Maroon and Gold Spring Practice Report
Here are our notes and takeaways from the Sun Devils’ last spring session of 2021, one where ASU’s gold team (defense) won 26-21.
The scoring system was as follows:
6 points for an offensive touchdown.
One point for an extra point.
3 points for a defensive turnover, including on downs
2 points for each defensive three-and-out.
QB Jayden Daniels
RB Rachaad White
FB Case Hatch (also played some TE)
OL left to right Kellen Diesch, LaDarius Henderson, Dohnovan West, Henry Hattis and Ben Scott
WR LV Bunkley-Shelton
WR Andre Johnson WR Johnny Wilson
TE Jalin Conyers
Running backs Chip Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata split reps with White, John Stivers saw some time at tight end, as did Elijhah Badger at wide receiver.
QBs Trenton Bourguet and Finn Collins switched off (Bourguet went first)
RB Daniyel Ngata, Chip Trayanum, D.J. Taylor, Deonce Elliott or Rachaad White
FB Case Hatch (also played some TE)
OL I believe left to right it was Isaia Glass, Ralph Frias, Cody Shear, Jarrett Bell, Spencer Lovell
WR Elijhah Badger
WR Giovanni Sanders
WR Geordon Porter
TE John Stivers
Armon Bethea saw some time at left guard (which had Frias moving to left tackle). Cade Cadam and Evan Burkhardt saw time at wide receiver as the scrimmage went on. DJ Taylor saw some time at running back. Wide receiver Johnny Wilson played some with the second team.
Logan Tyler and Jace Feely rotated at kicker; both kicked off once. Tyler was 2-2 on field goals from 25 and 43 yards; Feely was 1-2 making good from 31 yards and missing a 49 yarder.
Chase Lucas was the kick returner on the first kickoff, Jack Jones was the kick returner on the second kickoff.
Michael Turk had about a 60-yard punt on the only punt of the day.
The offense, wearing maroon jerseys and maroon pants, trotted out a first team unit led by quarterback Jayden Daniels. On the unit’s first drive, Daniels completed a first down throw across the middle of the field to LV Bunkley-Shelton and had a nice run on a fourth down to extend the Maroon team’s drive deep in the defense’s territory. He also made a poor read to his right and allowed Chase Lucas to make a play. His targets did not aid him on the first drive as running back Daniyel Ngata and wideout Andre Johnson both had drops. However, a big run from Chip Trayanum had the Sun Devils in field goal range, and Logan Tyler made a 43-yard field goal.
The second drive for the first team group did not see much of a change from the first series. A Daniels missed throw way over the head of Bunkley-Shelton and an offensive holding call led to a Turk punt.
The first team’s third drive was the group’s best of the day. The third drive for the unit started at the defense’s 25-yard line and Daniels quickly found an open Case Hatch for a 25-yard score. The play was the highlight of the day for the first team offense.
The final drive for the offensive first teamers did not see the unit make much progress down the field. Daniels’ run of about seven yards was the highlight, and freshman kicker Jace Feely missed a 49-yard field goal way to the left.
The second team offense rotated between redshirt-freshman Trenton Bourguet and freshman Finn Collins at quarterback.
Bourguet started off the second team offense’s first drive and immediately wowed with a 20-yard completion to Elijhah Badger. He then had perhaps the throw of the day from any quarterback when he threw the ball over the head of multiple defenders to tight end Jalin Conyers in the back of the end zone for a score.
The second team offense’s second turn featured Finn Collins at quarterback, and the group did not make much noise. Running back Daniyel Ngata fumbled, and defensive lineman Stanley Pearson recovered for a touchdown.
The third series for the offensive backups saw Bourguet back on the gridiron. He made a great 35-yard throw to Elijhah Badger and then another solid throw down the sideline to Geordon Porter. He then made his wildest throw of the day on the drive, trying to hit Conyers across the middle. The ball was tipped and almost intercepted. The group settled for a short Tyler field goal.
