TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State coach Todd Graham is admittedly a man of little sleep, but he said Monday that there’s one big thing keeping him awake at night more than anything else right now.
“Depth,” Graham said. “There is a huge drop-off right now between (the first team) and (second team). That’s where the coaching job is going to come in — developing our twos.”
Graham also mentioned this point immediately following ASU’s 63-6 win over NAU last Thursday, noting in particular that the second-team defense struggled at times. NAU’s only touchdown of the game came primarily against that group.
Ahead of Saturday’s game against Illinois, defensive depth — particularly in the secondary — is the greatest concern. ASU returned little with the graduation of Eddie Elder, Clint Floyd and Omar Bolden and then lost sophomore Devan Spann for the season to a shoulder injury before fall camp began.
“The secondary is as thin as it gets,” Graham said. “And we don’t get any thinner than that.”
Further depleting the secondary is Laui Moeakiola’s hamstring injury, which he suffered against NAU. Moeakiola, who was working on the second team, intercepted a pass and began limping while returning it. He is expected to miss several weeks.
Redshirt junior Anthony Jones, a spur linebacker, could provide a safety net if the secondary needs another body. He practiced at safety Sunday, but Graham said he sees Jones staying at linebacker and possibly working into the starting lineup as long as the secondary stays relatively healthy.
“If somebody got hurt, I would put him back there,” Graham said.
Moeakiola’s injury highlights just how little ASU can afford injuries, especially to starters, at certain positions. The offensive line, too, has Graham crossing his fingers. The unit returned only two starters from last season, and while it fared well in Week 1, it could ill afford any significant loss.
“I think we’re starting to develop some depth on the offensive line, which is an area I probably worried the most about in the spring,” Graham said.
While Graham is concerned about certain positions, there are a few he couldn’t be much more comfortable with. Running back, for example, features enormous depth, as ASU used four players last week even without senior James Morrison. Receiver, too, has become a position of relative depth.
Playing a lower-level opponent such as NAU may have allowed some of ASU’s depth issues to remain hidden, but Graham knows playing a Big Ten opponent will provide a greater test.
ASU’s starters will almost certainly see more time on the field against Illinois, but when the players on the second unit see the field, it will give Graham a chance to further evaluate how concerned he should be about his team’s depth. TRANSFER JOINS TEAM
ASU on Sunday added transfer Lloyd Carrington, a sophomore cornerback from Pittsburgh, Graham’s previous school. Graham recruited the 6-foot, 190-pound Carrington to Pitt last season.
Carrington practiced with ASU for the first time Sunday and will have to sit out this season, per NCAA transfer rules, but will then have three years of eligibility remaining.
“Lloyd is a guy I recruited in the very beginning, obviously,” Graham said. “He’s from my neck of the woods down in Dallas, Texas, and just a tremendous young man, great character. He’s what a Division I corner ought to look like academically, on the field, physically, mentally, everything. He’s a winner.”
Out of high school, Carrington reportedly had 17 scholarship offers, including ones from Oklahoma State, Baylor and Utah. ILLINI QB BANGED UP
Illinois junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase left his team’s 24-7 win over Western Michigan on Saturday with an ankle injury. According to reports from the Illinois media, Scheelhaase practiced on the injured ankle Sunday, but his status against ASU remains uncertain.
“He was moving around, but definitely not 100 percent,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said, according to the Chicago Sun Times. “We’re going to have to continue to evaluate throughout the week.”
Scheelhaase, a mobile quarterback, ran 18 times for 80 yards against ASU last season. He ran seven times for 21 yards and a touchdown against WMU last week. HEALTH WATCH
— Senior wide receiver Kyle Middlebrooks (shoulder) and junior defensive lineman Jake Sheffield are expected to be available this week after being held out against NAU.
— Senior defensive tackle Corey Adams (back) is expected to miss his second straight game.