Wide receivers Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey – transfers to Arizona State from Texas and Oklahoma – discuss playing as sophomores in 2017 after sitting out last season. Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, David Wallace/Arizona Republic
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Quarterback Blake Barnett, a transfer from Alabama, is in his first year at Arizona State. He is competing with four returners to be the starting QB.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, Rob Schumacher, Nick Oza, Thomas Hawthorne/Arizona Republic
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Arizona State head coach Todd Graham discusses the first day of football spring practice on March 14, 2017 at the Kajikawa Practice Facility in Tempe, Ariz. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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ASU football begins sixth season under coach Todd Graham with five new assistant coaches. (Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports)
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Transfer quarterback Blake Barnett talks about coming to ASU to compete for the starting job on Wednesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier discusses the first day of football spring practice on March 14, 2017 at the Kajikawa Practice Facility in Tempe, Ariz. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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ASU football coach Todd Graham talks about the challenge of hiring “good people” and losing them to other schools entering ASU’s 2017 season on Wednesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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New ASU offensive coordinator Billy Napier talks about the culture at ASU and working for Todd Graham on Wednesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins talks about how his injuries frustrated him last season on Wednesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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New ASU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett talks about his friendship with head coach Todd Graham and his thoughts going into the 2017 season. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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ASU head football coach Todd Graham talks about the two quarterback recruits, Blake Barnett and Ryan Kelley, on Signing Day on Wednesday. David Wallace/azcentral sports
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ASU head football coach Todd Graham talks about top running back recruit Eno Benjamin on Signing Day on Wednesday. David Wallace/azcentral sports
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ASU head football coach Todd Graham talks about ASU’s signees on National Signing Day on Wednesday. David Wallace/azcentral sports
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Here’s a look at some of the top underclassmen planning on entering the 2017 NFL Draft.
USA TODAY Sports
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Head coaches in the college football playoff won’t be the only coaches reaping the benefits.
USA TODAY Sports
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The early front-runner became the first Louisville Cardinal to hoist the prestigious award.
USA TODAY Sports
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Dan Bickley: Let’s not forget, this was never a season of high expectations. But clearly, Todd Graham needs to change some things. Video: azcentral sports
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Todd Graham talks about ASU’s 56-35 loss to Arizona in the Territorial Cup. (Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports)
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azcentral sports’ Doug Haller and Paola Boivin discuss Arizona’s 56-35 beatdown on ASU in the Territorial Cup. (Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports)
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At its annual Legends Luncheon during Homecoming week Friday, ASU honored its 1986 football team, which won the school’s first Pac-10 title and beat Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl. John Cooper, ASU coach from 1985-87, is being inducted into the ASU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Video: Jeff Metcalfe/Arizona Republic
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ASU WRs Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey discuss eligibility
ASU QB Blake Barnett on starting spring
Todd Graham on opening of ASU spring practice
ASU football opens spring practice
Transfer QB Blake Barnett on coming to ASU to compete
Billy Napier discusses first day of ASU practice
Todd Graham talks staffing challenges, 2017 season
ASU offensive coordinator Billy Napier talks working for Graham
ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins on last season’s injuries
ASU DC Phil Bennett on friendship with Graham, 2017 season
ASU coach Todd Graham on QBs Barnett, Kelley
ASU coach Todd Graham on top RB recruit Eno Benjamin
ASU coach Todd Graham on National Signing Day
Top underclassmen entering the NFL draft early
College Football Playoff is lucrative for assistant coaches
Lamar Jackson wins 2016 Heisman Trophy
Strictly Bickley: It’s the right call for ASU to stick with Todd Graham
Todd Graham talks about ASU’s loss to Arizona
Doug Haller, Paola Boivin discuss the Territorial Cup aftermath
ASU honors 1987 Rose Bowl football team
Arizona State held its fourth spring practice (first of the second week) Monday at Kajikawa practice fields.
Coach Todd Graham opening statement: “The first day in pads the offense kind of won the day. Then today, even though we had some guys out, the defense won the day. That was a positive. At first our tempo was a little bit slower than what I wanted, but good day. Guys are working hard.”
Media viewing period: 37 minutes.
Limited: QB Bryce Perkins, S Marcus Ball, CB Kareem Orr, OL Cade Cote, RB Eno Benjamin, OL Zach Robertson. (Robertson participating in the portion of practice not open to the media).
Out: S Armand Perry, QB Brady White, DE Jalen Bates, DB J’Marcus Rhodes, WR Cam Smith, DB Tyler Whiley, LB Khaylan Thomas, TE Jay Jay Wilson, DB Chase Lucas, TE Jay Jay Wilson.
More big plays
Even though Graham gave an edge to the defense in team periods, he was again impressed by explosive plays on offense, mentioning sophomore running back Nick Ralston in particular.