The fourth sequence for the offensive second teamers was back to Collins at quarterback. This series was perhaps the strongest offensive sequence for the Sun Devils all afternoon. Burkhardt made a great grab on the series, and then Collins completed an amazing 34-yard pass across his body to Johnny Wilson. After he was called for delay of game, Collins showed his resiliency by throwing a touchdown into a tight window to Conyers.
Bourguet was back in for the fifth drive of the second team offense. Badger was given the opportunity to run the ball and made the most of it by gaining 15 yards before being slammed to the ground by the defender. After two tough runs by Deonce Elliott, Bourguet completed a perfectly placed ball to Geordon Porter to put the Maroon team deep into the defense’s territory. The unit stalled after the long pass, but it gave Feely the opportunity for redemption, and he nailed a 38-yard field goal.
On the final sequence for the offensive second teamers, Collins was back into the game and driving the ball down the field. However, he ended up throwing an interception that was not really his fault as the ball was ripped away from the receiver by sophomore Keon Markham.
Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall
Tight end Curtis Hodges
Wide receiver Chad Johnson Jr.
Offensive lineman Alijah Bates
Offensive lineman Sione Veikoso
Offensive lineman Roman DeWys
Offensive lineman Triston Miller
Note: Tight end John Stivers, who did practice last Friday did participate today.
Left defensive end Michael Matus
3 technique Shannon Forman
Nose tackle DJ Davidson
Right defensive end Anthonie Cooper
LB Darien Butler
LB Kyle Soelle
LB Merlin Robertson
S DeAndre Piece
S Cam Phillips
CB Jack Jones
CB Chase Lucas
Left defensive end Stanley Lambert
Nose tackle TJ Pesefea
3-technique Corey Stephens
Right defensive end Anthonie Cooper
LB Caleb McCullough
LB Eric Gentry
Nickel Macen Williams
S Kejuan Markham
S T Lee
CB Tommi Hill
CB Ed Woods
Defensive lineman Jermayne Lole
Defensive lineman Tyler Johnson
Defensive lineman Joe Moore
Defensive lineman Stephon Wright
Defensive lineman Amiri Johnson
Defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott
Defensive back Evan Fields
Defensive back Timarcus Davis
Made up of a plethora of experienced veterans and starters and a vast pool of young talent, defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce’s unit knows what’s expected from them and was tasked with corralling a budding offensive unit led by standout junior quarterback Jayden Daniels, as well as the younger second-teamers during the hour and a half scrimmage session at practice.
“I thought we did what we wanted to accomplish,” Pierce said. “We came out healthy, and we were able to get a lot of our young guys opportunities with reps and situational football… I want to continue building our depth and want our older players to work on technique and fundamentals.”
“I thought our veterans really helped themselves. I think they did a better job of understanding what they need to do to get better. Each one of them came to their coach and said, ‘What can I do better?’”
The first group came out strong, holding the high-powered ASU rushing attack, along with Daniels and his developing group of receivers to a three-and-out. Senior cornerback Chase Lucas showed out against the offense, breaking up a pass to sophomore wideout Andre Johnson on a crossing route across the middle of the field. Lucas, who is back for a rare sixth year in maroon and gold, emerged into Sun Devil Stadium bearing the gold ‘C’ on his jersey. Pierce elaborated on how much it means to Lucas to finally be a captain at ASU.
“Last year, he was hurt when he was not named a captain being a local hometown hero, I’m sure that affected him dearly,” Pierce mentioned. “He took it upon himself to change that narrative and was named team captain by coach (Herm) Edwards and our staff. That was the appropriate decision for a gentleman who’s put a lot of sweat and blood into this program and dedication that he’s deserving of, and he’s acting according.
One of the standout performers amongst the defense in 2020, redshirt sophomore defensive end Michael Matus showed that he has continued to improve on where he left off across ASU’s four-game season last fall. Matus logged multiple close opportunities at sacks but was whistled off as he approached Daniels due to the nature of protecting the quarterback’s health in a minor spring practice.
