We are now less than two weeks until the Sun Devils take the field against the Aggies of Texas A&M. Monday morning's practice started ASU's preparations for their first opponent of 2015.
"We started game-week today, today was actually a Tuesday," said head coach Todd Graham after practice. "It's fundamental Tuesday, it's kind of a new deal that coach (Shawn) Slocum brought with him from the (Green Bay) Packers. We do a lot of competing against each other on Tuesdays."
About an hour before ASU practice concluded, news broke out of College Station that sophomore Kyle Allen would be the starting quarterback for the Aggies. Allen hails from Scottsdale, Ariz., and was an ASU target in the class of 2014.
"He's a first class kid and is family are great people," said Graham. "He did a great job filling in for them last year. This isn't about any individual, this is about Arizona State University against an SEC West team pretty much on the road. We are looking forward to the opportunity. I commend Kyle for the job he did as a freshman."
One new wrinkle that the Aggies will show in 2015 is a revamped defense under new coordinator John Chavis. Chavis guided LSU's defense from 2009-2014 and from 1995-2008 he was the defensive coordinator for Tennessee.
"Obviously you are watching film of LSU, I have been in a film room with coach Norvell for four years, I know what kind of game plan he has prepared," said quarterback Mike Bercovici. "I'm pretty excited for what we have going in because it is nothing different. It is who we are and what we do best."
A few days ago, The Los Angeles Times wrote a story centering around Todd Graham and his staying power at Arizona State. Much has been made about Graham's departure from Pittsburgh nearly four years ago and on Monday the head coach commented on his national perception.
"Most people probably didn't know who I was," said Graham. "What I love about this business is your reap what you sow. So we came in and we didn't worry about that stuff. I didn't worry about any gadgets or quick fixes, we just went to work building a program."
And build a program he did. Graham infused a sense of discipline into the ASU program. He has won 10 games in back-to-back seasons and has ASU ranked inside the top-15 in the preseason AP Poll for the first time since the 1980's.
"What he has done is he has created a culture here through leadership," said Bercovici. "Now that we have the culture in place, now that we have the leaders. You see a lot of seniors and juniors playing, that is when you see a team leads its own team. He calls it player-to-player leadership."
In the Times story, Graham said that he has paid off his Valley home. Combine that with his $500,000 personal donation to the ASU athletic fund and it is becoming harder and harder to question his commitment to the program. And now, in his fourth year, he is reaping what he and his staff have sewed.
"He is able to take a step back and let guys like Jordan (Simone) D.J. (Foster), Nick Kelly, Laiu (Moeakiola) and myself take over this team," Bercovici said. "What he has done for this place, this university for us as student-athletes is incredible."
There have been a few standouts during this fall camp. Freshman JoJo Wicker is in line to start on the defensive line, Bercovici has looked poised at quarterback and ASU's backfield is as deep as it has ever been.
One standout on defense has been cornerback Kweishi Brown. Most fans will remember Brown as the player who sealed the Sun Bowl with an interception in the end zone. Brown, now a senior, is starting at cornerback opposite of Llyod Carrington.
"Kweishi has had his best camp. Going into his senior year he has a sense of urgency," said Graham. "One of the things I love about junior college players is they take the road less traveled. It is not an easy route in any regard."
Brown was an All-American at Grossmont College and a 4-star prospect coming out of junior college. In 2014, he finished eighth on the team with 46 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions.
"I hate Kweishi, I hate him," Bercovici said with a smile. "He's made me do some up-downs this camp. It is pretty inspiring to know that when you are facing the defense and you look left there is Llyod (Carrington) and you look right there is Kweishi and you are stuck as a quarterback. What Kweishi brings is a fast, physical defensive back. He has great communication with the safeties."
- The media was not allowed to watch the defensive install portion of practice. During the 11-on-11 drills the media was allowed to take in, freshman JoJo Wicker continued his time with the first team defense. Christian Sam, Salamo Fiso, Laiu Moeakiola and Antonio Longion (DEVIL) were the first team linebackers. Armond Perry continues to start with Jordan Simone at safety.
- Fred Gammage was out of his green non-contact jersey. However, Tim White, Grant Martinez, Sam Jones and Coltin Gerhart were all in green on Monday. White has a sizable cast on his right wrist.
- Freshman quarterbacks Bryce Perkins and Brady White were out of yellow scout team jerseys and back into grey jerseys Monday along with Manny Wilkins and Mike Bercovici.
- Scouts from the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams were in attendance at Monday's practice.