The Sun Devil football team had its annual spring game this Saturday and as always, some players stood tall above the rest. Coach Todd Graham's squad looks exceptionally deep this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
We take a look at Saturday's top performers and examine how they helped their chances of earning playing time this fall.
TE: Chris Coyle: Coyle was Saturday's top overall performer as his three touchdown catches set the tone for the Arizona State offense. Coyle and Taylor Kelly have chemistry dating back to last season, and Saturday's game was an indication that Sun Devil fans might see the few remaining school tight end records that Coyle doesn't hold fall this year.
Aside from Coyle's prowess through the air, the rising senior was very impressive in the running game as well. Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell incorporated several schemes that put Coyle in motion and asked him to pull across the formation and he delivered a pair of crushing blocks.
WR: Rick Smith: There's no doubt that Kevin Ozier is the No. 1 option at wide receiver for Taylor Kelly, but Smith has been a bright spot this spring and his success carried over to Saturday's spring game.
Though undersized, Smith brings blazing speed and gives Arizona State the option to stretch the field on passing plays. Smith made a few nice grabs, but his best play of the morning came on a Michael Eubank rollout pass that Smith caught in-stride in the corner of the end zone.
Smith's athleticism not only benefits the Sun Devil passing game, but his big play ability could force defensive backs off to stay humble on running downs which would certainly benefit Marion Grice and D.J. Foster.
RB Marcus Washington: While Washington didn't break off any incredible runs or display game-breaking moves, he definitely made an impact in the running game. Washington ran harder than his fellow running backs and picked up extra yards by simply pushing the pile.
Washington's combination of leg drive and vision looked great, and it's not a stretch to think that he may factor into the run game at some point next season.
Though it was far from a banner day for the offensive line, Washington's style of running will inspire his linemen to make plays because they see that their back is continuing to fight for yards even when he appears to be stopped.
Defensive Line: The entire defensive line deserves credit for a fantastic day of getting into the backfield and shutting down running lanes. Will Sutton and Carl Bradford were disruptive as usual, but Jaxon Hood was the headliner from the scrimmage.
Hood's motor looked to be on a whole new level and the defensive tackle could be seen smothering Marion Grice and Marcus Washington often.
Another positive sign was the play of defensive end Gannon Conway. Though Conway appears to be a holdover until Junior Onyeali is healthy again, he received credit for a few quarterback pressures and showed that he belongs with his talented peers on the first-team defense.
There's no question that Arizona State has one of the most elite defensive lines in the Pac-12, but Saturday provided a glimpse that this could be one of the best d-lines in the country.
LB Kipeli Koniseti: Koniseti's performance helped display the true depth of the Arizona State defense. Though not considered to challenge for a significant amount of playing time, Koniseti was all over the field on Saturday afternoon.
The senior made tackles from sideline to sideline and recovered a fumble on a broken handoff in the backfield. Like Hood, Koniseti's energy was apparent and the Saturday morning heat did not appear to affect his play.
If the Sun Devils can receive meaningful contributions from players like Koniseti moving forward, they'll be in a great position late in games when their starters are still fresh.
CB Rashad Wadood: Coach Graham has emphasized that the battle for the starting cornerback spot opposite Osahon Irabor has been one of the most exciting competitions this spring.
On Saturday, Wadood and Robert Nelson both had nice performances, but Wadood stepped up on many of the Sun Devil quarterbacks' deep passing attempts. The rising sophomore broke up two passes intended for the blazing fast Rick Smith and also finished his tackles well.
Though Wadood locked up his receivers, he was also challenged far more than Nelson. There's no doubt that the competition for the Field Corner position will continue deep into the fall, but the Sun Devils have two great options to choose from.