Graham leaning toward change at kicker

TEMPE, Ariz. — Junior walk-on Jon Mora could take over field goal duties for Arizona State against Colorado this Thursday, coach Todd Graham said Tuesday.

“If we kicked today, Mora would probably kick,” Graham said.

Graham said he would evaluate ASU’s options after Alex Garoutte missed two field goals and had a third blocked in a Sept. 29 victory over California and insisted the position has remained a competition from the start of the seasons. In fall camp, Graham said Mora and fellow walk-on Dillon Jackson were challenging Garoutte.

“We’ve got three guys I think that can do it, but we need one that makes them all the time,” Graham said. “Hopefully we find that person.”

Garoutte made 15 of 22 field goal attempts last season, notably missing three in a season-altering loss to UCLA. This season, he is 6 of 10, with three misses coming from inside the 40-yard line.

Mora has attempted just one field goal this season, a miss from 40 yards out.

Asked directly if Garoutte would be the field goal kicker Thursday, Graham said he would “have to look at it” between now and then. He went on to pronounce Mora the leader for now but said the situation remains unsettled, pending a consultation with special teams coordinator Joe Lorig and some film studey.

Graham expressed support and belief in Garoutte after the Cal game and Tuesday said Garoutte had a good week in practice.

“He’s fighting, he’s not conceding it,” Graham said.

HOMECOMING FOR ONYEALI

Defensive lineman Junior Onyeali will play in his home state of Colorado on Thursday night for the first time as a Sun Devil. Onyeali is a Denver native and went to Mullen High School, about 45 minutes from Folsom Field in Boulder.
“I’m extremely excited,” Onyeali said. “I’m trying to get as many tickets as I can still from teammates. I’m trying to have as much family and friends as I can out there.

“It means a lot just to finally be able to play in front of family and friends.”

Onyeali said he has managed to acquire more than 20 tickets and is still trying to get his hands on more. The opportunity to play in front of his parents and siblings, Onyeali said, means much more after what he’s been through in the past year.

Before ASU’s bowl game last season, Onyeali got into a heated exchange with coach Dennis Erickson and was suspended. Graham upheld the suspension upon his arrival and set up a course by which Onyeali could be reinstated, including community service and academic markers.

Onyeali impressed Graham from the start and earned reinstatement in time for fall camp. Now he’s a first-team lineman and thriving on a powerful defense.

“He’s grown tremendously,” Graham said. “Obviously I wasn’t here before, but from the time I’ve met him, he’s been very sincere. He’s probably had to do more than any person in this program to be on this team.

“He practices his heart out every single day. … He’s been a joy to coach. We’ve had zero issues. He’s been a guy that’s been a bright spot for us.”

Graham said Onyeali has thanked him often for the opportunity and displays a new appreciation for football.
 
“It’s just remembering I could have lost this opportunity,” Onyeali said. “I pretty much did, so to just have that in my mind always helps.”

Onyeali has 13 total tackles, including six for a loss and four sacks.

“I’m not even close to being satisfied,” Onyeali said. “I feel like I have a lot of room to keep growing.”

GRICE ‘JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE’

Junior running back Marion Grice came to ASU with a bit of mystery after transferring from Blinn Community College in Texas. So far Grice has impressed and adapted well to the Division I level.
 
“He has really grown and I think he is really just scratching the surface of where he is going to be,” Graham said.

Through five games, Grice is ASU’s second leading rusher — behind freshman D.J. Foster —
with 206 yards on 36 carries. He leads the team with five rushing touchdowns and has also caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.

“I feel like I need to get better right now,” Grice said. “I need to get better than I’m performing.”

Still, Graham has been particularly impressed with Grice’s playmaking ability and how quickly he has adapted to the speed of Division I.

“Marion is a very gifted running back,” Graham said. “When there is nothing there, he can make something out of it. He has only just begun.

“Usually, it takes guys half a year when they get here to really come into their own, so I think Marion’s ahead of the curve right now.”

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

— Graham talked again Tuesday about his newest defensive converts, J.J. Holliday and James Morrison. He said Holliday, a former receiver, won’t play any defense Thursday. Morrison, who Graham said remains a running back, could see action rushing the passer in a third-down situation.

— ASU’s bye week came at a good time, Graham said, to give the offensive line a chance to heal some bumps and bruises. The same group has started all five games together, which didn’t happen last season. Graham said the continuity has been “huge.”

— According to The Denver Post, Colorado could be without top rusher Christian Powell. The freshman suffered a hip bruise in Colorado’s last game on Sept. 29 and was limited in practice this week.