At one point, ASU guard Christian Westerman was the most prized recruit in Arizona with a five-star ranking. He could have attended any school he wanted but decided to sign with Auburn fresh off a national championship.
However, with the Tigers, he was just another guy. Westerman redshirted his first season with Auburn and appeared in only two games the following season, a season which the team finished 3-9.
He began to miss his home and decided to transfer to ASU, near his old Chandler Hamilton stomping grounds.
“(Auburn) was never a bad move,” Westerman said. “Auburn’s a great place, but I just wanted to come back home.”
Per NCAA rules, Westerman had to sit out for as season because of the transfer. He was allowed to play in the Holiday Bowl because more than one year had expired since he latched on to the Sun Devils.
In 2014, Westerman is finally getting his opportunity, finding a role as ASU’s starting left guard.
On Tuesday, Westerman had family members attend practice. He said he loves the support he receives by being so close to home.
Former UCLA coach and current Pac-12 Networks analyst Rick Neuheisel visited practice along with the network. It’s the first stop for the network on its tour of the conference’s schools. He spoke to the local media following practice.
Neuheisel said he thinks ASU has a shot to repeat as the Pac-12 South champion, but a pivotal two-game stretch against UCLA and USC before the halfway point of the season will decide the Sun Devils’ fate.
He said redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly is already in competition with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley as the best quarterbacks in the conference based on his stats. ASU is best when Kelly is able to run the ball, Neuheisel said.
He also praised head coach Todd Graham.
“This guy Todd Graham lives it, breathes it,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve never seen a guy happier to be at a place, more involved, I mean, he’s the guy that designs the helmets, he’s got a headset that’s different than anyone else. This guy loves this job and he’s got everyone in the valley of the sun loving this team. Needle north.”
ASU is well known for getting contributions from the junior college ranks. Neuheisel said the Sun Devils are the best at getting juco talent, which includes players like redshirt junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong and former running back Marion Grice. Earlier in the summer, two players ASU had signed ended up not making it academically, which may have been a cause for concern.
“The old adage for those who couldn’t get junior college players or a large amount of them, well they’re high-risk character guys,” Neuheisel said. “That’s why they’re in junior college. Well as we all know, there’s a million stories about kids and growing up. I just learned about Eric Lauderdale today, losing his father and losing his mother. It’s no wonder how you’re not focusing on school, you’re focusing on a lot of other things maybe more important.”
Video by Justin Janssen | Sports Reporter
Additional practice notes:
Redshirt junior linebacker Antonio Longino saw action at Devilbacker. He had been competing for the starting weak inside linebacker spot with freshman D.J. Calhoun, redshirt sophomore Carlos Mendoza, and others.
Graham said redshirt senior safety Damarious Randall was impressive again today and had three interceptions in practice.
Graham said he views redshirt junior cornerback Lloyd Carrington as a returning starter. Carrington has more familiarity than most with Graham’s system — he was with Graham at Pittsburgh too.
In the portion of 11-on-11s during practice that the media observed, freshman running back Kalen Ballage broke free on a run to the right.
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Corrections: An earlier version of this article stated that safety Damarious Randall was a sophomore; Randall is a redshirt senior. Cornerback Lloyd Carrington was labeled a safety and also listed as a sophomore; he is a redshirt senior.