Sidebar: Spring football in review

Standouts, speculation and starters

Knee jerk reactions and spring game hysteria are typical during post-spring football. However, in mid-March through April 13, lessons were learned and players separated themselves quite often.

But the most noteworthy surprises trickled in practice by practice for ASU football, not just in the hour and a half spring game.

Spring Standouts:

Jay Jay Wilson (senior linebacker)

From day one of spring practices, Wilson stepped into the role left by former ASU linebackers Christian Sam and DJ Calhoun – defensive leader. Wilson’s speed and athleticism seemingly make him a plug-and-play player at any of the three linebacker spots. However, his exact place in the starting lineup will likely have to wait until the freshmen arrive in the fall.

Frank Darby (redshirt sophomore wide receiver) & Terrell Chatman (redshirt junior wide receiver)

With redshirt junior wide out John Humphrey tearing his Achilles relatively early in the spring, Chatman and Darby were the guys to snag those reps. 

While Darby will probably be the No. 3 wide receiver come the opener against University of Texas at San Antonio, Chatman turned plenty of heads during ASU’s early workouts. As of now, Chatman seems to be a near lock to be in the rotation.

Coaching Staff

A game has yet to be played, but if you spent any time on the Kajikawa football practice fields amidst coach Herm Edwards' inaugural spring in maroon and gold, then you’ve seen the changes. Edwards and company brought with them an NFL coaching style, and without a doubt, the vast majority of players embraced it. 

While an NFL mindset is seeping through the locker room walls, defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales instilled a toughness previously known during his tenure at San Diego State University.  

“I'm excited to go grade (the spring game),” Gonzales said. “See how those guys did, see if we can find some guys other than the ones we've identified who we think can play and see if there's any other ones out there that we're not sure on who improved themselves today."

Takeaways 

Is there a depth issue?

Edwards wasn’t shy when discussing the problems that could hamper the team if it were to suffer injuries to vital positions – quarterback for example.

“We know Manny (Wilkins) is a good quarterback and (we) have to figure out who that number two guy is going to be,” Edwards said. “That's why you go out and do what we did with the offensive line. Because if we get stuck, and hopefully that doesn't happen, you can't play the same offense if Manny is not the quarterback. But when we get it, when can run it and we'll make sure we can run the football."

Not only is the team thin at quarterback, but by and large at running back, cornerback and linebacker. It was evident throughout spring 11-versus-11 sessions that ASU does boast a healthy number of quality starters. But if the second and third teams are pushed into taking barrels of reps come game day, there could be some issues.  

Who continues to fly under the radar?

There are two guys who really showcased their talents this spring and remain under the radar – redshirt junior linebacker Malik Lawal and redshirt senior safety Jalen Harvey

Both finished the spring on the first-team defense, but with incoming freshmen and the return of redshirt senior linebacker Koron Crump, their roles might be in doubt.

However, Harvey battled day in and day out for interceptions. The only one who kept up was the team’s No. 1 cornerback, redshirt sophomore Chase Lucas.

Harvey’s size, versatility and experience at wide receiver make him a heavy favorite to hop into a starting safety role for the entire 2018 campaign.

Lawal faces a tougher road to a first-team spot. The team’s best pass rusher in Crump is returning, and Wilson is manning one of the other linebacker positions. This leaves one starting role for the rest of the linebacker room.

Even so, don’t count Lawal out. He earned a starting spring role for a reason, and he’s not going to let it go without a fight. 

“I think I’ve grown a lot,” Lawal said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve struggled a bit on and off to where I’ve been more consistent. I feel like players and coaches trust me, my teammates trust me a lot more than they have in recent (years) … I’m just trying to capitalize on my moment."


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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