TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State football team finally started game-planning for its season opener against Northern Arizona on Sept. 3. It is always cause for the team to celebrate after the dual grinds of spring ball and training camp end.
“It’s good just getting ready for the season now,” quarterback Manny Wilkins said this week. “We’ve had all these long, long, long weeks of fall practice and now it’s time to get after it.
“The coaching is good, players are good, guys are healthy and we’re just ready to go out there an execute things that we’ve been working on.”
Coach Todd Graham said the Sun Devils are still running their first-team defense against the first-team offense a lot to keep the pace of the practices at a high level, but both units have started facing what the Devils call their Kodak (scout) team.
“Demonstrating what basic fronts and coverages and plays we anticipate (NAU) doing in all three phases,” Graham said. “We’ve still got a lot to do. The big thing we’re focusing on going into this first week is don’t beat yourself. Obviously, take care of the football and don’t have critical errors and then don’t have stupid penalties.
“Early in the year is much like when you wait 30, 40 days for a bowl game. We’re really focusing on discipline and execution.”
Quarterback Brady White said he can see a change in his team’s approach.
“It’s starting to really hit us: it’s season now,” he said. “It’s time to go show the world what we’re all about; to go prove people wrong and show that this team’s got heart.”
Northern Arizona was picked to win the Big Sky Conference by both the league’s football coaches and the media in preseason polling. The Lumberjacks are ranked No. 18 in the national FCS Coaches Poll.
“We’re going to play a really good team that’s picked in the top of the 1-AA that is very capable,” Graham said. “We’ve got to be ready.”
There has been plenty of talk about ASU’s inexperience, particularly at quarterback and along the offensive line. The Sun Devils media relations department sent out a list that quantifies that inexperience.
The Sun Devils have just seven seniors/grad students on offense on this season, tying them with eight other teams for the 16th fewest in the nation. Overall, ASU has 19 seniors/grad students on the roster, which is the 23rd fewest in the nation.
Minnesota leads the nation with three offensive seniors/grad students and 13 overall. ASU’s totals are the second fewest in the Pac-12 behind Washington State (6, 15).
— ASU has not named team captains for the 2016 season and apparently they will take a different approach this season.
“We’re going to have game captains,” Graham said. “You earn it every week.”
— Graham was asked about the leadership of his quarterbacks: “It’s like saying ‘how’s your leadership in the Army?’ You don’t really know about it until you go to battle. You’ve got to play a game and then you’ll know where you’re at. Against each other, you can only tell so much.”
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