As many of you know, I have been writing recruiting updates on ASUDevils.com for about two-and-a-half months now. Today, as the team strapped up their pads for the first time this year, I attended my first ASU practice ever, and one man's baptism into the glory of Sun Devil football became official.
I noticed a lot of things during my front-row position on the practice sidelines today.
First off, the University does a remarkable job allowing access to the media and fans scattered across the quarter-inch thick Bermuda grass that makes up the practice field (even Tiger Woods himself could not have complained about the condition of the greens today and it was only the practice field)!
In all of my experiences in college football, ASU certainly has the most "lax" environment around. It seems like the University is really extending its hand to create excitement in the midst of a season where expectations are at a 10-year high, and fans across the Grand Canyon State are already dreaming of roses come January.
The players looked like they were in phenomenal shape. Keegan Herring and Rudy Burgess couldn't lose 5 pounds between them if they had to. Both players are just ripped, and their body fat has to be about 5% added together. Herring showed a remarkable burst and change of direction after getting through the first line of the defense. Even though it was half contact, the back seven of the defense had troubles even getting one hand on him. It was more difficult to get a gauge on Burgess because the coaches rotated a huge number of receivers, but his first two steps off of the line of scrimmage created separation virtually every time he was split out.
The quarterback situation is getting the most attention this summer, but a lot of the attention could be diverted to other areas of the field. Sure everyone loves the competition that Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter are giving each other and it will only make the team better in the long run, but whomever Coach Koetter decides to give the ball to against Northern Arizona on August 31st will run the offense with great efficiency.
Keller looked a little bit more comfortable, held onto the ball longer, and found the open receiver routinely. Carpenter typically didn't go through his progressions as long but made a lot of nice throws while rolling out both to his left and right. Absolutely no worries from the quarterback spot.
The defensive side of the ball was very fired up throughout practice. Zach Catanese is a true leader. I could hear him calling out the receiver's routes before the ball was snapped. He has all of the captain intangibles that coaches love in seniors. The defensive line was kind of getting pushed around a little bit at the beginning of practice but toward the end of the live scrimmages the offense and defense were taking turns getting the best of each other.
The competitiveness on both sides of the ball allowed the coaches to take a back seat and let the players make plays.
There was constructive criticism for dropped balls and missed assignments but yelling was not needed today. The fire and drive was there on every snap.
The most entertaining player on the field was Keno Walter-White. Whether he was on the sidelines coaching the number two defense, or manning up against a wide-out, his mouth was constantly in motion challenging himself, his defense, and his opponent.
The relationships between the players and coaches also really caught my eye. Coach Wrenn was joking around and keeping his running backs smiling. Coach Stretz was fired up all practive and the players really responded to him.
When all was said and done, practice was great, and seeing how the program runs first-hand was a great experience. If the mood of the team is any indication of the season to come, big things are in store for the 'Devils and the light breeze that was permeating off of the grass had a distinct Rose smell.
ASUDevils.com is in the middle of two weeks of blowout coverage of fall camp. Two-a-days begin Wednesday morning and the team travels to Camp Tontozona on Thursday. Don't miss all of the action as it is updated multiple times per day on the site. Join ASUDevils.com for a free 7-day trial subscription and get into all of the action on the Gold Rush forum, the fastest growing Sun Devil community on the internet.
-Travyn Schoening, Staff Writer