Tag: Arizona State Football

Local Products Foster & Westerman Among Others to Make NFL Rosters

DJ Patriot

With the National Football League preseason coming to an end, fans of the game couldn’t be happier. For those hoping to make an NFL roster, this weekend was gut-wrenching and ended up with some former Arizona State football players having their lifelong dreams broken.

After the smoke cleared, as of Monday afternoon, only 11 former Sun Devils saw their names on an active roster, with three more signed to a practice squad and second-year defensive tackle Marcus Hardison placed on Injured Reserve for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Good News

Following a 2016 draft that only saw two ASU players drafted, five more were signed as unrestricted free agents. The Sun Devils highest draft pick, Christian Westerman, out of Chandler’s Hamilton High went in the fifth round as the 161st pick to the aforementioned Cincinnati Bengals. Westerman has little hope of starting for the Bengals but he is listed second on the depth chart at right guard behind five-year veteran Kevin Zeitler.

Right Guard Christian Westerman

Right Guard Christian Westerman

Also in Cincinnati is six-year linebacker Vontaze Burfict who starts the season on the suspended list and will be eligible to return on September 29 when the Bengals host the Dolphins at home.

The New England Patriots selected the other Sun Devil with the fourth pick of the seventh round when they picked up wide receiver Devin Lucien. The Arizona State standout who had 1,074 receiving yards to go along with eight touchdowns in his senior year struggled to find his way among one of the most prolific receiving corps in the country which carries five receivers and four tight ends. Lucien, unfortunately did not make the 53-man roster but found his way on to the 10-man practice squad.

The surprise coming out of Foxboro was Lucien’s college teammate, D.J. Foster. The undrafted free agent was one of four running backs to make the 53-man roster and looks to challenge James White at the receiving back position until Dion Lewis is activated from the PUP (Physically Able to Perform) list. The slash running back/wide receiver led many categories in his sophomore and junior seasons with 10 scores (six rushing, four receiving) and 12 touchdowns (nine rushing, three receiving) respectively.

The Baltimore Ravens bring back a couple of seasoned veterans in seven-year defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and 15-year linebacker Terrell Suggs. After missing the entirety of last year to a torn Achilles tendon in week one, Suggs impressed many playing only two series against Detroit.

The Chicago Bears have seen some turmoil due to the ineffectiveness of their quarterback situation in Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer but their defense has always been their strong suit. Will Sutton is listed as the second-string Nose Tackle and has started 12 games over the past two years while playing in 28. Needless to say that Sutton can wreak havoc and looks to improve on his seven starts in 2015.

The bad news out of the “Windy City” is the confusion surrounding cornerback Omar Bolden. The four-year veteran was brought in during the offseason to bolster the Special Teams but was unceremoniously released prior to training camp.

Hanging by a Thread

With Jamil & The Cup

With Jamil & The Cup

Three former standouts at Arizona State have been relegated to the practice squad for their respective teams after a tough 2016 preseason. The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed continued success from cornerback Damarious Randall and he is listed atop the depth chart at the left corner.

The news for fellow Sun Devil Carl Bradford isn’t as promising. The third-year inside linebacker was waived over the weekend and was “saved by the bell” being signed to the practice squad. Bradford couldn’t have done much better in preseason with 15 total tackles and a pass defended with play in all four games. This will be Bradford’s third year with the Packers and and the second on the practice squad.

Down in Miami, after two seasons on the offensive line, guard Jamil Douglas was waived and signed to the practice squad. Douglas, who started six games last year at guard and center didn’t impress the new coaching staff this preseason and will look to prove himself worthy in practice.

My new favorite team with a starting quarterback and starting slot receiver is the Houston Texans. Quarterback Brock Osweiler and Jaelen Strong never played together at Arizona State University but I think this tandem will light things up in H-Town. A teammate of both Osweiler and Strong, cornerback Robert Nelson has been signed to the Texans practice squad. Nelson, who was with the Cleveland Browns for the 2015 preseason was waived and then signed by the Arizona Cardinals. After two months on the practice squad, Nelson was named to the active roster only to be released a month later. A month following his release from Arizona, he was signed to Houston’s practice squad and failed to make the 53-man roster again this season.

Still Hoping

Will Berco Make San Diego's Practice Squad?

Bercovici’s Future is now in limbo

Several other seniors are still in the mix for spots on practice squads including most notably, quarterback Mike Bercovici and offensive guard Vi Teofilo in San Diego. Berco seems to be a lock for the practice squad after the Chargers waived journeyman QB Zach Mettenberger.

{Edited to add that neither Bercovici nor Teofilo were selected to the Chargers practice squad.}

Defensive tackle Demetrius Cherry played the 2016 preseason with the San Francisco 49ers and still has lingering hope to sign with the practice squad as only nine spots have been filled as of Monday afternoon.

