It isn't lost on Arizona State head coach Todd Graham that the games really start to matter now. The Sun Devils have swept the cupcake teams under the rug and start Pac-12 conference play Saturday against Colorado in Boulder.
"You can tell it's Pac-12 play, they know you can throw every record out," Graham said Tuesday morning after practice."I thought we maximized today. I liked the way the guys worked."
Anything can happen once conference play starts. Graham pointed specifically to Washington State taking down USC last season in an upset. Colorado has lost to Colorado State and barely slipped by UMASS but that doesn't give Graham any more comfort.
Even more pressure is placed now on winning conference match ups because of the new college football playoff system. If any team loses just one conference game, it becomes infinitely harder to be one of the four teams left standing in the playoff.
"You've got nine opportunities, you better win all nine of them," Graham said. "This is a (Pac-12) South opponent and you've got to beat every team in the south to win it."
A new team captain
Damarious Randall, De'Marieya Nelson, Taylor Kelly and Jamil Douglas are the Sun Devils' team captains. Laiu Moeakiola was added to that list today by Graham.
"It's really because of the respect the players have for him," he said. "I thought he played by far his best game and was really really impressive. I just like everything about him. He's a guy that I totally trust."
Moeakiola had nine tackles including two for loss against New Mexico and added a fumble recovery as well. The redshirt sophomore had 21 tackles last season, making his first start at SPUR linebacker against Utah. Graham likened him to Taylor Kelly for the defense.
"If I picked anybody on defense myself that I thought epitomized leadership it would be him," Graham said.
Secondary back to Weber State look
After James Johnson got the start against New Mexico, Jordan Simone was back at starting boundary safety on Tuesday. Johnson backed up Damarious Randall at second team field safety. Marcus Ball, after moving to SPUR linebacker last week where he was better suited for New Mexico's triple-option, backed up Simone at boundary safety.
Simone finished third on the team with seven tackles while Johnson had six against New Mexico.
"It's going to be who the best guy is, who the best safety is," Graham said. "I think all those guys will play until somebody really emerges."
Graham added that the only sure things are Lloyd Carrington at field corner, Randall at field safety and Moeakiola at SPUR linebacker.
"I like that we have five guys who are working," Graham said. "I just wish we had two that were a lot better than everybody else."
- Carlos Mendoza was still in a green jersey, but shadowed at third team WILL linebacker behind DJ Calhoun and Christian Sam during defensive walkthrough.
- 11 on 11 first team defense- Linemen: Marcus Hardison-Jaxon Hood-Tashon Smallwood- Edmond Boateng Linebackers: DJ Calhoun (WILL), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Laiu Moeakiola (SPUR), Edmond Boateng (DEVIL). Corners: Armand Perry, Lloyd Carrington Safeties: Jordan Simone (boundary), Damarious Randall (field).
- First team offense- Running back: D.J. Foster. Wide receivers: Jaelen Strong, Gary Chambers, Cameron Smith. Deantre Lewis also got a few carries when Foster moved into the slot.
- Second team defense- Linemen: Renell Wren-Demetrious Cherry- Viliami Latu. Linebackers: Christian Sam (WILL), Alani Latu (SAM), Ezekiel Bishop (SPUR). Ismael Murphy-Richardson (DEVIL). Corners: Kweishi Brown, Solomon Means. Safeties: Marcus Ball (boundary) James Johnson (field).
- A Denver Broncos scout was at practice today, I noticed him paying particular attention to wherever Jaelen Strong was on the field.
- Eric Lauderdale showed up early with the scout team and stayed late as usual to get extra reps in.