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Camp Tontozona Report: Defense Lacking Execution In Scrimmage

It may still be early but Todd Graham knows that what he saw from his defense Saturday isn't going to cut it.


Throughout fall practice, head coach Todd Graham has preached that being good is not good enough. Graham wants his Sun Devils to be great and it starts with great practice. For Graham's defense, today was not a great practice.

"We're not the defending Super Bowl champs, and that's kind of the way we acted, and I was very disappointed in that," said Graham. "We did not play very well defensively at all. I thought today was dominated by the offense."

The defense was called for four offsides penalties on the day, matching their entire total from last season. Those weren't the only mental errors either as other defenders were caught out of position multiple times.

On the other end, the offense didn't hesitate to take advantage of the miscues. Taylor Kelly and the first teamers took the opening possession for a touchdown by attacking the middle of the field. Kelly hit D.J. Foster on a long pass play and Marion Grice followed with a touchdown run off of a beautifully executed draw play. Grice finished the scrimmage with 53 yards on 11 carries.

The second drive for the first team offense resulted in a 43-yard field goal by freshman Zane Gonzales. No quarterback was particularly sharp Saturday afternoon, although Kelly did hook up with Chris Coyle on a long touchdown pass that showcased his best pocket presence.

Kelly finished 4-for-6 for 72 yards and two touchdowns, Mike Bercovici finished 7-for-17 for 187 yards and Eubank was 10-for-15 for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Graham was particularly pleased with the kicking game, as Gonzales was locked in on field goals. Including the post-scrimmage practice round, Gonzales was 8-for-8, hitting five kicks of over 40 yards including a 49 yarder and 45 yarder. Freshman punter Matt Haack had a nice day punting as well, but one position group stood out to Graham the most.

"I thought the offensive line was the shining group of the scrimmage," said Graham. "They flat got after it and dominated the line of scrimmage."

There were two injuries on the field Saturday as freshman field safety Marcus Ball left after the first series with a shoulder injury. He returned to the sideline with a brace on, Graham said that Ball "be out for a little bit."

The second injury was to dynamic running back D.J. Foster. Who came up limping after getting tackled and his ankle rolled up on. Foster was helped off the field but was later seen jogging up and down the sidelines.

Cody's Bag O' Scrimmage Observations

  • Berc might not have had the completion percentage to back it up but it certainly looked like the sharpest quarterback on the field Saturday. The redshirt sophomore got in quite the rhythm towards the end of the scrimmage, completing multiple passes into tight windows that showed his confidence in his arm strength. His best pass of the day might have been a bomb to Alonzo Agwuenu. The senior wide receiver did his best to make things interesting by juggling the ball for three seconds but ultimately managed to wrangle it securely in for a long touchdown.
  • Before everyone gets alarmed about the defense, it's definitely worth noting that Will Sutton, Alden Darby and Carl Bradford all saw limited snaps. No, they didn't exactly shine while they were in but once on the sidelines, the trio acted as an extension of the coaching staff, shouting out defensive reads to their fellow teammates. If one thing is clear after Saturday scrimmage it's that this defense has no shortage of leaders.
  • Foster's injury overshadowed a solid day of play-making from the versatile running back. Foster spent most of the day in the slot and Kelly looked for him early and often between the hash marks. The sophomore was in on both kick returns and kick coverage as well. In other words, don't expect him to get too many breathers this season.
  • Although coach Graham liked to pretend otherwise in his post-scrimmage interview, the wide receivers looked pretty uninspiring as a whole Saturday. The unit was plagued with drops and lackadaisical play and no one seized the opportunity to distance themselves in the rotation. Agwuenu (three catches, 129 yards) lead in the yardage department thanks to his juggling grab but the real pass catching star was redshirt junior TE De'Marieya Nelson. Nelson turned his four catches into 84 yards and two touchdowns. With Coyle being a necessity on the field, it's looking like Mike Norvell is going to have to work in more two tight end sets.