It's tough to keep it all straight. Who is battling who at which position? Which players are out and who is in green no contact jersey? All of the answers change on a daily basis, but here is an idea of where some players of note are at headed into Camp Tontozona this week.
Cameron Smith- The speedy sophomore wide receiver had been in a green no-contact jersey since the beginning of camp. He reportedly played in the closed scrimmage on Saturday, and participated fully with the team today in wide receiver drills. Graham said Monday that he is in a battle with Gary Chambers for a starting spot.
Kalen Ballage- Ballage wasn't at practice and received an MRI on Monday for what Graham called, "a little twinge or something I don't know if it was a nerve or something in his back." Don't want to make it sound too serious, but nerve issues in the back can be finicky if not monitored closely. He has been at second team running back and also returned kickoffs and punts. Athletically, he is certainly one of the most talented freshmen the Sun Devils have at their disposal.
Tyler Whiley- He's a local product out of Chapparal High School who played both ways there. He was seeing time at second team wide receiver, but Graham moved him to defensive back on Friday and seems to like him there. He has been wearing Lloyd Carrington's old number 17 on the defensive side of the ball, while Carrington switched to eight.
"I think that's what he wants to play and has a chance to learn what he's doing. I think he has a chance to play there for us," Graham said after practice Monday.
James Johnson- Graham continues to say he's supposedly fighting with Jordan Simone for time at boundary safety, but Simone has gotten every first team rep in front of the media so far so he may just be trying to keep Simone on his toes. If Marcus Ball really does make it back, and start practicing after Camp Tontozona, it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles the situation at safety. Ball has experience in practice with the defense, but was also shadowing Damarious Randall at field safety on Monday at practice.
Corner opposite Lloyd Carrington: Graham has told the media that he looks at Carrington almost like a returning starter, so it's pretty safe bet to say that he'll start week one. As for the other spot, it's supposedly wide open according to Graham. Solomon Means has gotten a majority of the snaps there so far, but Kweishi Brown's talent there is tough to ignore. Graham also mentioned freshman Armand Perry as someone who could come on and challenge for the spot. Perry was in a green no contact jersey for most of last week, but has taken most of the reps at second team corner with Chad Adams moving from second team corner to second team safety.
Devilbacker- We'll take a more in-depth look at what's happening here later this week, but for the moment De'Marieya Nelson and Antonio Longino have been splitting reps there. Although Nelson has taken more reps with the first team than Longino, Graham speaks as if they're on the same plane. Nelson seems to like to put his hand down, and Graham expressed Monday after practice that in talking with offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, they like Nelson as a pass rusher on third down. The offensive to defensive snaps ratio for Nelson seems to change daily, but the latest number as of right now is 40-45 on defense and 20 on offense and then special teams as well. Marcus Washington is still in the mix too, getting a few reps at the position with the second team.
Another matter entirely is what the coaching staff will do with Ishmael Murphy-Richardson and Purdue transfer Rueben Ibarra once they arrive on campus and are eventually added into the fold.
Other Notes from Monday practice
- Graham said Jaxon Hood should be back with the team either, "tonight or tomorrow."
- D.J. Foster was out for the fourth day of practice in a row. He had a green no-contact jersey today, the first three days he was just in a regular maroon offensive jersey without a helmet on. Graham said after practice that Foster, "probably could have gone today."
- The team didn't work 11 on 11 in front of the media today. Special teams was emphasized with Damarious Randall, Kyle Middlebrooks and Jalen Harvey returning kicks. Harvey also got a look at gunner.
- The three-man wedge in front of Matt Haack to protect him from potential blocked punts: Jamil Douglas, Christian Westerman and Mo Latu
- Jaelen Strong returned most kickoffs, but a reminder that Ballage wasn't there today.
- Green no-contact jerseys: offensive lineman Sam Jones, Demario Richard, D.J. Foster, Marcus Ball
- A scout from the New England Patriots was in attendance.