{Edited to add that Cherry was not selected to the 49ers practice squad.}

Five-year veteran center Garth Gerhart found himself back on the Cleveland Browns for the 2016 training camp and preseason. Gerhart who was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Browns in early 2013. He never made the active roster and was picked up by the Packers where he remained on the active roster for the 2014 season. Gerhart was in the Browns camp this season and was waived on the final day. All hope isn’t lost for Gerhart as there are still two open spots as of this writing on the Browns’ practice squad.

{Edited to add that Gerhart was not selected to the Browns practice squad.}

Two other Sun Devils are looking to make the final spot on their respective practice squads. Third-year safety Alden Darby looks to latch on in Indianapolis after spending the past two years on practice squads in San Diego, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

Another local product, Scottsdale Chaparral High’s Deveron Carr has bounced around the practice squads, much like Darby. The cornerback played in nine games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013 before being waived. Carr eventually got on with practice squads in Indianapolis and Washington before heading to Kansas City for the 2016 preseason.

{Edited to add that neither Darby nor Carr were selected to the Colts or Chiefs practice squad.}

End of the line for Pic6Darb?

End of the line for Alden Darby?

Linebacker Lloyd Carrington was invited to Washington Redskins camp and joined two fellow Sun Devils with Shawn Lauvao and Rashad Ross. Seven-year veteran offensive guard Lauvao and second-year receiver Ross made the cut, but Carrington did not. His dreams were further dashed as the Redskins filled out their 10-man roster without including Carrington.  He, like all other players waived can be signed by any team after clearing waivers.

Lastly, third-year defensive tackle Davon Coleman who jumped around from the Bears to the Buccaneers to the Giants before being waived yet again this weekend. The 2014 undrafted free agent made the Cowboys roster in 2014 as a rookie and again in 2015 but was released in week three of the season. He was picked up by the Bears and signed to the practice squad only to be released three months later. Coleman was invited to the Giants camp this season but was cut early in the process.

Non-Playing Futures

Nothing was quite as heart-wrenching as the story of redshirt senior safety Jordan Simone. The heart and soul of the Sun Devils, the defensive captain had his career ended after tearing his ACL last November.  Simone had rehabbed the knee and was slotted by many to be drafted until he re-injured his knee. He hasn’t given up and remains positive while once again rehabbing and is no stranger to overcoming obstacles.

To wrap it up, we come full-circle with center Nick Kelly who was invited to Patriots’ training camp along with Foster and Lucien. He was released early in the process and is now an offensive line assistant coach back at Arizona State.

 

Arizona State Football: Third Down and Pac-12 Championship To Go

taylor

We are less than a month away from kickoff of the 2014 season, summer workouts are complete and the team returns to Camp Tontozona is less than two weeks. Pac-12 Media Day was a resounding success and the Sun Devils were predicted to finish third in the Pac-12 South by media members that cover the league.

There’s that number again…three. It must truly be a magical number.

Keeping in the context of the magical number three, let’s examine the all-important third down. In the perfect world, we would never need third downs as Taylor Kelly and his arsenal of weapons would nail a first down, every down.

ASU leading receiver Jaelen Strong

ASU leading receiver Jaelen Strong

This is a world where the University of Arizona still has a football team and the University of Southern California was predicted to finish above the Sun Devils in a preseason poll, so this world is far from perfect.

Third downs tell the story of how the offense responds under pressure and how it deals with adversity—will they extend the possession or will they fold?

In 2013, the Sun Devils third conversion rate was less than stellar, converting only 39 percent of the time. The bright side of the coin, however, is that Taylor Kelly will still be under center this year.

Kelly led the team last year with 30 rushes on third down. Half of those crucial runs netted the necessary yardage to extend the drive while six of the runs ended up in the end zone. The entire team totaled only three third down touchdowns all season…three.

Kelly’s 7.6 yards per carry on third down led the team and his six touchdowns on third down was second best in the country. If history tells us anything, the future looks bright on third down as long as Kelly is on the field.

The top teams in the country do well in their third down conversions so it’s no mystery that extending drives leads to winning games. National Champion Florida State finished third nationally with a 52.2 percent conversion rate while Pac-12 Champion, Stanford led all teams in the conference at 49.7 percent and tenth nationally.

Lame LaneArizona State’s 39.1 percent conversion was quite pedestrian, finishing eighth in the conference and 77th nationally. Kelly has a multitude of weapons other than playmakers Jaelen Strong and D.J. Foster.

The Sun Devils lit up opponents in 2013 with a record-breaking six games of 50 or more points including a stretch of four games against Pac-12 opponents and one opposing coach fired on the tarmac.

We know that the team can score early and often, but imagine if you will, how dominant the team would be if they could convert third down conversions half of the time like Pac-12 North foe, Stanford…they would be unbeatable.

This is the year that it all comes together, and after claiming victory in the brutal four-game stretch against UCLA, USC, Stanford and Washington, the nation will notice that Arizona State football is a legitimate contender for not only the Conference title but also the National Championship.

ASU Football: Updated Depth Chart, Spring Game and Fan Fest

ASU TheaterTEMPE, Ariz. — The 2014 Arizona State football team will kick off in earnest on Saturday, April 19 with the annual Fan Fest taking place at Sun Devil Stadium from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT with the Maroon and Gold spring game at 11 a.m. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks and will also be available online via the Pac-12 Now app.

