Maroon vs. Gold, be gone. The Spring Showcase lives on.
Fans expecting an ASU spring game were instead treated to a typical Sun Devil spring practice, followed by an atypical hour-long (as opposed to the normal five-or-so minute media viewing) scripted live 11 on 11 session. While this format varies from other schools across the country, it gave fans and reporters a transparent view of what’s going on inside Sun Devil football.
What we learned
While the scrimmage session lacked any real flow with the scripted scenarios, we were treated to in-depth looks at both the offense and defense. This revealed our first real look at new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas’s offense.
From a play-calling standpoint, the running and passing attacks felt balanced. Thomas and the offense found immediate success off the play action when Trenton Bourguet — who started with the ones — hit a wide-open Elijah Badger on a deep cross in the middle of the field for a gain of 20+ yards on the fourth play of the evening. It was a good redemption ball after Bourguet had made the correct read, but missed Ricky Pearsall a play earlier.
A similar play, or a variation of the same one, proved successful down the road with Paul Tyson working off a fake to find Bryan Thompson across the middle for a large gain of 37. Bourguet also hit Sanders on the hands on another deep cross, but Sanders dropped it.
What’s the point? The play-action passing game creates space for receivers and alleviates pressure on offensive lineman that can help lead to creativity offensively.
It’s early, but based off the spring, the offensive line may need that help.
LaDarius Henderson (guard), Ben Scott (center), and Des Holmes (tackle) seem to be the locks, and the strengths of the line. Spencer Lovell and Chris Martinez continue to battle for the other guard spot, while Isaia Glass and Emmitt Bohle gun for left tackle.
It is hard to solidify scheme and timing without one cohesive unit of five lineman, so this position group tends to fall behind the rest, but like always, the front five will be the foundation.
“Play-action pass is great if you can run the football,” Herm Edwards said. “And we’ve got a lot of good runners.”
On the flip-side, like previously mentioned, the front seven on defense looks to be the most advanced. In the extended scrimmage, the rotating defensive line of first-and-second strings dominated all night long, with only a select few runs breaking past the first level. ASU’s strength offensively is running the ball, as it stands, and had little success.
Bourguet and Tyson had similar evenings production-wise.
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A select group of players took advantage of the spring spotlight and made a name for themselves under the lights at Sun Devil Stadium.
- RS Freshman RB Deonce Elliot (#23): All of the running backs got significant reps rotating in with all levels of the depth chart. While the o-line struggled to create consistent holes, Elliot showed high-level cutback vision and speed, creating his own running paths. Some of the most impressive runs of the night came towards the end with Elliot pounding the rock.
- RS Junior TE Bryce Pierre (#84): Pierre mixed in to earn reps in two-tight end personnel, and one specific play showed us his role on this team for 2022. During the scrimmage, one coach yelled out, “Pierre, Pierre!” before a red-zone play, signifying it was Pierre’s turn to sub in. The next play was a bootleg right, with Pierre staying on the line to seal the edge. He handled his assignment perfectly, creating room for Bourguet to roll right and throw the ball with no pressure.
- RS Junior DE Dylan Hall (#94): The Boise State/Antelope Valley College transfer has been seen getting to spring practices early to work with Shannon Foreman on technique, and annihilating the sleds during individual drills. On Saturday, he recorded what would’ve been at least two sacks (can’t hit the quarterback). Hall dominated his one-one-one matchups on the edge, and could be a third-down option in the fall.
- GR Senior Safety Khoury Bethley (#15): Nobody popped the pads harder on Saturday night than Khoury Bethley. Bethley first raised eyebrows when met Chad Johnson Jr. in the air for a pass putting his shoulder pad in Johnson’s back, forcing a drop. On the next drive, Bethley stuffed a goal-line rush attempt as a box-safety. He proved to be uber-dynamic.
- Freshman DL Robbie Harrison (#93) / RS Senior DL T.J. Pesefea (#44): While these two players have different experience-backgrounds and play two different positions, both were constantly seen in the backfield on run plays. The offensive line had a hard time with both of these guys nearly every play, sparking motivation on the East (defensive) sideline. The Pesefea-Lole duo up the gut should be lethal for opposing running backs.
Wide receiver L.V. Bunkley-Shelton dressed once again, but was extremely limited, and did not participate in the scrimmage.
RS sophomore quarterback Daylin McLemore took the third-string snaps on Saturday, and looked cool and comfortable before missing his last two throws behind his receivers. He finished the night 6-for-10 with 60 yards passing and six yards rushing, unofficially.
Eddie Czaplicki provided one of the most exciting segments of the night when he took about four punt reps in the “third quarter” of the scrimmage. Czaplicki, who boomed his last ball 65 yards in the air, impressed in his debut season last year. Gilbert-Christian alum Jace Feely (son of former NFL kicker, Jay Feely) drilled four straight field goals before missing his last attempt from 46 yards.
Herm Edwards says the team has about 6-7 scholarships left to hand out, and he will be looking to fill those through the portal or internally during the next wave over the summer.
For now, we wait.