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Spring game spotlights key standouts months ahead of Big 12 debut season

ASU's spring football game showcased some new faces on offense and defense with mini-games, challenges and 11 on 11 action.

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ASU redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Leavitt (10) hands the ball off to senior running back Cam Skattebo (4) during the spring game at Mountain America Stadium, on Friday, April 26, 2024 in Tempe.

ASU football's spring game was held Friday night in Tempe, capping an offseason filled with effort, learning and player turnover. 

The spring game consisted of mostly scrimmage time and practice drills. Some players stood out especially offensively and defensively ahead of the team's first season in the Big 12 conference. The marroon side defeated the gold side in their intramural competition.

Offensive Standouts 

Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Leavitt showed his talent to fans for the first time. The Michigan State transfer consistently completed passes and took opportunities to run the ball. 

His arm makes him a viable alternative to redshirt senior Trenton Bourguet, the only returning quarterback on the roster. Leavitt played in four games as a true freshman and completed 15 of 23 passes, a pattern that has continued through spring ball. 

"You have to take extreme ownership over everything (as quarterback)," head coach Kenny Dillingham said. "I couldn’t be happier with his progression. He completed over 70% of his (passes) in team periods this spring."

Freshman walk-on quarterback Navi Bruzon also hit the field during the game, evening out the quarterback rotation for the Sun Devils and tossing a touchdown while showcasing his mobility. Bruzon won the AIA Open Championship with Liberty High School in Peoria in Dec. 2023 in Mountain America Stadium.

"Navi hits this field and he turns into the 'Navinatior,'" Dillingham said. "That's a local kid who really had as much success in high school football as possible."

Sophomore running back Kyson Brown had a strong game, catching passes consistently and keeping a sturdy composure. In his sophomore season, he had nine receptions, 49 receiving yards and 106 rushing yards. All these statistics are slated to increase – especially his rushing yards – if he continues to push and fight with the ball. 

Graduate wide receiver Melquan Stovall was another key player for the offense. He’s coming off a season with 18 receptions and 207 receiving yards. He had better chemistry with Bourguet, which was seen on the field Friday. 

Defensive Standouts

Multiple players showed flashes on the defensive side of the ball, effectively reiterating the potential they've shown throughout spring practices. Among those players are sophomore defensive lineman C.J. Fite, redshirt freshman defensive back Montana Warren and redshirt senior linebacker Caleb McCullough.

Fite was disruptive in the run game, particularly on lateral zone-schemed runs. Although Fite didn't make a lot of tackles, he blew up run gaps so linebackers could play cleanup. 

His performance is no surprise, considering he ranked second in the country among true freshman interior linemen with a 75.0 run defense grade and earned the Pac-12 honorable mention for Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. 

Warren solidified a trait he's been displaying during spring practices: aggression. He anticipated the direction of receiver patterns and jumped routes on multiple plays. Warren jumped an out-route during one play that would've been a pick six had he not dropped it. 

His stock as a 2023 signee is trending upward, while Dillingham affirmed such aggressiveness from a team perspective. 

"Defensively, we were attacking the ball," Dillingham said. "I saw some hits that were physical. (Some hits) that I really didn't see last week. I thought we tackled better."

McCullough made the highlight play for the defense today when he intercepted a Leavitt pass after baiting him into an ill-advised throw. ASU's offense was backed up against its goal line, and McCullough knew that and forced a turnover. 

The California native played 194 special teams snaps last year and only got defensive snaps as a reserve linebacker. Now, he's making a case for an increased role come 2024. 

Other players who stood out on defense were redshirt junior Krew Jackson and junior Jacob Rich Kongaika. Both defensive linemen made disruptive plays as pass rushers. Jackson disrupted in one-on-ones while Kongaika displayed explosiveness during in-game reps.  

Dillingham said he met with the team more this spring than last, an approach that has fostered team camaraderie ahead of the fall season. 

"This year, everything started with a team meeting because I want those guys to feel my energy every single day," Dillingham said. "They respond to that."

Edited by Jack Barron, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan

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