While Matus was without his running mates Lole and Johnson, the defensive line overall showed promise, pressuring their opponents on offense and holding the line of scrimmage relatively well. Redshirt junior defensive tackle DJ Davidson played a key role in holding down the A and B gaps, plugging holes to stop the run, while also receiving help from the elite linebacker trio of Robertson, Soelle, and Butler, who all are back for senior seasons in Tempe.
The first group emerged in the same system installed by Pierce and his former co-coordinator Marvin Lewis, the 4-3-4, but also showed sets in nickel with freshman Jordan Clark reprising that role from the fall. He subbed in for Robertson, keeping Soelle and Butler in at two linebacker slots.
The second defensive group did not carry the same results as their counterparts but showed flashes and displayed depth across the entire roster. They also came out in nickel right out of the gate instead of the base look that the first team showed. Here’s how they stacked up:
The clear standout of the second team was graduate transfer Travez Moore from LSU, who terrorized the second offensive line group, constantly getting close opportunities in the backfield and, much like Matus, had to be called off from sacking a variety of quarterbacks on the opposite side of the ball.
“(He was) exactly what we were looking for – somebody to come off the edge and give us a little bit of juice,” Pierce said of Moore. “Our biggest need going into this season was a pass rusher and a guy that is dynamic. Travez obviously bringing a lot of experience coming from SEC country; he’s played a lot of big-time football against big time players. He's brought a sense of leadership, accountability, and a certain toughness that we really don't have or don't get too much too often here on the west coast. So, for us, it's been a pleasant surprise… He’s a great addition to our d-linemen.
Another defensive lineman, redshirt sophomore defensive end Stanley Lambert had the first turnover play of the day, picking up a fumble in the backfield and running it over 50 yards back for a touchdown, much to the delight of the defensive sideline.
Substitutions among the second group included freshman linebacker Connor Soelle who took the spot of Williams as the third linebacker in the base set. Freshman linebacker Jordan Banks and redshirt freshman linebacker Jacob Jornadal, as well as redshirt junior Xavier Steele all, took reps in the second group as a platoon swap. Steele dropped a hard hit on freshman receiver Elijhah Badger on a contested ball in the air. Banks also had a nice breakup, saving a touchdown with a near-interception in the red zone.
Another theme of Sunday’s practice was to prepare the team for a vast number of situations. Third and fourth down from distance were frequent occurrences, challenging both sides of the ball to step up and make a play, and for the most part, it was the defense who came away victorious. Redshirt freshman corner Keon Markham had a key pass breakup on third down in the red zone, knocking the ball away from a keen Badger to prevent another touchdown.
Markham ended the practice with a stellar takeaway and the lone interception of the day, rising up behind freshman receiver Cade Cadam and stripping the ball out of his hands. Markham took the ball back for a pick-six before Edwards blew the whistle and called it a day.
Overall, Sunday was the successful cherry on top of a productive spring, which displayed new faces and talent while re-introducing veteran faces eager for another opportunity to play in maroon and gold. Situational opportunities and the lessons learned in spring football are fresh chances for players to gain jobs or make impressions on the coaching staff, while also improving on lessons or miscues learned from the past as they progress towards fall camp.
“In the games that we’ve had here, it’s understanding that on 4th and nine, 4th and 1, we know how to finish. The biggest thing is about being more mentally tough,” Pierce said. Physically, we know these guys get run, jump and do everything we ask of them, but how are we when things get tough when we deal with adversity? That's an ongoing process for us, not only as players but as coaches, to keep challenging ourselves with situations. And as we do that, we'll be better.”
“I think the guys did a better job of understanding what we’re trying to accomplish in certain calls, in certain situations…I think it was a very big plus for us. The biggest plus is that we got all 15 out our spring practices in, and we came out healthy, COVID-free, safe, and sound.”
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