Let's be realistic, this is a game of positioning for Arizona State. Not in the polls, but on the field and for future success. The Sun Devils will need to open up a wide lead early so they can test some different looks in the second half and see which players work in which positions and rotate players in and out of certain roles. Here are a few players to watch against Weber State.
How will the team manage his snap counts on each side of the ball? He was placed at Devilbacker early in camp and gradually moved back toward the offensive side of the ball, now he will take more snaps with the offense. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has said that he wants to stretch the field vertically with Nelson so it will interesting to see what the game plan is there. The Sun Devils have also shown a couple sets in practice with Nelson in the slot and Kody Kohl lined up at tight end. Monitor how Nelson does without his hand on the ground.
Within the past two weeks after Camp Tontozona, Boateng came on strong and impressed head coach Todd Graham with his effort and passion. Graham rewarded him by giving him a look at starting Devilbacker. He has been working there ever since. Look at how many snaps he splits with the other option at Devilbacker Antonio Longino too. Boateng might get more looks in situations where a larger physical presence is needed with a hand on the ground while Longino could see more plays where a linebacker type is needed. Boateng has only had one week to truly learn the position and will have to adapt quickly to the speed.
Graham said Smallwood had the best camp of any freshman and he has held a starting spot on the interior defensive line for the better part of three weeks. It's his first Division I college football game in a Division I college football atmosphere, but it's not going to be a pressure packed situation given the opponent. Will he become the Will Sutton like player that many are expecting him to be? His journey to that point begins Thursday night.
The boundary safety position
Damarious Randall has his spot locked up at field safety but boundary safety is the question mark. Marcus Ball, Jordan Simone and James Johnson have all gotten reps with the first team in camp, but it seems like the conversation is trending toward Simone earning the start Thursday with Ball in a reserve role. Watch out for Randall possibly switching over to the boundary spot at some point Thursday too. Graham has said that the situation at safety is more fluid in terms of positions and Randall, Ball and Simone are capable of playing either side of the field.
Rotation at corner
Corner was the thinnest position in terms of depth coming into camp. Lloyd Carrington will start, and Solomon Means has been seeing almost all the first team reps at the other corner. Graham said JUCO transfer Kweishi Brown is talented, but doesn't have enough reps in the system yet for him to feel comfortable. Armand Perry is another player Graham has mentioned as of late that is pushing Means for the starting job and Chad Adams entered the fold there as recently as Sunday to earn some reps as well.
Graham said in his Monday press conference that Weber State likes to run a lot of empty backfield sets. If this is the case, a lot of these corners should see plenty of time on the field if the Sun Devils have to cover four or five wide receivers.
Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard
Where will these two players find time Thursday? Richard has seen time at slot wide receiver and returning kicks, while a now healthy Ballage has taken a lot of reps at second team running back and on kick return. Graham has said he likes Richard's ability as an inside ground and pound zone runner. We've mentioned more than once that Ballage is a freak and explosive athlete and the maroon and gold could use his skills at numerous positions.