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ESPN’s Bellotti: ASU pass protection has work to do after Texas A&M loss

Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) is pressured as he passes by Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) during the first half of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/George Bridges)
LISTEN: Mike Bellotti, ESPN College Football Analyst

After watching Texas A&M’s defensive linemen rocketed out of their three-point stances last Saturday in Arizona State’s 38-17 loss, ASU head coach Todd Graham admitted during his halftime interview that the Sun Devils needed to change their snap counts.

A matchup this week against Cal Poly gives Arizona State the first opportunity to improve the pass protection, and according to ESPN college football analyst Mike Bellotti, that’ll be first on the to-do list.

“Part of that can be a hearing issue, a sight issue,” Bellotti told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7. “You work those out now. That’s certainly on that list of, not things you want to do, have to do.

“It’s hard for (offensive tackles) to focus on that guy outside and the ball snapped to the inside,” he added. “It’s more a visual type thing. They’ll probably work more on that.”

But give A&M credit for recruiting a deadly group of defensive ends — Daeshon Hall (four sacks) and Myles Garrett (two sacks) — and for hiring former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. Then give the Aggies credit for surprising by blitzing more than it appeared the Sun Devils were prepared to handle.

Arizona State responded to the blitzing by getting quick throws out of quarterback Mike Bercovici’s hands and using sweep runs to the outside. That only had ASU moving east and west rather than north and south.

“If you can’t pick up the stuff, if you’re getting pressure, then the blitz becomes your worst nightmare because the speed at which it happens in a first-game basis is very difficult for the offensive line to pick up,” Bellotti said. “You give up more sacks due to line twists simply because the offensive line hasn’t seen it happen at that speed.”

The Sun Devils might have struggled because A&M could “pin their ears back,” knowing that Bercovici is more of a pocket passer than former quarterback Taylor Kelly, Bellotti said.

“Replacing Taylor Kelly for Mike Bercovici, you get a bigger arm and maybe bigger plays down the field, but those plays down-the-field plays sometime take time to develop,” Bellotti said.

Bellotti preached patience for Sun Devil fans.

ASU now has tape against a very good opponent and a few weeks against easier non-conference opponents in Cal Poly and New Mexico to continue its offensive evolution.

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