Photo Credit: Nick Ramirez
Written portion by Kaelen Jones
Clocks may not spring forward in Arizona, but the calendar says it’s time for college football to finally return to the desert.
The Arizona State Sun Devils kicked off their spring practice slate on Tuesday, when the team took the Kajikawa Practice Fields in front of media for the first time this calendar year. It’s the first of two other practice sessions scheduled for the week, with the others set to take place Thursday and Saturday.
Graham enters his sixth season with an almost completely new coaching staff, most notably offensive coordinator Billy Napier, who arrives from Alabama where he served as a receivers coach, and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who was brought in from Baylor, where he held the same position.
Napier’s new offensive philosophy is something veteran running back Demario Richard is especially excited about, despite it being “way different” from what previous OC Chip Lindsey had installed.
“It’s a lot of fireworks in this offense. He likes to run the ball, you run the ball a lot of different ways,” Richard said. “He’s been giving an SEC-type feel, Bama type of offense. I’m really excited about his playbook.”
Along with Napier, the Sun Devil offense could be up for a revision under center following the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett, who like Napier, arrives to Tempe by way of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Richard was impressed by the former five-star signal-caller.
“He looks like a real quarterback, real tall and lanky, can sling it a little bit,” he said. “Kind of reminds me of Berco (former ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici) back there a little bit with his communications and his mannerisms.”
Napier said following Tuesday’s practice that the team is still “a long way” from determining who will be the team’s starting quarterback, however.
Defensively, there’s noticeable schematic changes coming, too. During ASU’s spring media day, Bennett said he’s looking to identify the Sun Devils’ best 11 players. At cornerback, the may have unearthed one in local product Chase Lucas.
After redshirting a season, Lucas appears ready to finally compete — literally. He said he added over 20 pounds this offseason, and earned early reps with the defensive unit Tuesday.
“It’s a blessing really though,” the redshirt freshman said. “I’ve had a lot of hard work, a lot of troubles times to get here. Now that I’m here, I just gotta keep pushing through it and ball out.”
The Sun Devils considered burning Lucas’s redshirt last season because of his impact on the field during practice, and entering spring, the former Chandler High star seems primed to take on a significant role. Still, he’s maintaining himself amidst the opportunity, seeking to lead by example.
“I’ve gotta carry myself with my head on top of my shoulders, show all these older cats and younger cats this year is my time, and that if their time is now, we’re gonna play together, and ball out together,” said Lucas. “It’s a real good process, and we’re gonna ball out.”
Along with leadership on the field, Lucas says that the leadership above has meshed well, and the energy is noticeably different around the ASU football program entering an important year in the Graham era. Players and coaches alike are seeking to establish trust and consistency.
“I like coach Bennett,” Lucas said. “I think him and coach Graham and coach Napier work really good together, they have a real good connection.”
– Safety Armand Perry is OUT for spring (surgery).
– Quarterback Brady White is OUT for spring (foot).
GREEN SQUAD (non-contact jerseys)
- Marcus Ball, participated in individual drills
- Bryce Perkins, participated in individual drills
- Deion Guignard, participated in individual drills
- Cade Cote, participated in individual drills
- DJ Davidson, participated in individual drills
- Kareem Orr, participated in individual and team drills
– Receivers Frank Darby and Jeremy Smith participated with the defensive unit.
– Tight end Grant Martinez is now serving on staff as a graduate assistant.