Sunday morning’s practice marked the first day of gold jerseys, meaning the scout team was in full effect.
Additionally, there was a shake-up in the backfield with one player who is normally a linebacker shifting over to the offensive side of the ball. Here’s what went down on Sunday following an off day:
Next Practice: Monday, August 19
Last Practice: Friday, August 16
Among those who went into the bubble were freshman defensive lineman Stephon Wright (conditioning), and redshirt freshman wide receiver Geordon Porter (hamstring). Junior wide receiver Curtis Hodges is also still out (shoulder). His arm was in a sling on Sunday.
For those of you who have been wondering about Wright and his recovery process from shoulder surgery and getting back into playing shape, head coach Herm Edwards had this to say about the four-star lineman from Los Angeles:
“It’s conditioning,” said Edwards of Wright’s continual steps from recovery. “He’s still progressing back. Hopefully he can progress and we can get him into the lineup. He’s a talented young man and he’s eager to practice and play, but we are not going to put him in harm’s way. We are going to wait and doctors can tell us when he can go out and start hitting people and playing more. It’s always on them, and when they say he’s ready, he’s ready. But we aren’t rushing players and we aren’t going to do that.”
Defensive lineman Mark Walton and offensive lineman Zach Robertson weren’t in attendance, and Jack Jones only participated in drills as he continues to condition.
As for players returning to practice, redshirt junior quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole, junior defensive lineman Shannon Forman, redshirt senior running back Paul Lucas, freshman defensive back Keon Markham, and freshman safety Kejuan Markham were all back.
Linebacker Stanley Lambert was in a non-contact jersey.
What Went On
As mentioned above, Sunday was the first day with gold scout team jerseys, meaning that the Sun Devils are beginning to game prep for the Kent State opener, and their official first and second teams are starting to take full form.
However, Edwards noted that just because a player is on the scout team doesn’t mean they can’t factor in, referencing redshirt freshman safety Cam Phillips as an example (who started on the scout team).
“It’s always hard when you give them the day off and they come back, and then you tell them, ‘Okay, there’s going to be a developmental team.’ They start looking around and going, ‘Oh, that means I’m not in the top two (teams),’” Edwards said. “But I thought they responded well. I thought they went out and gave effort, and we told them the story about Cam Phillips.”
Players who aren’t on the first or second team participated in team segments after practice.
Along with the scout jerseys, freshman linebacker Elijah Juarez was seen taking reps in a maroon offensive jersey as a running back, most likely trying to supplement the backfield as a fullback or wingback type of position.
“Elijah played both ways obviously (in high school),” Edwards said. “I think we need a fullback kind of guy. He has that body where I think he could help us over there. We are looking at it, but I think he could help us. We’ll see.”
Among other festivities, kick return coverages and special teams were implemented, and the first team offense went up against the first team defense in a two-minute drill, hurry up offense.
After the short first team 11-on-11 session, the position groups split off into individual drills. And for the linebacker group under Antonio Pierce, it was no lazy Sunday.
Pierce didn’t like the way his group started off their drill work, and he let them hear it. He pushed them into intense tackling drills and cardio work. The session ended with the linebackers hitting the sleds over and over on a hot, Arizona morning.
During the tackling drills, Pierce was relentless in the players’ ears. “Be an alpha dog. I’m looking for an alpha dog!” Pierce hollered. “Who wants to be the alpha dog?”
After he was done drilling into the LB’s, he broke them down with a message about championship teams.
For the rest of the practice, a lot of time with the first team offense was devoted to going up against the scout team.
Offensive coordinator Rob Likens had this to say about game planning for opening night, and his philosophy on making freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels comfortable when the lights come on during the 29th:
“You try to give him something that he really likes,” said Likens of working with Daniels. “I spent yesterday talking with him on his day off and he came over. We sat down and he had a list of all the plays that he feels are very easy for him to read and there’s no gray area. I said, ‘Well, you know what? Those are the plays I am going to call.’ It’s that simple. I’m not going to force you...I want to run stuff that you feel good about.”
And for one last note, offensive line coach Dave Christensen named Cade Cote the team’s starting center to begin the season.
First Team Offense
QB: Jayden Daniels
RB: Eno Benjamin
WR: Frank Darby, Kyle Williams, Brandon Aiyuk
TE: Tommy Hudson
OL: Cohl Cabral (LT), Alex Losoya (LG), Cade Cote (C), Jarrett Bell (RG), Steven Miller (RT)
First Team Defense
DL: Jermayne Lole, Shannon Forman, Roe Wilkins
LB: Khaylan Kearse-Thomas, Merlin Robertson, Darien Butler
CB: Chase Lucas, Kobe Williams
Tillman: Evan Fields
S: Aashari Crosswell, Cam Phillips
Second Team Offense
QB: Joey Yellen
RB: Isaiah Floyd, AJ Carter
WR: Andre Johnson, Ryan Newsome, Jordan Kerley
TE: Jared Bubak
OL: LaDarius Henderson (LT), Cody Shear (LG), Dohnovan West (C), Roy Hemsley (RG), Spencer Lovell (RT)
Second Team Defense
DL: Michael Matus, Corey Stephens, Roe Wilkins
LB: Amiri Johnson, Fritzny Niclasse, Tyler Johnson
CB: Jordan Clark, Timarcus Davis
Tillman: Connor Soelle
S: Kejuan Markham, Willie Harts
*Ethan Long, Keith Davis, and Demetrious Flowers also rotated in with the first team. DJ Davidson and George Lea took reps with the first team defense as well.