PAYSON, AZ–The Arizona State football team will cap their five-day stay at scenic Camp Tontozona with an open scrimmage Saturday morning at 10:00. Head coach Todd Graham and his team will return to the Valley to continue preparations for the upcoming season which kicks off a week from Thursday against Weber State at Sun Devil Stadium.
If you are making the trip up from the Valley or anywhere across the state here are five interesting story lines to keep an eye on.
1. Opposite of Strong…junior Jaelen Strong is looking to build off his impressive 2013 but will be without the services of pass-catchers Marion Grice, Kevin Ozier, Chris Coyle and others to help balance the workload. Quarterback Taylor Kelly complimented the work of Brophy Prep redshirt sophomore Fred Gammage but the player who could emerge to start opposite Strong is another Jaelen with a different spelling: true freshman Jalen Harvey from El Cerrito, California.
2. Running Second?…junior D.J. Foster will get plenty of carriers out of the backfield but with productive running mate Grice now a San Diego Charger there’s a huge drop off in experience. Big back Kalen Ballage, a true freshman from Colorado, has been a battering ram at camp and is expected to see action immediately. Another true freshman DeMario Richard has impressed coaches, as well.
3. (Quarter)backing for the Future…Sun Devil fans have one more season to enjoy All-Pac-12 star Taylor Kelly before his eligibility runs out. His backup, redshirt junior Mike Bercovici is also entering his third season in the system and is a solid backup if needed off the bench. There are two true freshman who are expected to see plenty of action Saturday: Manny Wilkins and Coltin Gerhart. ASU has already has verbal offers from two more high-profile 2015 QB’s: Chandler’s Bryce Perkins and Brady White from California.
4. You’ll Get a Kick Out of It…Sun Devil coaches continue to stress the importance of special teams, an area ASU completely self-imploded most of last fall. Playing in front of several hundred fans won’t mirror a game day atmosphere but it’s the closest thing to the reality before Weber State. The Devils were one of the worst punting teams in the country season, sorely missing Josh Hubner whose eligibility expired. With holes to fill on defense, winning the field position battle is now more important than ever.
5. Home Grown…it will be the first opportunity for many to see true freshman local players like Chaparral’s Tyler Whiley, who has been working at both wide receiver and cornerback, linebacker Ismael Murphy-Richardson from Desert Edge in Goodyear and monster offensive lineman Quinn Bailey from Higley High in Gilbert.