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ASU Football: Spring game includes fan interaction, new faces

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Arizona State's annual spring game saw nearly the entire lower bowl of Sun Devil Stadium filled to watch the Sun Devils compete in a glorified practice.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night's festivities at Sun Devil Stadium included a Punt, Pass and Kick competition, autograph sessions and fans calling their own plays.

Oh, and there was some football in between.

A night of emphasized fan interaction coupled with 7-on7 and various drills that looked straight out of a Madden video game, Still, with starters going against each other throughout (Maroon beat White 37-17), coach Todd Graham was able to learn more about the team he'll be taking into battle this fall.

Friday was also the first contact action D.J. Foster saw at wide reciever, lining up out wide, in the slot, and even taking end-arounds.

"Our main goal tonight was just to come out healthy," Graham said. "D.J. is special, he is definitely a guy that we'll move around and do some special things with."

Friday night was an opportunity to see the majority of the quarterbacks on the Sun Devil roster get a healthy dose of snaps. Expected starter Mike Bercovici threw for a touchdown, but also was caught staring down his receiver by Jordan Simone the safety picked off the pass at the goal line. Redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins and true freshman Brady White each operated the offense sufficiently in their snaps, with Wilkins showing off his dual-threat ability by juking out his teammates on multiple occasions.

Jaelen Strong was at the game, but he wasn't out there to line up at receiver, and his absence along with Cameron Smith's season ending injury was noticable. Foster caught a few slants and a pair of deep balls, but Gary Chambers and Ellis Jefferson were inconsistent at best on the night.

While ASU's execution on Friday wouldn't cut it in a regular season game, Graham made sure to point out a freshman whose performance warranted acknowledgement.

"One young man that I'm really excited about is George Lea," Graham said. "He's a high school senior right now so we're very (excited)," Graham said.

The defensive tackle is an early enrollee whose experience gained in spring ball could help vault him into playing time in 2015.

Graham's top challenge in spring ball last season was putting together a near-entire defense from scratch, as only two 2013 starters returned for the 2014 campaign. He answered every question by the end of the season as ASU's defense became its strength, and this year he only has to replace departed safety Damarius Randall and defensive end Marcus Hardison.

"We have to work with the same sense of urgency like we're replacing nine starters and we've gotta do that in all three phases," Graham said. "That's why it doesn't really matter what everybody projects and what everybody thinks, it matters what you do and how you prepare. The hardest thing to deal with is success. Our guys are real used to winning ten games. We gotta get out of that because we're trying to win 15."

Friday night lacked the intensity and pressure that ASU will dive into when it travels to Reliant Stadium in August to take on Texas A&M, but Graham emphasized the progress the program has made since his arrival in 2012 as signs of better things to come.

"This is the best spring we've had so far," coach Graham said. "We're really pleased. This team has got something special about them."