It's time to celebrate the start of spring football. - Christian Petersen
Spring football is finally here and Todd Graham wasted little time kicking things into gear. The Sun Devils practiced with a great tempo and set the bar high for the rest of the spring.
After compiling a 5-5 record through the first 10 games in 2012, the Sun Devil football team sprinted to the finish line and recorded three straight victories.
When the team took the field on Tuesday morning for the first spring practice of 2013, it appeared as if the momentum from those three wins carried over.
From the moment coach Todd Graham accepted a job at Arizona State, he promised 100 percent effort and commitment from his players and Tuesday's practice was a prime example.
Coaches were yelling, players were sprinting, and the Sun Devil defense was living up to its billing as an athletic and disruptive bunch.
While much of the first half of practice was spent working on individual drills in position groups, this time gave players the opportunity to learn from some of the new coaches on the staff.
One new face who made an impression on Graham was defensive line coach Jackie Shipp. The former Oklahoma Sooners' assistant wasted little time in making his presence felt.
In team drills, Shipp called out Sun Devil superstar Will Sutton for failing to finish a play.
"Give me more than that Will, I need more than that!" Shipp yelled.
Shipp's arrival allows assistant coach Paul Randolph to lead the linebacker unit; a move that Graham believes will benefit the defense.
"One thing that stuck out to me today is that we are so fortunate to have Jackie Shipp," Graham said. "Moving Paul (Randolph) to linebackers is going to help us tremendously."
As players became acquainted with the new coaches, practice evolved into more team specific drills.
Highlights from team periods included two touchdown passes from Kelly as he found a streaking Chris Coyle down the seam and also threaded the needle to Kevin Ozier in tight coverage.
"Guys are understanding the offense a lot more and our tempo is a lot better," Kelly said.
Despite Kelly's success, the defense still appeared to a step or two ahead of the offense on Tuesday.
Graham thought that one of the disadvantages for the offense was the lack of depth at the receiver position as five new recruits won't be in Tempe until the summer.
"We don't have very many scholarship receivers in here so obviously our recruiting class, I'm really excited about," Graham said.
While the receiving corps may be lacking reinforcements, that didn't negate the pleasantly surprising performance from the secondary.
Robert Nelson aligned opposite Osahon Irabor at the cornerback position and helped break up a number of passes sent in his direction.
Ezekiel Bishop played safety with Darby, and the pair looked comfortable playing alongside one another.
The Sun Devils' front seven is vaunted, but the success and reliability of the defensive backfield will play a critical role in how the season shakes out.
After offense vs. defense drills, Graham brought two posters into the post-practice huddle.
The first was a picture of the Rose Bowl trophy, surrounded by rose petals, as a reminder of what the Sun Devils will be working toward come fall.
The second poster stressed the importance of achieving a 100 percent graduation rate and academic excellence. The poster read, "Be a scholar baller every day."
Tuesday morning's workout may only be the first practice of 2013, but the Sun Devils' tempo and Graham's demanding style of coaching showed the relentless attitude that has come to be expected.
Practice Attendance: Tuesday's practice was open to the general public and attended by alumni, students, and a large contingent of media members. 2012 captains Bradon Magee and Cameron Marshall were also in attendance.
Unofficial Depth Chart Based on Offense vs. Defense Drills
H-Back/Tight End: 1) Chris Coyle 2) Darwin Rogers
LT: Evan Finkenberg
LG: Vi Teofilo
RG: Sil Ajawara
RT: Jamil Douglas
Defensive Line: Jaxon Hood and Will Sutton (Third DL was rotated among a number of players)
Devilbacker: 1. Carl Bradford 2. Chans Cox
Will: Grandville Taylor
Sam: Steffon Martin
Spur: 1. Chris Young 2. Anthony Jones
Field Corner: Osahon Irabor
Boundary Corner: Robert Nelson
Field Safety: Ezekiel Bishop
Boundary Safety: Alden Darby
Kicker: Alex Garoutte