Even though ASU released its fall depth chart last week, the Sun Devils are still shuffling some of their skill positions three days before their season opener against Sacramento State.
Of course, the biggest carousel on the depth chart is at field safety.
While ASU coach Todd Graham and the other coordinators tested out several players at first team, it appears redshirt freshman Laiu Moeakiola will start on Thursday.
Redshirt senior defensive back Robert Nelson was practicing at field safety for the past two weeks since freshman safety Marcus Ball suffered a shoulder injury at Camp Tontozona. However, Nelson returned to getting first-team reps at field corner on Monday.
Either way, cornerbacks and special teams coordinator Joe Lorig wants Nelson to start, regardless of where he’s lining up.
“He’s a guy that can do everything,” Lorig said. “We’re just trying to get the four best defensive backs on the field, and (we’re) kind of experimenting with different guys back there. He’s a swing guy, a field corner or nickel.”
The shuffling at field safety may continue once Ball returns, which could be in two weeks.
Graham said in his Monday press conference that Ball was the starter before he got hurt and that redshirt junior Damarious Randall should be in the hunt once he recovers from his nagging groin injury.
The other position still in question is starting punter.
Although the fall depth chart listed junior Dom Vizzare as the starter, Lorig said he probably won’t name a starter between Vizarre and freshman Matt Haack until game day.
Lorig expects this position battle to carry over into the regular season and didn’t leave out the possibility of having both punters play at some point of Thursday’s game as well.
“It’s ongoing, day to day,” Lorig said. “It’s not like a quarterback competition or something like that where you have to name somebody or else it will affect the whole offense. We intentionally want to do that, so those guys are competing every single day. We just have to work on consistency right now.”
Of all the positions on ASU’s roster, Graham believes punter is the only place the team has not yet improved.
Whoever wins the starting job between Haack and Vizzare must replace Josh Hubner’s performance from last year. Hubner’s 47.1 yards per punt was the second highest in the nation in 2012.
“I don’t know if we’re as good as we were last year punting the football,” Graham said. “We’ve got to get better there.”
- Graham said Randall and junior wide receiver Joe Morris could both play. Morris (foot) could see a limited role on Thursday, but Graham doesn’t think Randall (groin) will play.
- Graham revealed the fact that his personal pre-game tradition used to involve eating a hot dog and popcorn from the stadium. Because Graham lost significant weight over the summer, however, he isn’t sure if he would continue it this season.
- Graham said over the bye weekend, he watched all of the UA, UCLA, USC, Washington and Wisconsin games in their entireties.
- Graham said wide receiver Ellis Jefferson, wide receiver Cameron Smith and kicker Zane Gonzalez are the three freshmen who are most likely to play on Thursday. There may be no freshmen playing on defense.
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