Video by Logan Newman | Sports Reporter
ASU won’t have an easy time defending its Pac-12 South Division championship, but head coach Todd Graham was confident in his team’s chances after the first day of fall practice.
“That was the best first day we’ve had in any fall camp since I’ve been here,” he said. “The most impressive thing about today was how our defensive guys ran out on the field.”
He has preached defense through this offseason to both media and players. With losses such as Will Sutton and Alden Darby on the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive lineman Marcus Hardison is preparing to step up and become a leader on the team.
Hardison, who’s going into his second year as a Sun Devil player, said the first year was important to learn the ropes.
“It was a little slow process at the beginning, but now I’m up and running,” he said. “I know the system. I’m comfortable. I know all my teammates, so I’m ready to go.”
He said he’ll help newcomers get better equipped to the system by teaching them how to do the “little things.”
“It’s the little things around here that make an impact,” he said.
Hardison said the team is prepared to replace its losses on the defensive end.
“We’re going to find 11 guys who are ready to play,” he said. “We’re going to get out there. We’re going to pursue the ball and go play defense.”
One of the athletes looking to make an impact is former All-American junior college transfer Kweishi Brown.
“We have not had a guy that has the physical power and strength at defensive back with the speed that he has,” Graham said.
Brown, who previously attended Grossmont College in California, recorded 28 tackles and seven interceptions in just 10 games during the 2012 season. Brown has speed and good instinct, and Graham said he may also return kicks and punts.
In addition to Brown, Graham said defensive backs Solomon Means and Lloyd Carrington looked good on the field. The coach is confident about the secondary going into the season.
“We’re going to be bigger,” he said. “We’re going to be better tacklers. We lost three All-Pac-12 guys, so that’s saying something about what kind of confidence I have in those guys.”
The defense is inexperienced, but quarterback Taylor Kelly said he doesn’t feel added pressure to produce on the offensive end.
“Our defensive guys are flying to the football better than I’ve ever seen them play,” he said. “We’re not as talented, but we’ve got all 11 guys running to the football, which is huge.”
The offense also has an influx of new offensive weapons. Kelly mentioned that in addition to redshirt junior Gary Chambers and redshirt sophomore Fred Gammage, as receivers, he’s excited to watch freshman running back Kalen Ballage and junior wide receiver Eric Lauderdale at the newcomer practice on Friday night.
“I’m very excited to see what (Harvey) can do with the football,” Kelly said. “(Lauderdale’s) another guy that’s going to be explosive.”
Even though this was the first day of practice, routes were crisp, Kelly said. Graham echoed this.
“Our standard is to be the best in the country and then I feel like today, after that first practice, you can check that one off,” Graham said.
Reach the reporter at Logan.Newman@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman