Tag: 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.

 

Camp Tontozona Ushers in 2016 Arizona State Football Season

Camp

The cool pines of Payson are an amazing getaway for Valley residents in August when the mercury reaches into the upper reaches of 110+ degrees for days on end. The Sun Devil football team returned to Camp Tontozona earlier this week for some time away from the heat, cell phones and all other modern distractions.

A week to focus on team building and bonding that has been a tradition since 1960 when legendary Frank Kush was at the helm. Save for a brief stretch during the Dennis Erickson era, the Tontozona practices have always signaled the beginning of a new football season for Arizona State University.

Coach Graham addressing the team

Coach Graham addressing the team

The team arrived on Tuesday night and got settled into their bunks and prepared for a return to the hallowed practice grounds on Wednesday morning, but Mother Nature had another idea. The team had to move to a nearby turf field due to the rain and head coach Todd Graham was the first to admit that it felt a little off.

“It’s a little bit different starting out here, but I like it,” he said.  “It’s a great surface to practice on, so if it rains, we’ll come down here.”

The biggest question surrounding the program and the only thing that people seem to be interested in is the quarterback situation. This year’s stable conssists 0f four highly sought after signal-callers but the worry on most people’s minds is that there is a total of zero combined games played by the group…zero. Redshirt sophomore Manny Wilkins seems to be the leader but redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins are hot on his heels with true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole proving to be just as capable as the others.

Is Manny Wilkins the starter?

Is Manny Wilkins the starter?

Aside from the field generals, another area for deep concern is the Sun Devil secondary. Last year’s group was abysmal giving up an NCAA-worst 337.8 passing yards per game. No lead was ever safe when it came to the Sun Devil defense including the embarrassing post-season performance against the University of West Virginia in the Cactus Bowl. In front of a home crowd in neighboring Phoenix, the Sun Devil secondary allowed a record-breaking 532 yards in the air and five passing touchdowns.

Defensive backs coach TJ Rushing knows that he has his work cut out for him this year and into the future. his main focus will be on deep coverage and worked on deep plays for a good portion of the time at camp.

Saturday’s final practice and scrimmage is the pinnacle for the week when droves of Sun Devil faithful head up the mountain making the small area a logistical nightmare. I have memories of driving around for what seemed like forever, looking for a parking spot. Once that was achieved, we had a good 20-30 minute walk ahead of us before arriving to the practice field.

Conditioning drills

Conditioning drills

Given these difficulties, the alumni association and other student groups have chartered buses to get the most people there with the fewest amount of vehicles clogging up the works. If you are planning to go, plan to leave early and follow these simple steps courtesy of 12News.com:

  • Parking for the general public for Saturday, Aug. 6 will be in a closed section on the eastbound side of SR260 near Camp Tontozona Road.  Please follow the message boards, speed limit, and event parking signs on SR260 to the designated event parking areas.
  • Coming from Phoenix/Payson, please keep right on SR 260 once you leave Star Valley.  As drivers approach mile marker 267 they should merge to the right and proceed through the traffic restrictions and follow signs to the designated event parking area.
  • Coming westbound on SR 260 from point’s east, drivers will be asked to turn left at Kohl’s Ranch Rd.   Gila County Sherriff’s will assist with traffic turning across SR 260.  Please follow the signs and DO NOT use Christopher Creek Rd. or Spring Creek Rd.
  • There will be a limited number of shuttle carts on Camp Tontozona Rd. for limited mobility and disabled guests who may need assistance. Due to the expected large crowd and high volume of traffic, the shuttle service could potentially have a long wait. Fans should prepare for a long walk into Camp Tontozona from the parking areas.

Camp Tontozona is a beautiful place and a great tradition for fans of Arizona State football. The scrimmage is fun to watch and there is a great family atmosphere and vibe going on. However, after being only a couple times, I find it difficult to justify a return trip especially since I have lived in Tucson for the past nine years.

If you have never been, it’s a must-see, but plan accordingly.