ASU notebook: Preparing for Navy a challenge
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Though nearly three weeks remain until Arizona State takes on Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, the Sun Devils are still trying to get a good simulation of the Midshipmen offense.
Navy is one of four FBS teams running a triple-option offense, which features run plays a large majority of the time.
"We're getting better somewhat at simulating what they do, which is very difficult," coach Todd Graham said.
On Monday, ASU tried to simulate what Navy does at the quarterback position. The quarterback in a triple option often keeps the ball himself. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, a freshman, has compiled 628 yards on 140 carries this season. That's 104 more yards and 13 more carries than ASU's leading rusher this season, Cameron Marshall, who had 524 yards on 127 attempts.
"The problem is their quarterback can throw it and do all that," Graham said. "It's tough to simulate. I think he is the key to their offense. I've been very impressed. He can really throw, he throws well on the run. He's not just a one-dimensional guy."
To better simulate Reynolds' style and ability, ASU has plugged in various athletes as the scout-team quarterback. A few players have been used, but Graham on Monday specifically mentioned freshman Parker Rasmussen.
Rasmussen is a walk-on from Mesa Desert Ridge High School, where he played quarterback, defensive back and receiver. He was invited to walk on at ASU as a receiver.
When it comes to simulating and preparing for the Midshipmen, the Sun Devils had the added benefit of watching them over the weekend. Navy improved to 8-4 with a 17-13 win over Army on Saturday, and ASU coaches were watching closely.
ASU has nine practices left before the bowl game but after Tuesday's practice will take a week off.
In the coming week off, which coincides with final exams, players face the challenge of remaining focused on preparation. The solution, players say, is film study and conditioning.
"You most definitely want to rest your legs, rest your body, period -- it's been a long season," senior cornerback Deveron Carr said. "It's not easy to play 12 games in 12 weeks. But as far as staying focused, it's just watching film and staying disciplined."
The extra rest, Carr said, is a bonus due in large part to a win in the regular season finale. Had ASU lost to Arizona, the Sun Devils likely would have ended up in the New Mexico Bowl and would be just five days from kickoff.
While focus and readiness can be maintained through workouts and film, keeping a competitive edge five weeks away from a game might be the greater challenge.
"You've got to make practices seem like a game," junior offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg said. "You've got to go out there determined each play and know it's important rather than thinking 'Oh, I can redo that play.' You have to give it your all every play."
Added Carr: "The mentality stays the same because Coach Graham won't allow us to lack the mental focus on winning. It's always in our ear, that's all we talk about every day, that's all he preaches."
KELLY, SUTTON HONORED
ASU reinstated another tradition over the weekend, bringing back its annual end-of-year banquet, which had not been held since 2007. The coaching staff handed out team awards, with quarterback Taylor Kelly and defensive tackle Will Sutton getting top honors as the offensive and defensive MVPs.
A full recap of the awards:
-- Danny White Offensive MVP: Kelly
-- Mike Haynes Defensive MVP: Sutton
-- Babe Alex Demon Special Teams MVP: Josh Hubner, Sr., P
-- Pat Tillman Outstanding Academic Achievement: Brandon Johnson, Sr., LB
-- Tim Landers Iron Man Award (work ethic): Carl Bradford, RS So., LB
-- Bill Kajikawa Award (top freshman): D.J. Foster, RB
-- Randall McDaniel Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Finkenberg
-- Wilford White Outstanding Running Back: Marion Grice, Jr.
-- John Jefferson Outstanding Receiver: Chris Coyle, Jr.
-- Curley Culp Outstanding Defensive Lineman: Sutton
-- Ron Pritchard Outstanding Linebacker: Brandon Magee, RS Sr.
-- Darren Woodson Outstanding Secondary: Alden Darby, Jr., S
-- Frank Kush Captains Awards: Marshall, Andrew Sampson, Keelan Johnson, Magee
ASU also auctioned off a couple items at the banquet. A game-used ball from the Territorial Cup, which was to be signed by Graham, went for $10,000. A travel package for next season's game in Dallas against Notre Dame, including running onto the field with the team and a signed game ball, sold for $15,000.
-- Sutton was still limited in practice Monday due to a sprained right toe, but Graham said he was more involved than he had been previous practices and should be at full speed when ASU returns to practice after finals.