Put away the speculation, ignore all the hype and just play football.
That is the goal for the Sun Devil football Saturday as they strap on the pads for an 11-on-11 scrimmage for the first time at Camp Tontozona. After three days overshadowed by inclement weather and injuries (albeit with its share of strong performances), ASU will finally have a chance to show its fans what to expect in the coming season.
NOTE: Due to continued heavy rain at ASU’s base at Camp Tontozona, it is possible that Saturday’s open session will have more of a practice format as opposed to a scrimmage format, according to the Arizona Republic‘s Jeff Metcalfe.
So what can we expect so see on Saturday, weather permitting? Here’s a look at what the projected first- and second-team skill-position rosters would be, based on where players have lined up at camp.
QB: Taylor Kelly (RS Sr.)
RB: D.J. Foster (Jr.)
WR: Jaelen Strong (RS Jr.), Gary Chambers (RS Jr.), Fred Gammage (RS So.)
TE: De’Marieya Nelson (RS Sr.)/Kody Kohl (RS So.)
DL: Marcus Hardison (Sr.), Demetrius Cherry (RS Jr.), Tashon Smallwood (Fr.)
LB: Will- D.J. Calhoun (Fr.), Sam- Salamo Fiso (RS So.), Devil- Antonio Longino (RS Jr.)/De’Marieya Nelson (RS Sr.), Spur- Viliami Moeakiola (RS So.)
CB: Lloyd Carrington (RS Jr.), Solomon Means (RS Jr.)
S: Damarious Randall (RS Sr.), Armand Perry (Fr.)/Jordan Simone (RS Jr.)
*Safety Marcus Ball (RS Fr.) took first-team snaps opposite Randall on Friday, but he wore the no-contact jersey and isn’t expected to fully participate in the scrimmage
QB: Mike Bercovici (RS Jr.)
RB: Kyle Middlebrooks (RS Sr.), Demario Richard (Fr.)
WR: Ellis Jefferson (RS Fr.), Eric Lauderdale (Jr.), Cameron Smith (So.)
TE: Grant Martinez (RS Fr.)
DL: Jaxon Hood (Jr.), Connor Humphreys (Fr.), Edmond Boateng (RS So.)
LB: Christian Sam (Fr.), Alani Latu (RS Fr.), Eziquel Florence (RS Jr.), Chans Cox (RS Fr.)
CB: Chad Adams (Fr.), Kweishi Brown (Jr.)
S: James Johnson (RS Fr.), Armand Perry (Fr.)/Jordan Simone (RS Jr.)
Once the whistle finally blows and the teams head out to scrimmage, there are three things to watch for:
1. De’Marieya Nelson doing just about everything on the football field
Nelson will be a three-way player this season, and at ASU media day, coach Todd Graham said to expect about 40 snaps for Nelson on defense, 25 snaps on offense, and 10-15 snaps on special teams per game this season. Nelson is also very versatile on each end, playing both the three-technique on the defensive line and Devil backer on the defensive end. He is expected to primarily play tight end on the offensive end, but did see some snaps at running back late last season. As far as special teams go, deputy head coach Mike Norvell said at ASU media day that Nelson was probably the Sun Devils’ best special teams player last season.
2. A young, unproven defensive line
Graham said at media day that the defensive line is “thin and inexperienced,” as only Jaxon Hood and Marcus Hardison are returning to the line after seeing serious time during the 2013 season. Hood showed up to camp for the first time on Thursday after missing the first week and a half of camp with personal issues, and Graham has said multiple times that Hardison is the man who needs to step his game up for the defense to be successful. A guy who has impressed thus far has been Tashon Smallwood, who Graham said is the fastest lineman off the ball that he’s ever had.
3. A long line behind Jaelen Strong.
Jaelen Strong is coming off of an impressive 2013 season, and has been picked by many experts to be a high pick in the 2015 NFL draft. But who’s behind him? The next returning leading receiver after Strong is running back D.J. Foster (63 catches, 653 yards, four touchdowns), but otherwise is Cameron Smith (eight catches, 129 yards). Gary Chambers has impressed coaches with his size and hands, Fred Gammage has worked his way to playing time as a former walk-on and Smith is arguably the most explosive player, let alone wide receiver, on the Sun Devils roster.
Here’s a recap of The State Press’ Coverage of Camp Tontozona so far:
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @fardaya15.