ASU staff takes advantage of bowl practice to cultivate next edition of Sun Devils.
By TYLER LOCKMAN FS Arizona
As Arizona State prepared to play Washington State last month, much of the focus was on the
Sun Devils getting bowl eligible. Coach Todd Graham, however, spent just about as much time stressing the importance of the 15 extra practices that come with bowl eligibility.
"You can't put a price on it," Graham said. "We cannot afford not to have those extra practices for the development of our program. That's paramount to you as a program."
During recent preparation for the Dec. 29 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl,
ASU split practices into two parts. The first portion of practice was run mostly as usual, and the starting players and veterans were excused after it. Then the attention turned to younger and less experienced players.
In those practices, the young players ran through tackling drills and scrimmaged. The scrimmages in particular gave players a chance to impress coaches and get themselves on the radar for next season. Though a better gauge of players' future roles will come in spring and fall practice, Graham has been impressed by a handful of players recently.
There is plenty of young talent to watch on ASU's roster, and here are a few who have caught the eye of Graham and his coaching staff in pre-bowl practice.
Graham has been particularly impressed with the potential depth being developed on the line. Three starters next season, but if the development continues, a few starting spots may be up for grabs.
"That line, I feel really good about," Graham said. "I feel really good about where we're going with those guys and the development of those guys."
Vi Teofilo, a redshirt freshman, has impressed in practice as well as during the season while filling in for injured senior Andrew Sampson. Graham's been impressed with his athleticism, and he should become the likely starter at the position next season.
Sophomore Tyler Sulka also has had ample opportunities during the season, playing in every game and starting twice. Sulka was often used as a blocking tight end, and Graham more than once mentioned wanting to find more playing time for him. He should compete for a starting spot in 2013.
Graham has also singled out sophomore Sil Ajawara and freshmen
Evan Goodman and
Mo Latu. Latu, a second-year freshman, might have played a bigger role this season if not for a bad sinus infection over the summer. The illness caused him to lose weight and slowed him in fall camp, but he could challenge Kody Koebesnky for the starting spot at center next year.
"Mo is a guy we've got great plans for," Graham said. "He's got a lot of potential."
Running back Terrell Davis
With the Sun Devils stacked at running back this season, it was pretty clear Terrell Davis would redshirt his freshman season. With Cameron Marshall graduating, Davis should factor into ASU's running attack next season behind
D.J. Foster and Marion Grice.
Graham has mentioned Davis on multiple occasions, and it's clear the Sun Devils see him playing a key role in the future.
"This guy is going to be a great player back there," Graham said. "I've been really impressed with him."
How much work Davis will get next year remains unclear, as Grice and Foster will be back to carry the load. But with those two often used as receivers, there could be more opportunities for Davis.
Sophomore Deantre Lewis, who briefly moved to defensive back before rejoining the offense late in the season, did not play in ASU's final five games and totaled just four carries this season. A star his freshman season, Lewis has shown glimpses of his pre-injury explosive self in practices recently but might ultimately be the odd man out.
Defensive back Lloyd Carrington
A transfer from Pittsburgh, Carrington has already spent a season with Graham. The 6-foot, 190 pound cornerback joined the Sun Devils in early September and will be eligible to play next season.
"He's what a Division I corner ought to look like academically, on the field, physically, mentally, everything," Graham said in September. "He's a winner."
Carrington has impressed lately and could be positioning himself to start next season in a secondary that loses Deveron Carr and Keelan Johnson.
Wide receiver Josiah Blandin
There's been speculation about whether Blandin, a product of Cal Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.) fits into ASU's future plans, but for at least one day he made an impression with Graham.
On Tuesday, Blandin did enough in the scout-team scrimmage that Graham brought him up in his opening remarks after practice.
"Josiah was the MVP today of the (graduate assistant) bowl," Graham said. "Josiah stuck out today."
ASU are thin at wide receiver, which creates opportunities for young players to step up and show coaches what they can do. Perhaps this was the start of Blandin doing so.
Linebacker Salamo Fiso
Another Long Beach Poly product, Fiso caught coaches' attention as early as fall camp. There was even talk he could contribute this year, but with plenty of depth at linebacker, the staff decided not to use up a year of eligibility.
Fiso has again emerged as a rising star in bowl practices.
"Salamo is a guy that sticks out to me out there on the field, that looks good," Graham said.
ASU looks to have solid depth at linebacker again next season, losing only Brandon Magee from the starting group, but Fiso should be able to find himself a spot in the mix.
Safety Vilami Moeakiola
Moeakiola played in four games early this season and recorded an interception before a hamstring injury slowed him the rest of the year. He has impressed most lately in tackling drills.
Graham was high on Moeakiola early in the season and lamented losing the freshman to injury, especially with a thin secondary. He's a strong candidate to compete for Keelan Johnson's vacated starting spot next season.