Wide receivers, including John Humphrey and Ryan Newsome, were the headliners Saturday at the Arizona State football spring game.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, David Kadlubowski/Arizona Republic
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Offensive highlights from ASU’s spring game on Saturday.
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Hyperlapse of ASU’s spring football game.
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Here’s what you need to know before you head to ASU’s Spring Game and Fan Fest on Saturday.
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Arizona State head football coach Todd Graham talks about his team’s second spring scrimmage on Friday, April 7. Video: Jeff Metcafle/azcentral sports
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ASU football coach Todd Graham talks about Demario Richard, Christian Hill and more after spring practice on Wednesday, April 5.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, Nick Oza/Arizona Republic
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ASU defensive line coach Michael Slater gives instructions to his players at Monday’s workout in Tempe. Video: azcentral sports
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Coach Todd Graham says defense came out ahead by limiting big plays during ASU’s first spring scrimmage on Wednesday. Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports
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Arizona State football completed its sixth spring practice Friday at Sun Devil Stadium with nine practices remaining over the next three weeks. The spring game is April 15.
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ASU football coach Todd Graham discusses hiring Danny White and Dave Christensen as consultants. Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports
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Arizona State football has completed a third of spring practice, five of its allowed 15 practices.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic
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Arizona State football began the second week of spring practice Monday. The Sun Devils also will practice Wednesday and have a closed scrimmage Friday this week.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe/Arizona Republic
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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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Wide receivers shine in ASU football spring game
ASU shows off some offense in spring game
Sights from ASU football’s spring game
2017 ASU Spring Game & Fan Fest
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Ranking the best college football recruiting classes in the last decade
ASU coach Graham on Richard, Hill and more
ASU defensive line coach Michael Slater gives instructions at practice
Todd Graham speaks after ASU holds first spring scrimmage
ASU football completes second week of spring practice
Todd Graham on new consultants White, Christensen
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ASU football begins second week of spring practice
ASU WRs Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey discuss eligibility
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ASU football opens spring practice
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Whoever is Arizona State’s starting quarterback in the fall has a lot of talent around him.
That much was apparent during Saturday’s spring game at Sun Devil Stadium, where sophomore transfer wide receivers John Humphrey and Ryan Newsome combined for five touchdowns from quarterbacks Manny Wilkins and Blake Barnett during two scrimmage quarters.
Statistics were not kept because of tackling restrictions, and coach Todd Graham admitted that the maroon team “was a little stacked” with first- and second-teamers. But the wide receiver corps, even with N’Keal Harry not playing, was virtually unstoppable no matter who was throwing the ball, and the first-team defense limited the third-team offense to a field goal.
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“There was a lot of explosive plays,” Graham said. “John Humphrey really showed up well, great throws, and it was exciting and fun. We decided to put on a good show for our fans. Our receiving corps has been impressive, as well as our running-back corps. Nick (Ralston) and Jalen (Harvey) really stood out this spring, and Ryan and John are going to give us added speed. We’ve got skill players.”
A relatively small 4,624 huddled in the shaded areas of the stadium to watch the only open practice of spring, held in the afternoon for television with temperatures in the upper 80s. There were scoring drills for the first half of the 1-hour, 45-minute event, then a more traditional team scrimmage with most drives starting from the 25-yard line.
Humphrey and Newsome, who sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma and Texas, caught touchdown passes of 8, 36, 37 (Humphrey), 24 and 10 (Newsome) yards with three of those by Wilkins and two by Barnett.
On the 36-yarder, Wilkins turned around Humphrey, who still made the catch. On the 37-yarder, Barnett’s pass was hanging in the air perhaps too long but found a landing spot with the 5-11 Humphrey.
“We want to win,” Humphrey said. “We came here for a purpose, to change the culture of what people think of Arizona State. We want to become a powerhouse. I can’t wait for the first game to show the country exactly what I can do. I’ve been hiding it for too long. I’m ready to bring it out.”
Wilkins, who started 10 games last season, and Barnett, a transfer from Alabama, were working against second- and third-team defenders, who did not stop the maroon offense once. Harvey, a junior, also had a strong receiving day.
“I’m very fortunate to have a lot of playmakers around myself, and I know these other quarterbacks will say the same thing,” said Wilkins, a junior who comes out of spring as the tentative No. 1 quarterback. “I’m really just trying to put my best foot forward. The opportunity is in front of myself. I’ve just got to go grab it.”
Barnett, a sophomore, said of the competition, “I don’t think a decision is going to be made right now or any time fairly soon. So I think continue the momentum, continue to grow as a leader going into fall camp.”
ASU has three other quarterbacks – sophomores Dillon Sterling-Cole, Brady White and Bryce Perkins – who could figure into the equation. Sterling-Cole, who could redshirt this year, ran the white team offense Saturday. Perkins and White were limited during the spring due to injuries.
Cornerback Maurice Chandler made the defensive play of the day, returning an interception off a Sterling-Cole pass for a touchdown. The first-team defense mostly ran its base formations, although first-year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett blitzed once per request as part of a fan promotion.
“You’ve got to be simple and sound,” said Bennett, brought in from Baylor to improve a defense ranked No. 127 nationally last year. “If you’re complicated, you get your pants beat off you. Baylor was one of 14 teams the last four years that held people under 5.2 yards a snap. If we can do that here, we’re going to have some happy days.”
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It’s too soon to know how much ASU’s defense will improve in the fall against a challenging schedule, but senior linebacker D.J. Calhoun is encouraged by the 15-practice results.
“We’re more capable of doing big things this year,” Calhoun said. “I’m glad to have Christian (Sam) back. There’s one of my guys I know is going to have my back every play. Our knowledge of the game is better. It’s a good thing to have two vets that have been doing it to teach the young guys.”
Bennett said Calhoun and Sam compare to All-Big 12 linebackers he coached at Baylor.
ASU signed two new defensive backs Saturday during their campus visit, DeMonte King and Kobe Williams of Long Beach City College. They will join five other new additions to the secondary in fall camp, as the Sun Devils continue to upgrade their pass defense, worst in the country for two straight years.
“We had a great spring,” Graham said. “It was really productive. Our staff did a great job. Really pleased with where we’re at right now.”