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 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 second spring practice Thursday at Kajikawa practice fields followed by Pro Day at Carson Center and Dickey Dome for seniors aspiring to play professionally.
Coach Todd Graham opening statement: “You get a lot of things established. Our guys understand how we’re going to go about doing things. A lot of competition. I like our initiative our guys and our enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to Saturday putting the pads on.”
Media viewing period: 38 minutes.
Limited: QB Bryce Perkins, S Marcus Ball, CB Kareem Orr, OL Cade Cote.
Out: S Armand Perry, QB Brady White, DE Jalen Bates, DB Desmond Tautalatasi, OL Zach Robertson, LB Koron Crump, DB J’Marcus Rhodes, WR Cam Smith.
Coming off a season when it was ravaged by quarterback injuries, ASU has arguably never had more QB depth than it will going into the fall with junior Manny Wilkins, sophomores Blake Barnett, Brady White, Blake Perkins and Dillon Sterling-Cole and incoming freshman Ryan Kelley.
Five were rated as four-star prospects coming out of high school by one or more recruiting services, with Perkins as a three-star.
White and Perkins redshirted in 2015 then missed most or all of last season due to injury. Sterling-Cole has yet to redshirt, forced to play last season due to injury. Wilkins, who redshirted in 2014, started 10 games last season when he also was injured. Perkins is a transfer from Alabama who redshirted there in 2015. Kelley almost certainly will redshirt this year.
How everything shakes out at the position and what the ceiling is for one or more of the six is the great unknown not just this spring but into the near future. For now, they all seem genuinely committed to winning a starting job here and do not seem put off by what to some would be a daunting competition.
The five currently practicing (Kelley joins in the summer) spoke in succession after practice Thursday, leaving an overall impression that ASU is fortunate to have so many quality choices.
“There’s absolutely competition,” Barnett said. “That’s the name of the game. We’re all out here to compete, but there is still learning involved as well. We’re on our second day here, we’re still learning new plays. There’s going to be competition no matter what. Everyone expects that and is prepared to do so.
“The biggest thing I try to push myself on is to go out there and compete with myself. I don’t really look at it in regards to how the other guys are doing, if they make a bad throw or a good throw. I’m going out there to be the best I can be. I have confidence in myself. I believe in my ability and I believe if I go out there and I perform to my best level that I will be able to impact the team in a great way. So my competition every day is mostly myself, and I hold myself to a high standard.”
Wilkins said he’s looking forward to taking more snaps under center instead of out of the shotgun, which it appears new offensive coordinator Billy Napier plans to do.
“I’m very excited to get under center, take a five- or seven-step drop,” he said. “That’s old-school football. The game has changed so much so it’s cool to get two tight-end sets, running backs and just smash mouth football. That’s what I grew up on. I grew up running wing T where all we did was run the football and I would make up a play and run it on my own. I’m excited for the opportunities our tight ends have, our running backs have to make something special happen.”
RELATED: Smooth start for revamped ASU staff
The 6-3 Sterling-Cole says he’s put on 15 pounds and now is listed at 204.
“I’ve put in a lot of time and effort throughout the winter workouts just building arm strength, legs,” he said. “Just having the willpower to keep going and keep fighting through the adversity no matter what kind of workout it is.
He still has a redshirt option that could come into play and is not unhappy that he was pressed into duty in the second half of the season including for a start against Oregon.
“I don’t see it as a good or bad thing,” he said. “I was blessed with the opportunity to play. I’m just really excited I got those opportunity.”
White suffered a season-ending foot injury late in a game he started against UCLA and will not be fully cleared medically until the summer although he is throwing some now.
“I”m getting all the mental reps I possibly can,” White said. “I’m still throwing out there with guys and doing as much as I possibly can to help the team out. What we’re expecting is for me to be able to do the full program in summer and compete in the fall. It’s just a matter of continuing to be patient and let it get better. I’m antsy to get back to where I want to be. It’s kind of tough, but at the same time I understand and don’t want to hurt it worse. I’m listening to what the trainers and doctors are saying and doing as much as I can.”
Perkins suffered a neck fracture during fall camp that put his football future in jeopardy. He opted against fusion of two vertebrae, which healed enough by Jan. 30 for him to be cleared to return without contact.
“It definitely make me appreciate the game more,” he said. “To make sure that now with every rep, never take it for granted because you never know when you’re going to get the next one. My vision is clear now. God allowed me to come back from an injury like that so I won’t take it for granted and make the most of it.”
Kicker Zane Gonzalez, linebacker Laiu Moeakiola, running back/defensive back Gump Hayes, wide receiver/kick returner Tim White and tight end Kody Kohl were among those showing well during a pro day attended by scouts from 29 NFL and three Canadian Football League teams, as well as the San Diego Padres.
The baseball scout might have been looking specifically at Moeakiola, who played that sport in high school, and just for multi-sport athleticism.
Hayes was timed in 4.32 seconds for 40 yards and thought he could have gone faster. The 6-1 Moeakioila had the best vertical jump and ran a 4.5 40. White was 4.45 for the 40 and fielded kickoffs and punts from Gonzalez and Matt Haack.
The Cincinnati Bengals almost treated the pro day like a personal workout of Gonzalez, the Groza Award winner of NCAA career record setter. Head coach Marvin Lewis, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons and other from the Bengals closely monitored Gonzalez, trying to determine if he’s the rare kicker worthy of a draft pick. Cincinnati cut kicker Mike Nugent in December.
“It was a little intense, but I got through it,” said Gonzalez, ASU’s most likely draftee next month. “There’s a couple of kicks here and there I want back. (Simmons) had me try a few things, trying different stances, different approaches to the ball. Just seeing how I react to stuff and coachability. I felt everything went pretty well. Kickoffs went great except deep right.
“The Senior Bowl went great, the combine felt pretty great, this is another thing. After all three I’m pretty confident going forward and excited about the future. I’m just ready for the next workout and whatever comes next. To be here now is just amazing. You can’t take any of this too serious. You’ve got to have fun with it. You’re still playing a sport.”
Gonzalez said the Bengals coaches told him at the NFL combine in Indianapolis that they would be here for his pro day. “He (Lewis) actually has a house out here so it worked out pretty conveniently,” Gonzalez said. “He’s an awesome guy, cool to see him out here to come watch me. They obviously are really interested in a kicker.”
The Sun Devils practice at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. 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].