ASU position battles take shape as spring ends
APR 12, 2013 1:12p ET
Still, spring practice provides a good, long look at where certain players are and how they might contribute in the coming year. For Arizona State, a handful of position battles have developed and played out this spring. Though those contests will continue into fall camp, the results so far will be on display Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium during the annual spring game.
Now that we've provided a disclaimer about spring competitions, here is a look at where the key battles stand as of now.
Status: Dire. Receiver is by far the position of greatest concern right now, and coach Todd Graham hasn't been shy about acknowledging that. He's practically drooling at the prospect of what the receivers in ASU's recruiting class can add when they arrive in the fall.
Key players: Kevin Ozier, Richard Smith, Alonzo Agwuenu, Gary Chambers.
Outlook: ASU's spring depth chart listed Ozier, Smith and Chambers as the No. 1 receivers. Smith and Ozier were not surprises, as both contributed last season. Chambers is a bit of a surprise, though his ascension might also have to do with Agwuenu's inconsistent spring. The reality is Smith and Ozier will contribute in 2013, perhaps Smith more than Ozier, who is more of a possession receiver. Ultimately, the rotation won't truly be decided until the likes of freshmen Jaelen Strong and Joseph Morris are in the mix come fall.
Status: Solid. Two spots opened up on ASU's offensive line with the graduation of right guard Andrew Sampson and right tackle Brice Schwab. ASU has thus far had an easy time filling those spots, and offensive line looks to be a position of depth in 2013.
Key players: Vi Teofilo, Jamil Douglas, Evan Goodman, Sil Ajawara, Tyler Sulka.
Outlook: The offensive line looks pretty set right now, especially considering only one offensive lineman arrives in the fall (and freshmen O-linemen typically don't contribute much anyway while adding strength). Douglas appears to be the right tackle for next season, replacing Schwab after moving over from starting left guard last season. Coaches love Douglas's athleticism and believe he could have a big year at tackle. Teofilo has taken over at right guard after filling in as a starter last year while Sampson was injured. Ajawara has come on strong this spring to take Douglas's place at left guard. Goodman has not challenged as he was expected to after suffering an ankle injury, and Sulka right now is considered a depth piece, though he could have a shot at right tackle in the fall.
Status: Somewhat settled. Graham said this spring that this spot is among those he's worried about the most after losing Keelan Johnson to graduation. The Sun Devils have actually gotten decent competition at the spot, though, and should see more in the fall.
Key players: Villami Moeakiola, Ezekiel Bishop
Outlook: This battle might heat up in the fall, but for now, Moeakiola looks like the top guy. He missed a few practices recently due to a death in the family but has mostly impressed. He will be a redshirt freshman this year after getting a medical redshirt for last season, a year in which he had four tackles and an interception before suffering a hamstring injury that lingered all year.
Status: Solid but unsettled. Deveron Carr's graduation left a hole in the secondary, but it looks like ASU has the depth to fill it without too much of a drop-off.
Key players: Robert Nelson, Rashad Wadood, Llloyd Carrington.
Outlook: This battle is still too close to call. Nelson got top billing on the spring depth chart, but Graham said this week that Carrington and Wadood remain in the hunt for the starting job. Nelson came on strong over the final few games last season -- recall his 66-yard interception return against Arizona -- and is probably still the favorite, but Wadood, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, has impressed in practice lately. Carrington, a transfer from Pitt, has also looked good recently and practiced with the first-team defense Thursday.
Status: Solid but incomplete. The competition to replace Brandon Magee has not truly developed yet due to injuries and recruits yet to arrive, so expect the battle to begin in earnest during fall camp.
Key players: Grandville Taylor, Chris Young, Carlos Mendoza (injured).
Outlook: Taylor and Young shared the top spot on the spring depth chart here even though Young is typically a spur linebacker. ASU has been experimenting with Young here, getting him on the field at the same time as fellow spur Anthony Jones. Taylor, a walk-on who earned a scholarship last season, has been solid this spring but hasn't really turned heads. Mendoza might end up winning this job once he's fully healed from the shoulder injury that cost him most of last season, but the competition will get tougher in the spring when junior-college recruit Antonio Longino arrives.
Quarterback: Taylor Kelly is the starter; that much we know. But the No. 2 spot isn't totally clear. Mike Bercovici has earned coaches' praise this spring and has apparently gotten in better physical shape to fit ASU's system, but the staff is still very high on Michael Eubank, the backup last year. Considering that the Devils used two quarterbacks for different packages last year, a battle for the backup job could be interesting, though it seems unlikely they would stop using Eubank in certain short-yardage situations, as they did last season.
Placekicker: Walk-on Jon Mora remains the field-goal kicker, with Alex Garoutte handling kickoff and point-after duties. That's an unusual split, but it might be irrelevant when recently signed recruit Zane Gonzalez arrives in the fall.