TEMPE, Ariz. — One day early in fall camp, Arizona State coach Todd Graham pulled aside senior safety Damarious Randall. He does that often with players to give individual instruction or words of motivation.
This time, Graham had news for Randall: He’d been named a team captain for 2014 along with quarterback Taylor Kelly, left tackle Jamil Douglas and tight end/linebacker De’Marieya Nelson.
Randall says he was surprised and happy to get the news, especially considering it may be his last season at ASU.
"It means a lot," Randall said Friday. "I don’t know if it’s my senior year or not, but being elected a captain means a lot and it just shows a lot of the work I put in over the summer and the trust my teammates and coaches have in me."
Though Randall is listed as a senior now, that could change. ASU is in the process of petitioning for another year of eligibility for Randall, who came to ASU last season from Mesa Community College.
"In the next couple weeks to a month I could possibly be a junior," Randall said. "That would be so nice to have."
Randall originally enrolled at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., for the 2010-11 academic year, but because of a shoulder injury, he never played football. He played one season for the baseball team at Butler, then sat out the 2011 football season after transferring to Mesa CC. He played the 2012 season for Mesa before signing with ASU.
Whether or not this is Randall’s senior season, he’s excited to take on a leadership role within ASU’s young, inexperienced defense.
"I feel like when everything is going bad the team looks to me to make a play," Randall said. "I’ve actually been getting better at being a vocal leader. I’m getting a little more comfortable doing that.
"Most of the young guys call me a lot or text me a lot just trying to watch film and figure out how I’ve been successful on and off the field. We’re just trying to transition the young guys into college."
Graham said Wednesday night he named Kelly and Douglas captains before the start of preseason camp. A few days later, a select group of players took a vote to add Randall and Nelson as the defensive captains.
"Taylor and Jamil are big leaders to me," Randall said. "They helped me get into a leadership role."
Graham said earlier in the week that junior cornerback Kweishi Brown was pushing junior Solomon Means for a starting job. Now, it appears freshman Armand Perry is the one fighting for a job in the starting lineup. Lloyd Carrington has one cornerback position locked up.
"Right now Armand is the third corner, and Kwieshi’s the fourth corner," Graham said after Friday’s practice. "I think Solomon is a little bit ahead of (Perry) just from a technique standpoint. Lloyd is the best, but I think all four of those guys are going to play."
Graham admitted he’s been surprised by Perry this fall. He expected the Las Vegas Bishop Gorman product to redshirt this season.
"He was a guy I had up there on the board and I said ‘You know, we’re going to take a look at him, I bet he’ll be a redshirt,’" Graham recalled. "That’s why you recruit guys from great programs."
Bishop Gorman is regarded as one of the country’s top high school football powerhouses, having won 12 Nevada state championships, including two in the last three seasons. Graham says he pushed Perry to come to ASU with the same attitude and work ethic he had as a senior at Bishop Gorman.
Brown could push his way back into the picture but is still adjusting to the Division I level after transferring from junior college.
"Kweishi’s deal is just reps," Graham said. "It’s just he’s never done some of the things we’re doing."
— Graham said ASU expects to hear Tuesday if redshirt freshman safety Marcus Ball is medically cleared for games. ASU anticipates he will be, and Ball projects as a starter.
— Freshman running back Kalen Ballage is back to practicing fully after suffering a minor back injury almost two weeks ago. He is expected to contribute on offense and return kickoffs.
— As many as seven true freshman could play this season on defense. Defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood and will linebacker D.J. Calhoun currently project as starters, while Perry projects to be in the "starting rotation." Other true freshmen likely to play this season: Defensive linemen Emanuel Dayries and Renell Wren, linebacker Christian Sam and safety Chad Adams.
— There’s been some shuffling in ASU’s secondary recently, with Randall moving to boundary safety and the competition for the second starting job shifting to field safety. Graham said Friday ASU has trained their safeties to play both so they can switch between the spots as needed, depending on matchups.