Graham preaches hustle after second day of practice

After ASU football coach Todd Graham said the first day of practice couldn’t have been better, the second day came with some hiccups: two dropped passes on offense and two dropped interceptions on defense.

Graham said the team can’t miss those opportunities.

Overall, though, he said the practice was a good one.

“I thought we’ve had two really, really solid practices,” he said.

The most impressive thing, he said, was the way the players ran off the field after each play.

“You know why we do that?” he asked. “Nobody else does it.”

Graham said that redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly needs to lead the charge on the field. Kelly’s the leader of the offense, and needs to run harder than any of them.

Kelly did that at practice, and played well with the ball as well. He had no turnovers, though he did get sacked.

Another emerging leader, sophomore placekicker Zane Gonzalez performed well on the field.

“I was able to complete all my field goals,” Gonzalez said.

Both he and Graham have said that the team is working to improve special teams play after a spotty 2013 campaign. Gonzalez said they can improve on all three phases of special teams — punting, kickoffs and field goals.

“So far, so good,” he said. “(Sophomore) Matt Haack’s been killing it, and so has (senior) Alex Garoutte (on kickoffs).”

The Sun Devils are also working on developing the devilback position on defense.

“It’s the guy we match up with people,” Graham said. “It’s a hybrid. He’s going to rush every gap, field and boundary.”

He’s strongly considering using a committee involving senior Marcus Hardison, redshirt freshman Chans Cox and redshirt senior De’Marieya Nelson. Nelson has primarily been used on offense and was featured as a third-down back for parts of last season.

“I see him doing a lot more than just rushing third down,” Graham said.

He said he hasn’t yet considered how he’ll split Nelson’s time between offense and defense, but he’s not yet concerned.

“The best 11 guys are going to play on both sides of the football,” he said.

Hardison is playing devilbacker fulltime, but Nelson will get more looks over the next week of practice. Graham said Nelson understands the offense well and needs to gain a solid foundation of the defense and coverage schemes.

Graham said he is pleased with the committee after the first two days of practice.

“I think we have the explosiveness there to get that done,” he said.

Reach the reporter at Logan.newman@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman