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Sterling-Cole performs like top ASU QB at Maroon and Gold scrimmage

ASU quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole throws a pass during the Maroon and Gold scrimmage on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 (Photo: Logan Newman/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Hours before the calendar flipped to March. ASU football finished its spring practices.

The Maroon and Gold scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium consisted primarily of drills, the latter half featuring 11-on-11 limited-contact play.

Head coach Herm Edwards thinks playing spring ball so early will pay off. As the team moves to the weight room, coaches can have three days of contact per week with players.

But more importantly, it got the young quarterbacks onto their home field particularly early.

“This is their first college spring ball. Just think about that, they should be in high school right now. When is the prom?” Edwards said. “You gotta take your hat off to them because they understood that it was important for them to get to some college campus in the spring so they could compete.”

Dillon Sterling-Cole appears to be the front-runner. The redshirt junior started the drills and had the best day, throwing consecutive back-corner touchdowns, and he didn’t have an interception.

He also spoke about being a leader, celebrating when other quarterbacks played well.

“It’s a part of loving the game. When you see guys doing what coaches teach every day, day in and day out, and then bring it to the field from the film room, you gotta love it,” Sterling-Cole said. “And I love those guys with all my heart.”

The other three quarterbacks who played are early-enrollee freshmen.

Joey Yellen was the second quarterback to get reps, but it looked like he wasn’t reading the field proficiently. Twice a defender dove into the route and nearly picked off a throw. One of those defenders, redshirt freshman defensive back Alijah Gammage, did intercept a pass from Yellen later.

Jayden Daniels was more consistent than Yellen, but he too threw an interception. It’s worth noting that he performed a drill earlier with Sterling-Cole while Yellen and Ethan Long were on the other side working on the same drill.

The fourth one to take the field, Long, dropped a pass into the end zone between two defenders with soft touch – though he also threw a pick-six earlier in the day.

All in all, it looked like a spring practice between a handful of quarterbacks who hadn’t seen the college field before – and, like Edwards said, most should be at prom.

“You see some bright spots and then you see some ‘Oh no,’” Edwards said.

It’s pronounced with a soft ‘G’

Learn to say redshirt freshman Geordon Porter’s name correctly. It’s pronounced “Jordan,” not “Gordon.”

He said everyone makes that mistake.

But if spring practice was any indication, his name could be worth remembering moving forward.

He scored a pair of touchdowns on the night, one from Yellen and the other from Long.

But Porter also showed solid technique on another play: On a mid-to-deep throw, he used his hands well to create separation with a defender, but not enough to be called for pushing off. He came down with the ball but landed out of bounds.

So though it didn’t count on the scoreboard, it was a veteran-looking play from the young receiver.

“(I’m a) redshirt freshman, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Porter said. “I feel like I’m ready, teammates feel I’m ready, so, you know, them, the coaching staff and the team thinking I’m ready just gives me more confidence.”

Edwards thinks the more Porter plays, the better he looks. Will he be ready in the fall to step in and potentially be in the receiver mix with Kyle Hamilton, Frank Darby and Brandon Aiyuk?

“Well, he better be,” Edwards said with a laugh. “That’s why we recruited him.”

Crosswell the Swiss Army knife

Sophomore Aashari Crosswell moved around the defense during the drills, playing ranger and Tillman safety. He has been playing Tillman throughout camp.

“It’s putting a lot of stress on him cause he gotta learn it but if we get an injury, he can go in there and play,” Edwards said.

The coach added that Linebacker Tyler Whiley, a graduate student who was injured last year, will likely be starting at Tillman, but the sentiment is clear: If there’s another surprise injury, Crosswell will be expected to fill that void as a safety valve.

Crosswell’s up for the challenge – not that he would say it’s challenging.

“It’s not tough, because I played safety my whole high school career, when I was in Pop Warner,” he said. The Tillman position is new for him, but he’s eager.

“Tillman, it’s not even hard to play. It’s just something I gotta get used (to) cause I gotta learn every spot on the defense anyway.”

Crosswell said his football IQ is vital for the task. In playing multiple positions, the mind is just as important as physical talent, if not more so.

“You gotta be smart to play football, period,” Crosswell said. “You can’t just go out there, talent doesn’t mean nothing.”

Edwards already knows how good Crosswell can be.

“When you get a player that gifted, he’s gotta be able to play all three positions,” Edwards said. “He’s a good football player, wherever he plays. I’m glad he plays for us.”

Other Maroon and Gold notes

Merlin Robertson attempts to make a tackle during the Maroon and Gold scrimmage on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 (Photo: Logan Newman/Arizona Sports)

— The good news: Whiley had a pick-six. The bad news: Edwards said he’s not yet 100 percent. But he can use the next six months to continue recovering from last year’s injury that cost him the entire season.

— Merlin Robertson, who returned to practice Feb. 22, looked good during the first drill of the day. He fought around offensive linemen with apparent ease on the very first snap but was unable to make a tackle in the backfield. Later in the drill, he would have gotten around a defender if he was not held (though there were no holding calls during the drill).

— Junior Gerald Hodges was the one to hold Robertson in that drill, but the converted tight end made his presence felt earlier. He made a huge block to open a hole for the running back. Then, during the 11-on-11 drills, he caught a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. If he does become a full-time tight end, his size could play a huge advantage; on one play, he was overthrown in the middle of the end zone, but he towered over the defenders.

— Senior defensive back Kobe Williams had a nice interception off Daniels in the end zone.

— Edwards said by fall, there will be 17 defensive linemen under roster. Take that for lack of depth. “I think that says enough right there,” he said. “We’ll be okay.”


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