New Sun Devils learning the basics, QB Ethan Long impressing
TEMPE, Ariz. — Everyone hits a learning curve at different stages in their lives.
You have to crawl before you can walk.
For the freshman donning Sun Devil jerseys on the Bill Kajikawa Football Practice Field at Arizona State, the next learning curve began Wednesday night.
“It’s kinda funny,” Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards said after the team’s first preseason practice of the year. “Coaches are all excited about the first day of practice, players are all excited about the first day of practice. It’s like the first day of school, until you get there.
“I warned the coaches … I said, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen in practice: You’ve got 50 guys that have never practiced, it’ll be the first time they practiced college football,’ and I said Joe [Connolly] got them in shape for running and lifting. They are not in practice shape, and no one is.”
While the fundamentals of a practice will come, the Sun Devils are hoping their young guys can step up and fill the voids left behind by N’Keal Harry and Manny Wilkins Jr., among others.
Luckily for Edwards and Co., the influx of talent seems to be busting at the seams.
“We’re more athletic,” Edwards said of this season’s team. “A lot of guys don’t know what to do yet, I think on both sides of the ball, but … I think we look different.
“When you look at the players it’s like, ‘Woah,’ and that’s fun because that’s what we’re trying to do here. And know I think we’ve got to give them knowledge and get them ready to play, and you can’t rush it. You just got to let it unfold and keep coaching.”
In Edwards’ inaugural season with the team, the Sun Devils (7-6; 5-4) finished second in the Pac-12 South behind Utah.
And although the team saw departures on both sides of the ball, ASU has returning pieces such as running back Eno Benjamin, offensive lineman Cohl Cabral, safety Aashari Crosswell and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk that were big contributors to last year’s success.
The talent is there. The numerous NFL scouts in attendance proved that. It’s not a matter of if the 2019 version of the Sun Devils are talented, it’s when can that talent be fully attained.
TOO GOOD TO NOT BE ON THE FIELD
The talent at the quarterback position is already evident, in more ways than one.
While it’s still early for Edwards to decide on the starting quarterback — Dillon Sterling-Cole, Jayden Daniels and Joey Yellen had the lion share of snaps during 7-on-7’s — the head coach has seen one signal caller he has to utilize in freshman Ethan Long.
“I love that kid, he’s the best. I mean he really is,” Edwards said when asked about Long being used in the offense as more than just a QB. “He gets it, he’s all in, he’s a marvelous, marvelous young man and really good football player.
“And he’s got to be on the field, and that’s what I told him. I said, ‘You’re going to play, I have to get you in the game.’ And the players know it too, so he’s having fun.”
While he may not be the starting QB on Saturdays, Edwards sees Long as a Swiss Army Knife, much like New Orleans Saints Taysom Hill. Hill has been used as a quarterback, running back, wide receiver and on special teams for the Saints.
It looks like Long is embracing the role, fittingly taking the same number as the jack of all trades in No. 7.
“I told him, ‘I ain’t done with you, because you might be going to the other side of the ball too in certain packages,'” Edwards said of Long. “But first, he’s got to be offense, he’s got to play quarterback. He’s got a lot of things, but he’s a smart guy, a tough guy who wants to do it and he’s going to be on the football field for us.
“He’s too good of a football player to be standing by me so we’re going to get him on the field.”
— Zach Robertson was not present at the team’s practice Wednesday night.
“He’s got some personal matters he’s dealing with,” Edwards said of Robertson’s absence. “It’s whenever he’s ready to come back. We’ll find a way to get him back, but right now he could be out for awhile.”
Edwards added that the left tackle’s day-to-day and hopes the lineman doesn’t miss any games.
Cabral, who was the team’s starting center last season, moved over to left tackle. Cabral was the starting left tackle as a sophomore.
— Offensive lineman Cody Shear, who transferred to ASU from Oregon in June, was cleared by the NCAA ahead of practice, making him eligible for the season.