With only 19 days until the Sun Devils meet the Texas A&M Aggies in Houston, the ASU depth chart, particularly on defense, is starting to become more clear.
Because of how well Todd Graham and company have recruited over the past few years, this is the deepest defensive unit that Graham has had in his four years. It is a unit that returns nine starters plus many non-starters who saw playing time in 2014.
However, a few newcomers continue to turn heads in fall camp. True freshman JoJo Wicker, who started the fall at Devilbacker, has moved inside to the Tiger position. He is joined by Ami Latu and Demetrious Cherry on the first team defensive line.
"I think Ami (Latu) has stepped up, Tashon Smallwood, JoJo Wicker, (Demetrious) Cherry, those guys are really standing out to me," said Graham to the media after Monday morning's practice.
At linebacker, Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have a problem. They have four capable players and just three spots available, with sophomore Christian Sam pushing for a spot in the starting rotation.
"Christian Sam has been incredible, he has really stood out," Graham said. "Basically we have four linebackers and we really need to figure out how all those guys can get on the field at the same time."
In the secondary, there is a bit more clarity. Cornerbacks Llyod Carrington and Kweishi Brown have both had really good camps. Soloman Means and Chad Adams are receiving second team reps at cornerback. At safety, there is a battle taking place for the field safety position. Armand Perry received first team reps Monday during the 11-on-11 period that the media was allowed to watch, with James Johnson backing him up.
"I feel good about the depth, we have the best depth that we have ever had and we have the best ones (first team) that we have every had," said Graham.
Despite the depth that the defense possesses, Graham was not entirely pleased with the unit. After watching tape of Saturday's Camp T scrimmage, he wants to see more passion from his defense.
"I think some days get a little monotonous. I want more energy, more enthusiasm, more passion," Graham said. "I know it was just a scrimmage and everybody in the country does that. But when it's gameday, now you are going to crank it up? You just can't do that.
"I just want some more passion. It is ok to get excited. That's the biggest thing right now is we just need more passion."
Longino at Devilbacker
Perhaps the biggest question facing the ASU defense is who will start at Devilbacker. The Sun Devils have tried Kalen Ballage, JoJo Wicker and even Edmond Boateng at the position. Monday morning, senior Antonio Longino took his turn at Devilbacker.
Longino started 2014 at Devilbacker before moving inside to WILL where he played very well. Longino says he doesn't care where he plays as long as he helps the team win. The transition back to Devilbacker isn't giving him too much trouble.
"Since I have done it before, it comes more natural," said Longino. "A lot of the things I already know. You don't want to start from square one, so it helps out a lot (already playing Devilbacker)."
- Redshirt freshman WR Jalen Harvey suffered a fractured collarbone in Saturday's scrimmage and will be out 8-10 weeks according to Graham.
- Former ASU running back Cameron Marshall watched practice Monday morning. Marshall commented to Graham how big this ASU team looks to him.
- ASU will practice tonight from 7-9 p.m. in shells. Tomorrow the team will practice in full pads from 8:30-11 a.m. Pac-12 Networks will also be at ASU tomorrow as apart of their training camp tour.