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ASU Football: Defense impresses during Friday practice

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The Sun Devil defense forcing turnovers was the highlight of the open portion of practice on Friday.

The Sun Devils held an afternoon practice session inside of the Verde Dickey Dome Friday.

Media was allowed to view stretches, team drills emphasizing agility, ball security, and stance-to-start, a couple of situational 11-on-11 series, and special teams drills.

Injuries Update

Running back Demario Richard was a full participant in practice, donning a taped right ankle.

Wide receiver Jalen Harvey is out of his walking boot.

Players in Green No-Contact Jerseys

Defensive backs: Maurice Chandler (limited), Laiu Moeakiola (non-participant), Dasmond Tautalatasi (NP), James Johnson (NP)

Linebackers: Khaylan Thomas (limited), Salamo Fiso (not in attendance)

Offensive linemen: A.J. McCollum (limited participant), Tyson Rising (NP)

Tight ends/Wide receivers: Cameron Smith (NP), Grant Martinez (NP)

Quarterbacks: Bryce Perkins (not in attendance)

Situational 11-on-11 Series

Here’s how the first team was assembled during the 11-on-11 set:

Offense

QB: Brady White

RB: Gump Hayes, Nick Ralston

WR/TE: Tim White, Ellis Jefferson (outside); Fred Gammage (slot); Kody Kohl, Raymond Epps

OL: Evan Goodman (LT), Sam Jones (LG), Stephon McCray (C), Quinn Bailey (RG), Zach Roberston (RT)

Defense (appeared to lined up in team’s nickel set)

DL: Tashon Smallwood, Ami Latu, Renell Wren

LB: Christian Sam (weak side), D.J. Calhoun (strong side), JoJo Wicker (Devilbacker)

DB: df Kareem Orr (boundary corner), Bryson Echols (field corner), J’Marcus Rhodes (field safety), Armand Perry (bandit safety), Tyler Whiley (nickel)

Notes

  • It took one play before the defense ended the first possession—defensive lineman Ami Latu dropped back into middle-zone coverage from his nose tackle position, intercepted a Brady White pass, and then ran the ball back the other way for a pick-six. The defense was supposed to be hypothetically trailing by 2 points during the situation.
  • Quarterback Brady White is still growing into the position; he was “sacked” by Wicker after holding the ball too long. On his lone completion, he stepped up and was then flushed out of the pocket, rolling right before connecting with Tim White, who needed to make an acrobatic catch to keep the play in-bounds.
  • Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is assuming greater play-calling abilities this season. There were multiple plays were nose tackle Ami Latu dropped back into zone coverage from the nose tackle spot, seemingly fulfilling Graham’s request to utilize more zone coverages as he alluded to installing at Pac-12 Media Days.
  • In their nickel set, the safety position has some length in Rhodes and Perry, who are each listed at six-foot. On the first team’s final possession, Rhodes tracked back to deep middle of the field to deflect a pass which Texas transfer Bryson Echols managed to haul down for an interception.
  • To answer a question previously posed in our comments: Tyler Whiley saw time as the nickel corner in the first-team nickel set.

Kick Return Drills

Running back Gump Hayes as well as receivers Kyle Williams and Tim White were back fielding kicks on Friday.

PT-42 Jersey

Tim White once again sported the jersey, and is still the lone player to do so.

NFL at Practice

The San Francisco 49ers had a scout in attendance at today’s practice. He said he’ll be back for ASU’s home game vs Washington State on October 22.

Quotes

Todd Graham

  • “Game day tomorrow. Pretty fired up.” Saturday’s practice will include a scrimmage that Graham says will be the team’s first opportunity to play in gameday-like atmosphere with full-live tackling.
  • Tyler Whiley, who’s seeing time at nickel cornerback, has been a “pleasant surprise.”
  • Defense is “still attacking” despite incorporating more zone pressures.

J’Marcus Rhodes

  • “It’s just football, man.” Rhodes has seen time at both cornerback and safety, but says the transition has essentially been seamless. “I can handle (the safety spot). It’s just the more reps I get, the better and better I get.”

Graham named Rhodes as one of the defensive standouts to this point in the offseason.