The Pac-12 South champion Sun Devils led by senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Todd Graham return to the gridiron with unfinished business after ending the 2013 season in disappointing fashion. The goals for the 2014 season, and every season moving forward, are Pac-12 Champions, Rose Bowl Champions and National Champions.

The walls of the football theater are emblazoned with these tenets.

New Athletic Director Ray Anderson has sparked interest in the football program and is spear-heading the North End Zone renovation project in a campaign entitled Momentum.

Rendering of new Sun Devil Stadium

Rendering of new Sun Devil Stadium

The proposed plan will completely renovate Sun Devil Stadium, while preserving Tillman Tunnel and retaining the stadium in its iconic setting between the Tempe and Hayden Buttes. Construction on the stadium is scheduled to begin in 2015, with the football team competing in Sun Devil Stadium throughout the renovation.

The scheduled removal of the north end zone began on Monday and is not part of the renovation project. The removal of the north end zone upper deck will reduce the seating capacity at Sun Devil Stadium by approximately 5,700 seats.

FAN FEST 2014

 

The pre-game festivities will begin at 9 a.m. at the southern end of the stadium and parking lots. Activities include an interactive Sun Devil Way Fan Fest where younger Sun Devil fans can enjoy the Kids Zone presented by the Junior Sun Devil Club and Shamrock Foods, a Social Media Command Center where fans can get their photos taken, pose with the Territorial Cup and win Sun Devil apparel, and an autograph session for fans 18 and under.

2014 FanFestFor those looking to show off their master tailgating skills, there is The Great Sun Devil Tailgate Competition which will pit the best and brightest tailgaters competing for prizes, trophies and all-important bragging rights.

All attendees of Fan Fest will have a chance to win a trip for two to the ASU vs. Washington game Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014 at Husky Stadium. The giveaway includes hotel, airfare and tickets for two to the game.

BRING ON THE FOOTBALL

 

The Sun Devils return six All-Pac-12 performers, including the aforementioned Kelly, running back DJ Foster, wide receiver Jaelen Strong, tight end De’Marieya Nelson, left tackle Jamil Douglas and Lou Groza Award Semifinalist kicker Zane Gonzalez.

Along with Douglas, the starting offensive line is packed with veterans including junior center Nick Kelly, redshirt juniors Christian Westerman and Vi Teofilo at the guard slots and redshirt senior Tyler Sulka at right tackle. The veteran line will be heavily relied upon with Foster and a pair of redshirt seniors in Deantre Lewis and Kyle Middlebrooks out of the backfield.

ASU leading receiver Jaelen Strong

ASU leading receiver Jaelen Strong

The receiving corps will be quite different with Strong leading the way at the X slot. Redshirt junior Cameron Smith, who had only eight receptions for 129 yards in 2013 is the favorite at the Y position while redshirt sophomore Frederick Gammage will likely get the start at the Z. Gammage saw time in 13 games in 2013 yet only nabbed six receptions for 32 yards.

The defense is markedly changed with the departure of nine starters including two-time All Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and Carl Bradford to graduation. The defensive line will be anchored by junior Jaxon Hood at the Tiger position with redshirt junior Mo Latu at the Nose and senior Marcus Hardison coming off the end.

Redshirt junior Eriquel Florence will be filling the Devil backer spot while redshirt sophomores Viliami Moeakiola and Salamo Fiso will most likely start at the Spur and Sam linebacker spots. Freshman DJ Calhoun and redshirt junior Antonio Longino are battling for the start at the Will position.

Marcus Hardison with big shoes to fill

Marcus Hardison with big shoes to fill

The secondary will be anchored by returning senior Damarious Randall at field safety. Redshirt sophomores Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood will fill the field corner and boundary corners respectively. Battling for the the boundary safety position will be redshirt freshman Marcus Ball and redshirt junior Jordan Simone.

Special teams will be relatively unchanged with sophomore punter Matt Haack coming into his own after losing punting responsibilities last season to kickoff specialist Alex Garoutte. New assistant coach Keith Patterson, a former punter has worked with not only Haack, but also with junior long snappers Donnie Shields and Easton Wahlstrom.

The pressure of punting took Garoutte’s focus of being a true kickoff specialist and this season he will be send more footballs into the end zone, nullifying any possible returns. Sophomore kicker Zane Gonzalez is facing a concerning sophomore slump with a couple misses in practice, yet he is 7-of-10 inside Sun Devil Stadium this spring.

On the return side of the coin, speedy running back Kyle Middlebrooks and defensive leader Damarious Randall are listed as the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on both punt and kick coverage.

MOVING FORWARD

 

The spring game will bring to spring practice season to a close but there are still many other events on the horizon.

  • Early bird season ticket pricing ends April 30.
  • Spring Coaching Clinic April 4-5
  • Camp Tontozona August 12-16
  • Season Opener August 28 vs. Weber State