of gimmick stuff and a bunch new stuff, I’m not big in that,” Graham said. “I think you do what you do, and you get better at what you do.”

 

Competitive respect

“Respect,” is the first word out of any ASU players’ mouth whenever they talk about going up against their opponents from the Naval academy.

The Sun Devils game against the Midshipmen puts them in an odd predicament.

“They serve a great deal to our country, and they’re great men,” junior safety Alden Darby said. “But once that whistle blows, we got to get that victory by any means necessary.”

 

Reach the reporter at ehubbard@asu.edu