The Arizona State Sun Devils concluded their 2016 spring practice slate on Saturday at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in front of a buzzing crowd of season-ticket holders. The final session was arranged in a similar fashion to the other practices held before, however included fan-inclusive activities following the formal stretch.
Manny Wilkins and Bryce Perkins throwing to the kids. pic.twitter.com/a1leCFXeKT— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) April 16, 2016
Former Sun Devils Jaelen Strong, Jordan Simone, Derek Hagan, Christian Westerman, Vi Teofilo and Gary Chambers were spotted in attendance, among others.
Future Sun Devils N'Keal Harry, Chase Lucas, A.J. McCollum, Jack Smith, and Jeremy Smith also took in the Sun Devils final session ahead of summer work.
Below are quotes, observations and takeaways from the Sun Devils' closing spring practice concerning key team storylines.
Following the first practice of the spring, head coach Todd Graham said that his team needed to establish a new identity.
After Saturday's practice, Graham said to the media that he felt his team has developed one that's blue-collar.
"What I told my players is we were really excited about this spring," Graham said. "Lot of new energy, lot of excitement. Somebody said ‘Coach, you've still got your voice (at the end of practice).' There's not a lot of yellers and screamers; not a lot of minimum-expectation stuff, so I like our business attitude.
"I think we've gotten better fundamentally, I think we've established our identity."
Likewise, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said he feels his unit has come closer and closer to achieving the goal of establishing their own.
"Our goal this spring going in was to put our base offense in and figure out our identity and see what we're good at," Lindsey said. "There's an element of figuring out who we are and what our team is good at; I think we did that."
The summer will hint as to who will win the quarterback battle, but expect the competition to last through the fall.
In Graham's first season at ASU prior to the 2012 season, he sifted through a three-way battle between Taylor Kelly, Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank. He said that during the battle, a winner began to emerge in the summer.
He said he believes the same may be true of this year's competition.
"I think my first year here it was very much still a competition," he said. "I still think it's very much a competition now, but what separated it that year was the summer and then fall camp."
Lindsey expanded on the head coach's sentiment.
"In the summer, all of their workouts are team-led, so you figure out real quick who takes charge," Lindsey said. "Even though we can't be with them, you just see it. Your team will probably know who the starter is before the coaches do.
"I think that's what (Graham) is saying: in the summer, who's gonna go to work? Who's gonna improve? When we go out here for the first day of fall camp, who's made the biggest improvement, and you'll tell how things went in the summer, I believe by that."
Ability to command the huddle and inspire the team is one of the traits Lindsey said he is looking for in his signal-caller, so it makes sense that the winner would emerge during the team-led period.
As for who's stood out, Graham said all three are diverse in what they bring, yet share a similar trait: ability to extend the play.
Potential in the front-seven
Sun Devil fans in attendance can concur: JoJo Wicker is absolute terror on the defensive line.
On Saturday he delivered another strong performance, collapsing the pocket and wrapping ball carriers near the line of scrimmage.
Wicker said he's been trying to work on both pass rushing and run stopping, while growing as a leader on a talented defensive front.
Still, while Wicker has dominated, he hasn't been alone as far as standing out. He said that outside linebacker Koron Crump has looked good during the spring, too.
"(Crump) is a newcomer, so for him to come in and be that good, it's kind of impressive," Wicker said.
The true sophomore went on to say that the scheme is a little different this year, making it a little bit easier to comprehend.
However, when asked if the team would be utilizing four-man fronts, he said he couldn't give a definite answer because "we're doing everything" up front.
New faces not an issue
Graham said his team is cohesively working despite so many newcomers on the field and on staff.
"We've got four new offensive linemen, new quarterback, and three new defensive backs back there playing, but I like our guys and I like their mentality," he said.
Lindsey said that as the team begins to gel, the offensive line has looked growingly cohesive.
"Those guys progressed a lot," he said. "When you face our defense in practice every day and they give you some crazy looks and things, I think those guys have matured and gotten better."
The lone returning starter for the Sun Devils is offensive tackle Evan Goodman, whom coaches noted as one of the bettter performers out of the group this spring.
As for the other four members, Lindsey said there's no set arrangement just yet.
Lindsey said this of White's growth this spring, noting that he's made strides in his decision-making.
"What you want to see is a guy not repeat the same mistakes, and I think that's where he's grown and he's made adjustments," Lindsey said. "He's seeing things happen, he goes ‘you know what, I won't make that mistake again.'"
No one knows who Graham and Co. plan on starting under center yet. Lindsey said that he thinks "all three have had their moments" and he's happy "all three had a great spring," so until then, we'll have to just wait and see.