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ASU Football: Freshmen working way into mix, Graham ready for bounceback

ASU took the practice field one last time before Saturday's home opener against Cal Poly.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State had just a few days to put the frustrating loss to Texas A&M behind them before taking their home field for the first time in 2015 against Cal Poly this Saturday. Thursday's practice wrapped up a week that consisted moving on and focusing on a new opponent.

"I think we've responded great," quarterback Mike Bercovici said. "There's no other choice with Coach Graham, he brings the energy from the second he walks in the room. I think we're ready to move on, we're excited about playing at home and seeing what the Inferno looks like, it's gonna be cracking Saturday night. It'll be another great opportunity, another Saturday to try and find a way to get a win."

Todd Graham is excited to see the new-look student section.

"One of the things I'm most excited about this week is walking in that stadium having the best student section in the country and they're on ground level in both end zones," coach Graham said. "I'm looking forward to running out of Tillman Tunnel."

Roles of freshmen coming to fruition

Last week a few notable freshmen were missing from the participation report against the Aggies, but they'll get their chances to make an impact against Cal Poly. Redshirt freshman linebacker Ismael Murphy-Richardson will make his collegiate debut Saturday after Graham suspended him for the first game for violating team rules, and he'll come in with an immediate role.

"He will play a lot, " Graham said. "I feel good about where he's at, he's really had a good week. Gotta be disciplined, he's never played a game."

Nick Ralston was a candidate to redshirt this season but since coming to Tempe as an early enrollee, he's earned himself playing time in his first year. Highly-touted running back Jason Lewis arrived to Tempe late in camp and hasn't been with the team that long, and Graham's taking it slow with him.

"I think Nick is gonna play, he'll wind up starting on special teams this week. We're still evaluating Jason Lewis," coach Graham said." Obviously we're going to be cautious. If somebody's gonna play, they gotta play a lot. The thing with Nick is that he is an integral part as our fullback, he is our starting fullback. In certain packages, we're gonna need that throughout the year."

Redshirt freshman Sam Jones sat out his first year and bulked up to nearly 300 pounds, and with the uncertainty surrounding Evan Goodman's health, Jones is preparing for his first action.

"I think Sam maybe will start. Evan's been limited, he's beat up a little bit," Graham said. "I look for Sam to maybe start, depending where Evan's at."

Preparation for Spread Offense

In a league as deep and talented as the Pac-12, a triple option system is rarely used by teams on offense. However, FCS and military schools have been known to use the triple option as a means of combating size differences, and Cal Poly is one of those schools. ASU played a triple option team in 2014, beating the New Mexico Lobos 58-23, and has experience against the attack. But regardless of their previous encounters with it, the system's nuances require extra attention.

"You got to have a lot of discipline on defense to play the option," safety Jordan Simone said. "And that's one thing, we've got great coaches. We're very well-coached.

"The whole deal is you have to score, you have to play from ahead of them," coach Graham said. "They will eat up the clock, so you have to maximize your opportunities on offense."