Practice Report: ASU Football gives different players first team reps

Cornerback Joey Bryant and running back Eno Benjamin ran with the first team Thursday

On Thursday, during ASU Football’s practice at Bill Kajikawa Practice Field, two players that normally do not play with the first team received an opportunity.

On a humid Tempe morning, redshirt junior defensive back Joey Bryant lined up with the first team defense during play-action drills. On the other side of the field, freshman running back Eno Benjamin took his position behind quarterback Manny Wilkins.

During previous fall practices, redshirt freshman Chase Lucas received the majority of first team reps, but Bryant took his place Thursday.

“Made some minor mistakes, but it was mostly a good day for me,” Bryant said. “It is an up in the intensity. It helps me get better and I enjoy going up against the best. Iron sharpens iron.”

Bryant came to ASU from Mt. San Antonio College on a track and field scholarship. Now, he's a walk-on player trying to prove his worth to the coaching staff.

At Mt. San Antonio, Bryant played safety where he compiled 35 tackles in 11 games played as a sophomore. Standing over six feet tall, Bryant also had three interceptions, 4.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble.

Since joining ASU, Bryant has been learning how to play cornerback. Known for his athleticism, Bryant said the transition from safety to cornerback is a work in progress. He said working with Chad Adams and the other corners and safeties have him helped a lot.

“(I'm) Getting better with my reads at corner,” Bryant said. “Playing safety is a totally different thing. Corner I’ve got one man. I am playing it a lot faster than I was.”

Defensive backs coach TJ Rushing said they are trying to get everybody involved.

“Competitive dude, eager to learn,” Rushing said of Bryant. “Like all of our guys he is doing a good job of competing. That is why you will see a lot of guys get thrown into the mix.”

At safety, senior Chad Adams and redshirt junior Dasmond Tautalatasi ran with the first team. Redshirt senior Marcus Ball, who was opposite of Adams on the first team Tuesday, ran with the second unit Thursday. During play-action drills, Adams had a great tackle on freshman running back Trelon Smith.

Meanwhile, freshman Eno Benjamin has earned nothing but praise from head coach Todd Graham since his arrival.

It appears Benjamin is not an option to get redshirted. In fact, Graham said Tuesday that Benjamin is one freshman who will get playing time in 2017.

Benjamin said he has already learned a lot from seniors Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard. The former high school standout from Texas said he is confident his skill set translates to the college level.

On Thursday, Benjamin played with the first team offense and broke off a couple of decent runs. Running backs coach John Simon said Benjamin has been getting first team reps all camp.

“We want to get all those guys (running backs) get some reps,” Simon said. “The second and third team is your opportunity to show you're dependable and that you know protections. Once we know you can do that, then we know you can run with the ones. All of our running backs have shown us that.”

Practice Observations

NFL scouts from the 49ers, Browns and Chargers were at today's practice.

First Team Offense:

Quarterback: Manny Wilkins

Running Backs: Kalen Ballage, Demario Richard and Eno Benjamin

Wide Receivers: N’Keal Harry, Ryan Newsome and Jalen Harvey

Tight Ends: Tommy Hudson, Jay Jay Wilson

Offensive Line: Cohl Cabral (LT), Sam Jones (LG), A.J. McCollum (C), Steven Miller (RG), Quinn Bailey (RT)

First Team Defense:

Defensive Linemen: Tashon Smallwood, JoJo Wicker and George Lea

Linebackers: Koron Crump, DJ Calhoun, Christian Sam and J’Marcus Rhodes (S/LB Hybrid)

Cornerbacks: Joey Bryant, Koby Williams

Safeties: Chad Adams, Dasmond Tautalatasi

Other Notes:

  • The coaching staff was upset with the effort of the first team offense when they ran out to the field during drills.
  • The offensive line was working on footwork and hand contact.
  • The special team unit was working on punts to the right and the left sideline.
  • Play action was the highlight of the practice. A lot of sweep runs to the left and right by Richard, Ballage and Benjamin.
  • Head coach Todd Graham talked about the importance of running the football in play action.
  • “We’re a run, play-action pass team,” Graham said. “That is something we spend a lot of time on. We’ve gotten better every day. The key to play action pass is running the ball.” 

Reach the reporter at jjacquez@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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