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ASU Football: Safety position still uncertain, special teams looking to improve

See who Graham thinks is in the lead now at both spots

Running back D.J. Foster goes through ball security drills at practice Sunday afternoon
Running back D.J. Foster goes through ball security drills at practice Sunday afternoon
Nick Krueger/House of Sparky

Including Sunday, Arizona State is just five days away from playing Weber State in its first game of the season. The Sun Devils still have a lot of positions up for grabs, the most notable of which is boundary safety, with Devilbacker and corner still open as well.

The mystery of Marcus Ball continued Sunday as Jordan Simone got the first team reps at field safety. Ball didn't dress out for Saturday night's practice, but the team still expects to know whether or not he's medically cleared to play by Tuesday and he was back in full pads Sunday afternoon.

"He's still got a long way to go, I don't know if he was cleared, if he would start because he's just got a lot of work to do," head coach Todd Graham said.

Graham noted that Simone has moved ahead of James Johnson for the field safety spot. Given Graham's comments and Ball's lack of time on the field recently, there is no telling who could start, but this certainly writes off  the line of thinking that Ball would start if he got the full medical clearance.

Who will start at Devilbacker is a, "coin toss" according to Graham, presumably between Edmond Boateng and Antonio Longino. De'Marieya Nelson has been a non-factor there as of late and has taken almost all his reps with the offense in the past week.

Kickoff and punt return

The Sun Devils finished No. 96 in Division I with 5.72 yards per punt return last season and No. 62 in kickoff return with an average return of 21.56 yards.

Graham was asked if they will be improved this year.

"They better be," he said, pointing to the fact that one of, if not the most, explosive offense in the Pac-12 last season didn't have a great return game too and that's, "unacceptable."

"It's because nobody cares, because there is not enough emphasis put on it and that's absolutely absurd," he said. "That's the only thing I'll tell you where we have not improved and that's going to get right and we're going to make it right."

Graham added that the punt and kick return has "seven or eight" different looks at the moment with Damarious Randall holding down the punt return duties. He also mentioned Kalen Ballage as the player that has impressed him the most in kick return.


  • Kalen Ballage looked like a full-go in practice today, Marcus Ball was dressed out but didn't participate in 11 on 11 that the media was allowed to watch. Carlos Mendoza remains out with a leg injury, but he has shed the crutches he was using last week.
  • Viliami Latu moved into the tiger spot on the second team defensive line during walkthrough, and Graham mentioned that Chans Cox got a look at defensive end in the portion of practice media wasn't allow to see.
  • First team defense: Linemen: Marcus Hardison- Jaxon Hood-Tashon Smallwood Linebackers: D.J. Calhoun (WILL), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Laiu Moeakiola (SPUR). Edmond Boateng (DEVIL) Corners: Lloyd Carrington, Solomon Means Safeties: Damarious Randall, Jordan Simone
  • First team offense: Running back: D.J. Foster Wide receivers: Jaelen Strong, De'Marieya Nelson (slot),  Tight end: Kody Kohl
  • Second team defense: Linemen: Renell Wren-Mo Latu-Viliami Latu Linebackers: Ezekiel Bishop (SPUR), Christian Sam (WILL), Antonio Longino (DEVIL), Alani Latu (SAM) Corners: Kweishi Brown, Armand Perry Safeties: Chad Adams, James Johnson
  • Second team offense: Running back: Kalen Ballage Wide receivers: Demario Richard, Fred Gammage, Gary Chambers, Ellis Jefferson
  • Kick return pairings: Kyle Middlebrooks/Demario Richard, Deantre Lewis/Kalen Ballage. Punt return: Damarious Randall
  • Graham added that he really likes what he sees out of Chad Adams and that it's finally starting to click with him. Although he has been playing back up safety, Graham said he wants to give him a look at starting field corner.