Is it happening yet again to James Morrison? (Photo: ASU)
Arizona State's fall camp is not yet a week old, but in Todd Graham's high octane program, that's more than enough time for some trends to develop.
Some are positive, like the impact of newcomers like Marion Grice, Steffon Martin and D.J. Foster. Others...not so much.
Here are five early, and we must stress early, camp trends that are a cause for concern.
1) Still No Quarterback...For Now
"I don't like it. I'd like to name one today; I'd like to name one last spring. I don't think it's a positive for your team. But I do think that it's really legitimate. It's a legitimate quarterback competition and I don't know right now in my mind who that's going to be."
That was Graham speaking on Media Day this past Saturday regarding the on-going quarterback battle. Now with a few days of practice since then, the picture is simultaneously in greater flux and more clear.
Mike Bercovici seemingly had the inside track after being labeled "a little bit ahead" by Graham after the spring, but less than a week into camp, that lead has dissipated. Michael Eubank, perhaps the most popular choice among fans, has also been inconsistent, leaving the darkhorse of the group to take a surprising lead.
Graham has made his number one objective for his quarterbacks clear: protect the football. Both Bercovici and Eubank struggled with turnovers early, and Kelly, the player many thought third in the three horse race, is now the leader after taking the majority of the first-team snaps this week, with Bercovici running third in the pecking order each day.
While Kelly doesn't have the upside of Bercovici or Eubank, he's doing exactly what Graham has asked his quarterbacks to do. With the hope of having a starter in place following the Camp Tontozona scrimmage on August 18th, the time for Bercovici and Eubank to make a move is dwindling. But more importantly, so is the time for the eventual winner to establish himself as "the guy".
2) Long snapping
The best long snappers are the ones whose names are never heard, and ASU was spoiled in recent years with Cameron Kastl, who skills warranted a nomination for the 2011 Burlsworth Trophy as the nation's best player who began as a walk-on.
With Kastl departed, ASU signed Easton Wahlstrom from Desert Mountain High School. He participated in spring practice, and prior to fall camp opening, punter Josh Hubner sung his praises.
"The kid got here and started whipping the ball back to me at speeds I wasn't used to, which was a refreshing change. I'm very confident that he's going to be able to get the job done this year."
However, things have changed so far this fall. Wahlstrom has repeatedly misfired on his snaps to Hubner, and that has led to Hubner actually moving from the holder spot on place kicks to snapper. When a player is brought in to do one job, and fails to do it, that's troubling. Very troubling.
3) Morrison's Familiar Slide
It seems like an annual tradition. James Morrison has an impressive spring session, only to slide down the depth chart in the fall, and 2012 may be indeed be a repeat.
After a fantastic spring in which he earned the nickname "Tank" from Graham, Morrison was expected to be among the favorites to be the top backup to Cameron Marshall out of the much discussed crowded backfield for the Devils. It's so crowded, that the talk of position changes has been a constant throughout spring, and now that talk is reality.
With newcomers Marion Grice and D.J. Foster having excellent starts to fall camp, Morrison appears to be the odd man out in the backfield, and lately has seen time at the 3-back spot.
While this could be disappointing, it does speak to the high regard the staff has in Morrison's ability that while he may not fit in the backfield picture like initially thought, they still want to find some way, any way to get him on the field.
4) Kicking Competition
More kicking game uncertainty? Just what ASU fans want to hear...
By all accounts, incumbent starter Alex Garoutte has put a difficult debut season behind him and improved his game, to the point that Graham thinks Garoutte is "going to be the leading scorer in the country. Based on the early camp happenings, he may not even be the leader on the team.
Newcomers Jon Mora and Dillon Jackson have been having strong fall camps and Graham has stated that this is in fact a wide open competition, with Jackson in particular showing off a strong leg.
Garoutte still has the inside track, but to become that leading scorer Graham envisions, Garoutte has a lot of work to do in the coming weeks.
5) Secondary Depth
A recurring shoulder injury has forced the talented Spann out of the battle for playing time at cornerback, where Graham envisioned he might contend for the third or fourth on the depth chart.
That leaves a lot of concern after starters Deveron Carr and Osahaon Irabor. Robert Nelson played well in spring but after him, the depth is scarce and unproven. In a conference that loves to throw, that could be an issue if the remaining players can't step up.