He said senior running back Demario Richard is leaner, a positive because “we want him to be faster.”
“Jalen Harvey has really stuck out to me and looks faster,” Graham said of the junior wide receiver. “We have the explosiveness, speed and physicality we want.”
Graham also said that redshirt freshman Jeremy Smith, who came to ASU as a wide receiver, already has four interceptions in his tryout on defense and is likely to remain at safety. Frank Darby, another redshirt freshman wide receiver working at Spur linebacker and nickel corner, still could return to offense. “We’ll make sure we get him in the best place to best help our team,” Graham said.
PREVIOUSLY:Running backs shine in 1st padded practice
What’s up front
The biggest question on offense, other than who will win the starting quarterback job, is how the offensive line comes together under new coach Rob Sale coming off a season in which ASU was No. 112 nationally in rushing offense, No. 114 in tackles for loss allowed and No. 123 in sacks allowed.
Only one lineman, now-departed tackle Evan Goodman, started all 12 games with a mix of players starting at the other four line positions due to injury or performance.
“We’re probably deeper than we’ve ever been, but the key is getting that (starting) five,” Graham said. “We’ve got great competition at center and really every position. We’ve really got better at the tackle, and that’s where we needed the most improvement. The big thing is we’ve just got guys that are all more experienced. They don’t look near as stressed.
The top two centers – A.J. McCollum and Tyler McClure – are seniors. Otherwise, the linemen could be together for two or more years. Guard Sam Jones and tackle Quinn Bailey are juniors, tackle Cohl Cabral, guard Steve Miller and G/T Zach Robertson are sophomores. Others in the mix include sophomores juniors Connor Humphreys, Tyson Rising and Alex Losoya, sophomores Cade Cote and Mason Walter and redshirt freshman Marshal Nathe.
Jones and Bailey at left guard and right tackle are anchors, Graham said, with Cabral “sticking out more than anybody” this spring at left tackle. Cabral played in 11 games as a true freshman, experience that is paying off now for the 6-5, 288-pounder.
“It’s everything,” Cabral said. “Being able to play and really opening up my eyes with the speed of the game and being able to think on the fly and just reacting. That helped me tremendously going into this year. It was a little different being from a tight end (blocking) position to moving in. It’s a little bit quicker, but I’m picking it up well. Everything is carrying over.”
Sale said Cabral is “an athletic kid who has (fast) twitch and length. Every practice he’s getting a little bit better and better, that’s the thing. You don’t want to have three good practices then fall back two steps. You get on him and he responds the right way. He has the right body language, the right demeanor, it’s important to him. I think he’s going to do a good job for us. What I’m encouraged with is he loves to practice.”
Cabral said Sale, who replaced Chris Thomsen, is “hard on us, but it’s only good for us. If you take it to be a negative thing, that’s just on you. Even though he’s yelling at you, you take out what you need to take out of it. It’s been nice to have him as a new face.”
Robertson, 6-5, 325, did some things to impress Sale in practice Monday and is working his way back into good graces after starting the spring suspended for a team rules violation.
“I have to trust him, he understands that,” Sale said. “I’ve got to be able to put my head on the pillow and know that I’ve got five to seven guys that know what to do on Saturdays. But talent-wise, there’s no doubt (about Robertson). He’s massive, that’s what you want in recruiting. I want to find four dudes like that guy every year and Arizona State will be OK.”
Thomsen left in mid-January to return to his alma mater TCU and was briefly replaced by Josh Henson, who after less than a month returned to his alma mater Oklahoma State. In late January, Graham hired Billy Napier as offensive coordinator, which led to Sale joining the staff after Henson departed.
“We worked together at Alabama (in 2011),” Sale said. They remained in touch while Sale was at McNeese State (2012-14), Georgia (2015) and Louisiana-Monroe (2016) until reuniting at ASU.
“I believe in Billy Napier and what he’s doing,” Sale said. “I think he’s an excellent football coach. He’s smart, he brings in all the values I believe in, we’re on the same page offensive philosophy. We’re connected at the hip. I think we’re going to do a good job and win some football games and recruiting. I appreciate coach Graham for this opportunity, and I don’t take it lightly.”
At Georgia in what proved to be Mark Richt’s final season as head coach, the Bulldogs were without injured running back Nick Chubb for the second half of the season but still were No. 38 nationally in rushing offense and No. 15 in sacks allowed.
“We still found a way to win 10 games, I’m proud of that fact,” Sale said. “I am not hanging my head and say, ‘Oh, we did a bad job.’ We did a dang good job at Georgia. We won 10 games.”
The Sun Devils practice at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Kajikawa practice field. All practices are closed to the public other than the spring game April 15.
Contact Jeff Metcalfe at 602-444-8053 or at [email protected]