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ASU Football: Sun Devils battling injuries as second half of spring practice opens

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News and notes from Wednesday's practice.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils returned to the field Wednesday morning for their eighth practice of the spring, marking the start of the second half of spring practices for the 2016 season.

As camp wears on, multiple players have found themselves in limited action due to various dings and bruises suffered throughout the first two weeks of practice.

Eleven players donned the green no-contact jerseys on Wednesday, most notably linebacker Viliami Moeakiola, tight end Kody Kohl, and defensive back Armand Perry.

"We have had a lot of guys missing practices," said ASU coach Todd Graham. "Khaylan (Thomas) is out for the spring. Chans Cox is done. We've had a lot of that."

While health has been an issue, there have been plenty of players that have made big strides so far this spring. Sophomores Jay Jay Wilson and Jalen Harvey were both signaled out by Graham after practice for their passion and commitment to the "PT42" mindset that the coaching staff preaches.

At the skill positions, competition remains stiff for snaps at quarterback and running back. Just as they had been for the first half of spring ball, all of the reps at QB were dispersed evenly between Manny Wilkins, Brady White, and Bryce Perkins.

In the backfield, Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard continue to alternate reps as well. In the half hour of media access on Wednesday, Richard broke off a 20-yard run for the first touchdown of the team's 11-on-11 drill.

"They have really run the football efficiently," said Graham on the running backs. "Those guys are hitting the hole and finishing runs."

While the offensive line gave up a couple of sacks in today's 11-on-11 session, Graham has liked what he's seen so far from his youthful line. The progression of the men up front has been impressive, especially from the two underclassmen that have been working with the first team.

"I have been pleasantly surprised," said Graham. "If you're going to have a young one (line), you want it to be a talented one like we have. That is something I have have been really pleased with."

After taking far too many sacks a year ago, Graham and first-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey have put an emphasis on working with the quarterbacks and offensive linemen to change those fortunes in 2016.

It may take awhile to fine-tune with the youth at both positions, but the early returns have been decent.

"I really like our system," Graham said on Wednesday. "The origin of our offense when we were building it back in 2007, the reason we built it like we did, is to get the ball out quickly. We didn't do that for whatever reason last year, so Chip is doing a good job in helping our system and getting the ball out."

Just seven practices remain before the Sun Devils break for the summer, and Graham and company will now focus on nailing down as many spots on the depth chart as possible over the next two weeks. With how competitive the first half of the spring sessions were, that might not be an easy job.

"There is great competitive spirit there," Graham says. "There's not a lot of talk, but there is a lot of energy and passion. We are getting better every day."

Notes

  • Manny Wilkins took the first snaps at quarterback in the team's tempo and 11-on-11 drills, but as mentioned above, each player got an even amount of repetitions while the media was allowed to watch.
  • Cornerback J'Marcus Rhodes, who is in contention for a starting job, looked good in his first practice since March 21. The junior had missed the team's last three practices due to personal reasons.
  • Graham said after practice that second string linebacker Khaylan Thomas had undergone surgery and would miss the rest of spring ball due to the procedure.