ASU notebook: QB battle continues; LaDarius Henderson an on-field coach
TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils football team wrapped up their fourth practice of fall camp on Saturday morning.
Of all the ongoing position battles with a total of 43 new players on ASU’s roster this season, none is bigger than at quarterback.
With returning redshirt junior Trenton Bourguet most likely destined for a backup role, it’ll most likely be a two-way race between Alabama transfer Paul Tyson and Florida transfer Emory Jones.
Jones — who did not transfer to Arizona State until after spring ball — has boasted the best arm out of the trio, as the dual-threat QB has had a noticeable zip in his short and intermediate passes during practice. However, accuracy has been inconsistent from all three quarterbacks.
Other than the fact that Jones’ rushing ability and experience as a runner adds another dimension to his skillset, he also doesn’t seem to shy away from throwing on the run.
Should the Florida transfer get the starting job, that could really open up the passing game on play-action plays such as naked bootlegs where the quarterback scrambles out of the pocket and tackle box after turning his back to the defense on a fake handoff from under center — a pro-style attack that fits right in head coach Herm Edwards’ playbook.
But in order to set up play action, Arizona State must establish the ability to run the ball first, which has easily been the best part of the Sun Devils’ offense in Edwards’ tenure.
And with last year’s one-two punch of Rachaad White and DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum gone, expect to see a new running back duo of Wyoming transfer Xazavian Valladay and returning redshirt sophomore Daniyel Ngata leading the backfield this season.
Despite how skilled a roster may be at the quarterback, running back and pass-catcher positions, no team can have success without an adequate offensive line.
That doesn’t mean the OL has to be elite for the Sun Devils to have success, but they’ll be leaning on the likes of left guard LaDarius Henderson to lead by example.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound senior is coming off of arguably his best season at ASU, having been graded as the 11th-best guard in the Pac-12 Conference and only allowing one sack and 10 quarterback pressures — both of which ranked in the top 50 among FBS guards — while playing 801 of the team’s 813 snaps (started all 13 games).
Henderson is also practically an on-field coach for offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, as Henderson was seen working with and instructing a younger offensive lineman when it wasn’t his turn during an OL drill.
That type of leadership could pay dividends for Arizona State’s football program, which is trying to reestablish a culture following the mass exodus of players via the transfer portal and the departure of five assistant coaches — including both offense and defensive coordinators, as well as the recruiting coordinator — that stemmed from an ongoing NCAA investigation for alleged recruiting violations.
And when you couple Henderson’s cerebral game with his durability and talent on the field, you’ll quickly realize that he has a legitimate shot at following in the footsteps of his former Sun Devil teammates Dohnovan West and Kellen Diesch, who are both now at NFL training camps with the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, respectively.