Back to school: Arizona State offense ironing out kinks on 1st day of practice

Aug 3, 2022, 4:25 PM | Updated: 5:19 pm
Running back Daniyel Ngata #4 of the Arizona State Sun Devils scores on a 13-yard rushing touchdown...
Running back Daniyel Ngata #4 of the Arizona State Sun Devils scores on a 13-yard rushing touchdown against the UNLV Rebels during the first half of the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Just like the first day of school, the Arizona State Sun Devils were ironing out some kinks in their first practice of fall camp on Wednesday.

Most of the struggles came on the offensive side of the ball, which should come as no surprise given the fact that ASU has a three-way quarterback battle going on between Emory Jones, Paul Tyson and Trenton Bourguet in addition to an abundance of new faces at skill positions.

Compare that to the defensive side of the ball, which features returning players such as linebackers Kyle Soelle and Merlin Robertson, defensive linemen Michael Matus and Travez Moore and defensive backs Jordan Clark and Timarcus Davis.

“Offenses always struggle versus defenses the first couple practices because they’re behind and obviously ours is behind a little bit in the fact that it’s a new system with some new players implemented in that system who were not here in the spring,” head coach Herm Edwards said.

“So you can anticipate that a little bit, but I thought it was a pretty competitive as a practice. … First day wasn’t bad, now we have to start improving and that’s the whole key every day — get a little bit better.”

Some of those new faces that will be expected to contribute right away on offense include Vanderbilt transfer wide receiver Cam Johnson, Virginia Union transfer wideout Charles Hall, Missouri transfer tight end Messiah Swinson and Wyoming transfer running back Xazavian Valladay.

And then when you add returning players such as running back Daniyel Ngata, tight end Jalin Conyers and wide receiver Elijhah Badger — who all have playing experience at ASU — you’ll realize that new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas has his work cut out for him in terms of who is going to carry the load for Arizona State this season.

“(Johnson) obviously has a lot of experience playing in a big-time conference (SEC). Hall can obviously run fast — he makes my feet hurt,” Edwards said. “It’s just now figuring out what they do well, especially Hall. How are we going to use him? Because he can threaten you vertically, there’s no doubt about it. He has a build on him that’s going to make him hard to tackle when he gets the ball in his hands. He’s not a slight guy.

“So it’s going to be interesting just to watch how Glenn figures this all out. Where do we use that guy? I think we have some pretty good tight ends too, big tight ends. We’re going to use those guys too. We have a couple runners — (Valladay) is interesting. It’ll be fun to watch him when we get pads on. They all are. It’ll be fun to watch the offense.”

But until the Sun Devils figure out who will be taking the snaps under center, it’s going to be hard for the offense to formulate a true identity other than being a pro-style, run-first attack.

That’s because each quarterback has his own unique skill set, with Jones being the most mobile of the trio and thus allowing for an additional option wrinkle in the run game.

But whoever Edwards ends up choosing as the starting QB for ASU, the head coach is hopeful “that it happens quickly.”

“I want competition but some decisions are gonna have to be made because you can’t keep rotating quarterbacks,” he said. “You have to figure out who’s the guy and then who are the guys around him for the most part.”

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