Take one look at freshman safety Marcus Ball and it’s apparent he’s on a different level than other freshmen.
Ball’s 6-foot-3, 205 pound frame is bigger than most freshman safeties, but it’s his raw athleticism that has impressed coach Todd Graham most as the team continues practicing at Camp Tontozona.
“Athletically, character-wise, he has more ability than anyone I’ve coached,” Graham said.
What concerns Graham and defensive backs coach Chris Ball, though, is the mental side of Marcus’s game.
Coach Ball said the freshman’s mental development is crucial if he wants to earn the starting field safety spot.
“He’s got to stay on top of it,” coach Ball said. “He can’t be distracted by being tired, sore and in the grind. He’s got to stay focused on what he has to do and that’s one snap at a time.”
The coach said nobody competing for the starting field safety spot has stepped up enough to replace Keelan Johnson, but Marcus said if his mental awareness improves, he thinks the spot could be his to lose.
“I know that physically I can compete with these guys, but it’s the mental game,” he said. “Being a freshman, you have to mentally prepare and mentally improve.”
Chris said the field safety position is one of the most mentally challenging positions on the defensive side of the ball, which is why he has been stressing mental awareness to Marcus.
“There’s a lot more to that position than being athletic,” the coach said. “There are a lot of things that we ask him to do. He’s the quarterback of the defense with Darby.”
Marcus said he has started to feel a lot more comfortable with Darby and the first-team defense as he has been getting more reps, but he said he is nowhere near perfect.
“I’m still messing up on a couple of little things that need to be fixed because come game day, that’s not going to fly,” he said.
The freshman had his most explosive day of Fall camp Thursday, as he intercepted a pass over the middle.
Despite his explosiveness and the interception, his mental mistakes were apparent and with the season opener less than three weeks away, Marcus said he knows he will still have to improve if the starting job is going to be his.
“My competition isn’t in (redshirt freshman) Laiu (Moeakiola), it isn’t in No. 1,” Marcus said. “My competition is in myself. I’m going to make myself better and I’m going to bring myself down. I’m going to be the best that I can be, the best in the country.”
- Five Sun Devils donned the green no contact jersey Thursday, including junior receiver Joe Morris, freshman receiver Cameron Smith, senior running back Kyle Middlebrooks, senior running back Matthew Reidhead and redshirt junior safety Damarious Randall.
- Graham said his team had their first “average day” of practice this fall but did note senior linebacker Carl Bradford and junior defensive end Marcus Hardison as standouts.
- Graham said sophomore running back D.J. Foster has stood out through the first two weeks of camp. He said Foster’s leadership has been “phenomenal”.
- Redshirt sophomore receiver Jaelen Strong continues to dazzle and had the most impressive catch of the day, hauling in a pass over the great press coverage of senior cornerback Osahon Irabor. Graham said it was a “heck of a catch.”
- Junior tight end De’Marieya Nelson spent time taking handoffs today, something Sun Devil fans should get used to as Graham said he plans to use Nelson as a short yardage back and in goal line situations. Graham also said Nelson has the ability to play up to four positions in the offense (tight end, running back, fullback and wide receiver).
- Redshirt senior cornerback Marlon Pollard took reps with the second team defense for the first time in Fall camp.
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