Amid uncertainties, ASU football confident about playmakers

The Sun Devils now face the challenge of properly utilizing playmakers.

Monday marked the beginning of the final week of spring football, providing time for a bit of evaluation and a lot of experimentation.

Throughout the past month, the spotlight has been on the uncertainties. The three-man battle for the starting quarterback job. The offensive line that will have four new starters. A secondary that lost two starting corners and a starting safety.

But one thing the coaches seem confident in are the team's playmakers, which they seem to believe are aplenty. Now, the challenge switches to utilizing known performers like redshirt junior wide receiver Cameron Smith and redshirt senior receiver Tim White. 

"I think (Smith and White) are guys we got to make sure that get the ball," offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. "Touch the ball, have the chance to make plays. They're both pretty good playmakers so we got to make sure that we do a good job of getting both of them the ball when they need it."

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins said it can be difficult to judge whether to throw the ball toward a receiver's shoulder or to loft it high, but those two players get separation from the defender at 11 or 12 yards.

"They'll have that extra oomph when they're running," he said. "Those kind of guys you can just put it up and trust that they'll go under and get it."

Redshirt senior running back De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes has been playing at running back and defensive back during the spring. While the coaches have had no major gripes about him at corner, his speed makes him valuable to the offense, which is why ASU will have a specific package for him. 

The coaches know they want to use Hayes, and figuring out if they have the luxury to do so is the next step. 

"A lot of that depends on our depth at several positions in the secondary as well as running back," Lindsey said. "We do have plans for him that may kind of vary from week to week, but it depends on our depth when we get into fall camp and see where our numbers are, but definitely he's a guy that could end up there some."

ASU also features players with some potential, like redshirt junior receiver Ellis Jefferson, was a much-anticipated talent whose biggest contribution in the 2015 season was a team-high 69 receiving yards in the season-opening loss to Texas A&M. 

Jefferson said the transition to the new coaches has been a seamless and positive one. One early difference he's noticed in Lindsey's offense is the faster tempo and more deep balls being thrown. 

He also said he feels like the deep shots favor his playing style, which he described as "versatile."

"I think I can run a route tree like any receiver," Jefferson said. "Like a slot receiver or an outside receiver ... I believe we all can, that's what's good about the receivers we have."

Jefferson said he is focusing on consistency in spring practice. 

Perhaps the biggest help to Jefferson comes via another receiver who had just one year to try and make a mark on the program: redshirt senior Devin Lucien. 

"Just watching Devin Lucien and the way he released, the way he competed against another cornerback, it just made me want to get out there more, and that's what I'm showing this year," Jefferson said. 

Notes

  • Graham said Tim White has looked good on defense for the couple of days he has spent there. He said his vision for White is to see if he can help out on third down at defensive back. 
  • Graham said the most frustrating part of the spring thus far has been that some guys have missed practice because of injuries, especially in the secondary. 

Related links:

ASU football's offensive line finding its stride

Intensity, execution on display at ASU football's 11th spring practice of 2016


Reach the reporter at Justin.Toscano@asu.edu or on Twitter @justintoscano3.

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