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ASU Football: A look at each position battle heading into spring practice

Who's returning and who's in the mix? We take a look at ASU's biggest position battles after one week of spring practice in the books.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


In the mix: Manny Wilkins (redshirt sophomore), Bryce Perkins (redshirt freshman), Brady White (redshirt freshman), Dillon Sterling-Cole

The skinny: This will be the elephant in the room that will last for just about the Sun Devils' entire offseason — and possibly leaking past ASU's Sept. 3 opener against Northern Arizona.

The tale of the tale of the tape of this quarterback battle resembles awfully like Todd Graham's first offseason in 2012, with two dual-threat quarterbacks (Perkins and Wilkins) and a pocket passer (White). Sterling-Cole could compte for the starting job as well when he arrives on campus in the summer, but comes at a disadvantage as a true freshman.

Running back

Returning starters: Demario Richard (junior), Kalen Ballage (junior)

Also in the mix: Jason Lewis (redshirt freshman)

The skinny: With the tailback position being ASU's strongest on offense and Richard and Ballage equally sharing carries, the only question here heading into 2016 is how much will the Sun Devils use Lewis.

He was a late arrival to fall camp last year, but showed flashes with his speed and power throughout practices, and could be a useful substitute for next season.

Offensive Line

Returning starter: Evan Goodman (LT, senior)

Also in the mix: Cohl Cabral (freshman), Cade Cote (redshirt freshman), Dillon Faamatu (redshirt freshman), Connor Humphreys (redshirt sophomore), Sam Jones (redshirt sophomore), Tyler McClure (redshirt junior), A.J. McCollum (junior), Stephon McCray (redshirt senior), Steven Miller (redshirt freshman), Marshall Nathe (freshman), Tyson Rising (redshirt junior), Zach Robertson (redshirt freshman)

The skinny: With four of the five spots up for grabs, expect a completely new ASU offensive line next season. An early favorite to start is Sam Jones, who filled in several times last season. The rest of the spots will likely go to players who've either transferred from junior colleges (McClure, McCollum, Humphreys and Rising) or others who've already been in the team for years but haven't found much playing time (McCray, Miller, Cote and Robertson).

Wide Receiver

Returning starters: Tim White (redshirt senior), Fred Gammage (redshirt senior), Cam Smith (redshirt junior)

Also in the mix: N'Keal Harry (freshman), Jalen Harvey (redshirt sophomore), Ellis Jefferson (redshirt junior), Eric Lauderdale (redshirt senior), Terrell Chatman (redshirt freshman)

The skinny: From the surface, ASU could likely go with White, Gammage, Harry (nation's top high school receiver of the 2016 recruiting class) and Smith as its four top receivers. The biggest concern, however, is whether Smith, who missed all of last season due to surgery on his right knee, could return as the same speedy deep threat he once was prior to his injury.

Over the past few years, Graham has kept a stable of receivers who he's lauded for having a high potential over the years — particularly Jefferson and Lauderdale — but have hardly seen the field since joining the team. We'll see if they could finally run loose in their final seasons.


In the mix: Alani Latu (redshirt junior), Edmond Boateng (redshirt senior), Koron Crump (junior), Kalen Ballage (junior), Dougladson Subtyl (junior)

The skinny: Sigh, another offseason, another Devilbacker competition. Ismael Murphy-Richardson was supposed to be a candidate as well, but was dismissed prior to spring camp. Boateng enters the offseason with much more experience playing the position and has auditioned for the starting role before, but it appears Latu has been getting early looks with the first team during spring practice.

Expect this battle to evolve as Crump and Subtyl (arrives in the fall) start getting looks, and whether ASU is ready to let Ballage try out defense agaun.

Other Linebackers

Returning starters: Salamo Fiso (SAM, redshirt senior), Viliami Moeakiola (SPUR, redshirt senior), Christian Sam (WILL, junior)

Also in the mix: Marcus Ball (redshirt junior), D.J. Calhoun (junior), Koron Crump (junior), Khaylan Thomas (sophomore), Kalen Ballage (junior)

The skinny: The three other starting linebacker positions seem predominately set, but Moeakiola just can't seem to stay healthy and continues to be limited over spring practice. Most — if not all — of those listed as "in the mix" could see significant playing time, considering the rate of injuries ASU had in the front seven last year.

Defensive Backs

Returning starter: Kareem Orr (sophomore), Armand Perry (redshirt sophomore)

In the mix: Chad Adams (junior), Maurice Chandler (junior), De'Chavon Hayes (redshirt senior), James Johnson (redshirt junior), J'Marcus Rhodes (junior), Dasmond Tautalatasi (redshirt sophomore)

The skinny: The secondary is set as one category because Graham said he's "dual training" several of his defensive backs.

Orr and Perry seem to be locks to start — it's just a matter of where they will be lining up. Hayes has received some first-team looks as a cornerback — as ASU finally found a role for him.