Arizona State Spring Game: Maroon vs. Gold
Start Time: 11:00 a.m. PST/2:00 p.m. EST
Location: Sun Devil Stadium
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Jim Watson, Jake Plummer, Ashley Adamson)
Weather Forecast: 81 degrees, partly cloudy
Schedule of Events
9:00 a.m.-Gates open for Sun Devil Fan Fest
11:00 a.m.-Pac-12 Network goes live from Sun Devil Stadium
"Iron Man" Competition
7-on-7 passing drill from the 25-yard line
OL vs. DL pass rush drill
"Team Run" drill
10-minute halftime break for fan involvement on the field
1st Quarter Scrimmage
2nd Quarter Scrimmage
Autograph session with players
7-on-7 youth football tournament
The Game: There's steaks and there's tuna fish, and no Sun Devil player wants to spend their Saturday night eating the latter. This offseason, Arizona State has raised the stakes for the annual spring game in hopes of bolstering the level of competition.
What coach Todd Graham has done appears to have worked brilliantly so far, as his players left Thursday's practice chomping at the bit to get out and perform on Saturday's grand stage. Graham has promised the winning team from the spring game t-bone steaks, while the losers must conclude their day by stomaching tuna fish sandwiches.
Instead of splitting the teams up with first and second-team considerations in mind, the Arizona State coaching staff broke down the roster into two even sides that will play against each other on Saturday. This format is rather unusual for a Sun Devil spring game, but the level of intensity was already apparent as the players departed from practice on Thursday.
"It's going to be very competitive," quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "Guys are going to get out there and be flying around and guys in the locker room are already not talking to some of the players when we were loading the tram this morning like, ‘Hey you're on the gold team, don't talk to us.' But it's going to be fun."
A Second-Team All-Pac-12 performer a year ago, Kelly will lead a maroon offense featuring his top target in Jaelen Strong as well as tight end De'Marieya Nelson. Kelly didn't hesitate on Thursday when asked about his team's chances, and pretty much guaranteed his side's victory.
"The Maroon Monsoon. The Maroon's going to win, we've put together some good plays in there," Kelly said.
Though the Sun Devils don't have a starting quarterback competition, Kelly's backup Mike Bercovici is one player with a lot to prove on Saturday. Bercovici will headline the offense for the gold squad, and after playing behind Kelly in last year's spring game, he can't wait for his first opportunity to start in a competitive college atmosphere.
"This will be my first chance at a starting quarterback job, and I got those butterflies already like it's game day," Bercovici said. "I'm telling you I've got that fire in my eye already. I'm happy we're going to be in that visitor locker room because I'm going to go out there and beat that maroon squad. I know it."
Bercovici put the onus on himself when asked which team would earn the rights to the coveted t-bone steaks. As the quarterback, he knows he has to step up, and as a carnivore, he feels he can't let down his body.
"Growing up I was a steak and potatoes guy so there's no way that's happening. At all," Bercovici said when asked about his opponent's chances of winning. "I wouldn't do that to me or my team so I can guarantee that the gold squad is going to get some steak come Saturday."
The gold squad is aided by the presence of starting running back D.J. Foster, who is the most dynamic offensive threat the Sun Devils have heading into the fall. Though Foster's action will be significantly limited, he's confident that the trash talk the maroon team is dishing out is just a bunch of noise.
"No, we just take care of business. We don't really talk too much," Foster said. "(Mike) Berco's leading the charge, we just take care of business. They got all the guys on their team that talk a lot, run their mouth, Damarious (Randall) is in there leading that charge, it'll be fun."
Kelly cited his playmakers as the reason the maroon team would win, while Bercovici said it would come down to the fact the gold team had offensive coordinator Mike Norvell calling plays. However, it was Foster who listed the most compelling reason the gold team would come out on top.
"I feel like we got the heart," Foster said. "They got a little talent here and there but at the end of the day, it's heart and that's what we have."
With three of the team's leaders brimming with confidence, it's clear that Graham's revamped spring game plans have already made a difference in team morale. Every player thinks he's on the winning side, and with teams split so evenly, there's a case to be made that either team could come out on top. Regardless, Kelly said he doesn't care why the gold team thinks its going to win, because at the end of the day, he thinks he'll be eating like a king.
"I don't mind it, but I'm not worried about it, we're going to get the T-Bone," Kelly said.
Prediction: With D.J. Foster and Jaelen Strong expected to be limited in action, Saturday's game should remain fairly balanced. It's hard to see either team running away with this game, but with a stronger offensive line and a motivated quarterback, the gold team should have the upper hand offensively. If the gold team does enough in the trenches on the defensive side (which will be difficult considering its lack of depth), I would venture to say the gold team will come away eating steaks.
Below are projected rosters for each side based on Thursday's practice.
|Coach||Chris Thomsen||Mike Norvell|
|QB||Taylor Kelly||Mike Bercovici|
|WR||Jaelen Strong||Ellis Jefferson|
|WR||Cameron Smith||Fred Gammage|
|WR||Ronald Lewis||Gary Chambers|
|TE||De'Marieya Nelson||Grant Martinez|
|LT||Jamil Douglas||Evan Goodman|
|LG||Devin Goodman||Christian Westerman|
|C||Stephon McCray||Nick Kelly|
|RG||Vi Teofilo||Tyler McClure|
|RT||William McGehee||Tyler Sulka|
|Coach||Keith Patterson||Chris Ball|
|DE||Marcus Hardison||Edmond Boateng|
|Nose||Mo Latu||Jaxon Hood|
|Tiger||Demetrius Cherry||Zach Abdorrahimzadeh|
|Will||Antonio Longino||D.J. Calhoun|
|Sam||Salamo Fiso||Alani Latu|
|Spur||Marcus Washington||Laiu Moeakiola|
|CB||Lloyd Carrington||Solomon Means|
|CB||Ronnie Sellars||William Earley|
|FS||Damarious Randall||James Johnson|
|BS||Ezekiel Bishop||Jordan Simone|