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Growing pains still evident for Arizona State in first scrimmage

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Tempe, Ariz. — It was an evening of learning for the Arizona State Sun Devils in their first scrimmage of the season Saturday night.

While the offense worked on getting its timing down, the defense got an early taste of the next-man-up mentality after defensive back Tyler Whiley went down with a foot injury.

“Those are good things, you have to learn how to overcome adversity and we didn’t do a very good job of that tonight, so we’ll be able to teach them about that and we’ll be able to talk next man up,” defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said after Saturday’s scrimmage.

“You can’t lose energy because you lose somebody. We’re going to lose people throughout the season, that’s football.”

Whiley, who is set to fill the Tillman spot — a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position in Gonzales’ 3-3-5 scheme — has been a name regularly talked about all camp for ASU.

“It will be a good teaching point for those guys to learn because to be honest Tyler has been one of our emotional leaders, he’s been really good with those guys so it was a big loss emotionally tonight which we need to overcome,” Gonzales said.

Looking at the depth of the team, first-year head coach Herm Edwards made sure more than just the starters got involved Saturday night.

“What we did as well was put some of the 2s against the 1s because we wanted to see some things,” Edwards said. “I told them, ‘That’s going to happen in a game and a player might go down and you have to realize something that when you go in the game you’re a starter.

“‘Doesn’t matter what year you are in school, doesn’t matter how many reps you have. There’s only 11 starters and you have to go out there and act like that.'”

And while Gonzales added the defense as a whole wasn’t as physical as he would have liked, there’s still been some positives to take away since the new regime took over.

“To this point, we made a lot of progress, it’s good progress so you take the good with the bad. There will be a lot of teaching on tape that we can get done tomorrow so tomorrow’s meeting will be great.”

One of those positives has been the defense’s quickness.

“What we’ve upgraded since the spring is our speed,” the defensive coordinator said. “If you watch us as a football team we’re a lot faster as a football team. It’s not even close to when we got here, so that’s a positive and a lot of those guys are young guys.”

Two of those young guys helping turn the tide for ASU’s defense, which ranked 108th in 2017, are freshmen linebackers Stanley Lambert and Merlin Robertson.

“Those guys are as good of looking linebackers as any anybody in this league and if we can teach them what to do and keep getting them to play hard and keep improving the rate they’re improving, those guys are really going to help us this year be a better football team.”

Another name to keep an eye on is Aashari Crosswell, who narrowly missed coming down with an interception during the scrimmage and covered the field well.

EXTRA POINTS

– Offensively, getting the ball to the signal caller was one of the biggest issues for ASU.

“Our quarterback couldn’t get the ball half the time,” first-year head coach Herm Edwards said of the numerous snaps that sailed over ASU quarterbacks. “He needed to be 6-foot-10. [Brock] Osweiler needed to come back.”

– Wide receiver N’Keal Harry on team chemistry: “I feel like it’s gotten better each and everyday. We still have to work on a lot of things, but we’ve shown flashes of being a really great team and if we keep that mentality and keep that going, we’ll be all right.”

– Quarterback Manny Wilkins on the offensive miscues: “We just got to keep getting better everyday. When we have a good day offensively we can’t get complacent and think that we are where we want to be. Watch the film, see the mistakes that we made and continue to grow from it.”

– Chase Lucas was not present at ASU’s scrimmage. Edwards said the defensive back was handling some family matters.

– Edwards on Whiley’s injury: “I’m always concerned when guys go in on a cart but we don’t know the likelihood of what has happened and we don’t want to jump to conclusions. The guy was really, really coming on too and you hate to see guys get hurt like that and get carted off.”

– Cornerback Langston Frederick had an interception off a tipped ball and also broke up two passes.

– Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk continues to show flashes, Edwards said. He made a number of catches to move the chains during the scrimmage.

– Sophomore kicker Brandon Ruiz connected on both of his field goal attempts.

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