Competition. Explosiveness. High tempo. Those are some of the best words to describe ASU football's second day of spring practice.
The team was hustling all over the field during warmups and the sessions media members were allowed to attend. This high tempo was seen in all players, from the running backs to the linemen.
Head coach Todd Graham said these practices have been really good tempo-wise and that he is expecting his leaders, particularly juniors Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage, to continually improve and work harder.
"I look for them to get better,” Graham said. “I look for them to work hard and be the hardest working guys on the field, the most disciplined guys on the field, and get after it. We talk to the veterans all the time about the greatest danger to you is to stay the same and the thing I get from our team is I can sense that our team has a sense of urgency to get better."
A new offensive scheme and heightened energy level is bringing out the competition in players. Graham has said that everyone is competing for a spot — a message that has been heard loud and clear in the locker room.
The receiver position is very much up for grabs.
Redshirt senior Tim White will return after an eight touchdown season and redshirt juniors Cameron Smith and Ellis Jefferson are expected to receive a lot of snaps this season. Smith, who got injured during spring ball last year, looked very good in individual drills and was holding nothing back while running routes.
White, a multi-sport athlete who competes as a jumper for the track team, has focused on specifically participating on football before he comes back to track. White said he does his best to manage both football and track and field.
“(I'm) just doing whatever the coaches ask from me,” White said. “Coach Kraft finds a good way to balance everything and keep me rested, tranquilized (and) come out here and do everything the football coaches ask me to do.”
Each aforementioned receiver was attempting to prove their worth with impressive toe-tap catches, jump balls and strong routes. Jefferson said the competition helps build their abilities.
“I believe that with them coming back, there’s more athletes on the field,” Jefferson said. “We’re all competing, and everyone is starting to get mad that people aren’t rotating fast enough because we all have potential and we’re all really good so when everyone is making plays like today. … Everyone is competing.”
With a new offensive coordinator, Chip Lindsey, and a group of quarterbacks fighting to lead the passing game, the Sun Devil running backs are expected to help ease the load. Richard and Ballage may split carries this next season, and redshirt freshman Jason Lewis is looking to make a mark. Ballage said he doesn’t think about his relatively low number of carries in the past and is excited to play for Lindsey and his offense.
“Coach Lindsey is a real laid back guy,” Ballage said. “He’s going to coach you, but he’s not going to scream at you, yell at you or anything like that so, you know, it’s a opportunity to play for someone that you really want to play for, kind of a player-coach.”
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