Practice Roundup: ASU football is making its final preparations for game day

On Saturday, ASU football face UTSA at Sun Devil Stadium

As the beginning of the ASU football season approaches, the Sun Devils have released their depth chart for their Saturday matchup against the University of Texas San Antonio Roadrunners

On the offensive side of the ball, ASU's roster looks fairly familiar to fans, as the nucleus of the team returns.

The connection of redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins and junior wide receiver N'Keal Harry will be on full display as the duo enters its third year together. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens touched on that in a press conference on Tuesday.

"You see it out at practice. Manny knows where to put the ball and kind of where his radius is, and that’s the kind of stuff you learn in the summers when they’re out practicing together," Likens said. 

In the last two practices, Wilkins has continued to work on staying in the pocket while trusting his teammates to follow their assignments. 

"He's mobile. He can make plays with his feet, so you can do quarterback runs, you can do zone read," Likens said. "But then again, he throws the ball like a pocket passer. He has that type of arm and that type of accuracy."

Wilkins will be joined in the backfield by sophomore running back Eno Benjamin and redshirt sophomore transfer Isaiah Floyd.

A balance of play calls could be the traditional way to go on offense, but as Likens sits in the booth on Saturday, it will depend on what he sees.

"If you’re running the football on people, you stomp the mud out of the mud hole and you just keep doing it," Likens said. "So it’s kind of hard, you always get that question as a play caller or a coordinator, ‘Are you guys 60-40 (pass-run ratio)?’ Well, whatever is working that day, but we’re still set up to be able to win games."

On the defensive side of the ball, eight freshman are expected to see snaps on Saturday. The team's young core revolves around two true freshman linebackers, Merlin Robertson and Darien Butler, who are anticipated to start. 

Additionally, redshirt senior linebacker Koron Crump took part in team drills over the last two weeks. Crump suffered a left knee injury last year. Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said he expects him to get better and more healthy as the season continues. 

 Redshirt junior Malik Lawal will lead the linebacking group, and the team is expecting a big increase in production from Lawal come Saturday.

"Right now you watch the guys out there practicing, he’s the veteran with about 12 snaps under his belt," Gonzales said. "That tells you a little bit about our depth at linebacker. We don’t have a lot of guys returning that have played."

The part of the Sun Devil defense that received the most praise from Gonzales was the defensive linemen up front.

"It’s the deepest position we have, and those guys are going to play," Gonzales said. "Seven or eight of them are going to play a lot ... It's going to be like musical chairs."

Special teams was the opening piece of Wednesday's practice as sophomore kicker Brandon Ruiz went 3-3 on field goals from 28, 38, and 48 yards respectively. 

The kick and punt returners are expected to be Floyd, junior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, redshirt junior wide receiver Ryan Newsome and redshirt junior running back Paul Lucas.

Redshirt senior defensive back Joey Bryant is out indefinitely with a knee injury that he suffered in Tuesday's practice. The Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers had scouts attending Tuesday's practice, and the Green Bay Packers had two scouts at practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

And with that, the time has come. The Herm Edwards era is officially in full swing, and the first game is less than 48 hours away. Kickoff between ASU and UTSA is set for Saturday, Sep. 1 at 7:30 p.m. PST. 




Reach the reporter at sbemanue@asu.edu or follow @SebastianEman5 on Twitter. 

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