TEMPE, Ariz. — The majority of the Arizona State football practices this fall have gone in favor of the offense.
Keeping with that theme, the team’s pilgrimage to Camp Tontozona ended Saturday with an offensively-dominant scrimmage in the pines, leaving ASU head coach Todd Graham wanting more from his defensive unit.
“Sometimes we get a little monotonous,” Graham said. “I want more energy, more enthusiasm, more passion.”
He got it Monday.
The Sun Devils’ defense responded following a day off on Sunday, putting together a strong performance back in the team’s practice bubble. Meanwhile, the offense struggled with illegal procedure penalties, but Graham gave credit to the defense for having something to do with those miscues.
“The offense has set the tempo or set the standard for the energy the entire camp, and the defense has had a couple days where the energy wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” Graham said. “Today is the first day the offense’s energy wasn’t (there) — and obviously it had a lot to do with the defense.”
Redshirt freshman receiver Jalen Harvey will miss the next eight to 10 weeks — at least half the season — after suffering a collarbone injury at Camp Tontozona. It’s a painful blow to a highly-regarded receiver who was expected to push for regular snaps.
Junior college transfer Tim White also sat out Monday with a sprained wrist, but Graham said it was not a serious injury.
GONZALEZ ADDS LEG STRENGTH IN OFFSEASON
Kicker Zane Gonzalez hasn’t missed much in two years as ASU’s kicker.
If we’re to cite the exact statistics, he’s missed less than 20 percent of his field goal tries, a reason he’s on the Groza Award watch list and has finished as a semi-finalist to win the award in each of his freshman and sophomore seasons.
But Gonzalez hasn’t been given the opportunity to attempt longer field goals. In fact, the junior has taken one field goal of more than 50 yards in his career.
Maybe that changes this year.
Gonzalez attempted a 54-yarder — a make that didn’t count because of a defensive penalty — during the Camp Tontozona’s scrimmage on Saturday, and he said he’s in a more confident played after spending the offseason adding leg strength.
“During the summer we just worked out with (head sports performance coach Shawn Griswold) a lot, worked on my leg strength … and tried to get stronger so I have a bigger leg,” Gonzalez said. “For me that’s been huge for my confidence so I don’t have to try to overkick.
“Makes a 50-yarder like you hit a 30-yarder.”
OK, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll get longer opportunities.
Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell may punt or keep the offense on the field rather than take long field goals, but it’s worth mention that Gonzalez’s accuracy on longer field goals hasn’t been poor. He is 10-of-15 (67 percent) from 40-49 yards.
The thinking of first-year special teams coach Shawn Slocum may also change the way ASU attacks such situations. He’s another reason to believe ASU’s steady kicking game could take another step forward.
“He’s incredible,” Gonzalez said. “He’s brought a lot of professionalism from the Packers over here. He actually knows a lot of the little ups and downs of kicking, the little techniques and stuff. He advises you what to do and advises you what not to do. If you mess up, you can look to him to tell you what you did wrong. He’s someone huge who you’re able to talk to.”
– Sophomore linebacker Christian Sam stood out again, leaving ASU searching for ways to utilize what’s now looking like a deep linebacker group. With fellow linebackers Antonio Longino, D.J. Calhoun, Salamo Fiso and Laiu Moeakiola returning from a year ago, finding Sam playing time could prove difficult. ASU found one solution to that on Monday when Longino took to playing Devilbacker, a position he played at the start of last season before switching to Will linebacker.
– JoJo Wicker, who will likely be the only freshman starter come the A&M game, had been playing as the Devilbacker in the Sun Devils’ “40” defensive package, but on Tuesday he lined up as a more traditional 3-technique defensive tackle.
– Graham said Kweishi Brown continued to play dominantly opposite fellow first-team cornerback Lloyd Carrington. It sounds likely Brown could hold off challenger Solomon Means for the starting spot.
– Freshman quarterback Brady White took second-team reps during tempo drills on Monday.
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