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Sun Devil Football Practice Report: 10/9

Oct 9, 2020

As defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez walked into Kajikawa Practice Facility on Friday, he had just one question.

"You know what the worst thing is about the start of football practice?" 

Coach Rodriguez also had the answer.

"Nothing."

With a smile on his face, he and the Sun Devil Football squad took to the field for the first official practice of the 2020 season. The team has had the ability to work out and participate in individual and small group walk-throughs over the past several weeks, but Friday marked the first time the entire squad could get together to prepare for the 2020 opener against USC on Nov. 8 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

"For us, it was just business as usual." head coach Herm Edwards said as he sat down for a virtual press conference with the local media after the conclusion of practice. "We've been one of the fortunate teams to be able to go out in helmets and conduct things."

That remained the case on Friday, though Edwards noted Monday would be the first time the squad would get to put on the shoulder pads. 

Edwards liked what he saw from his players on Friday, enjoying the energy and calling it a "crisp practice".

With several position battles up for grabs, there was plenty of competitive moments throughout practice, full review of which you will find below:

WARM-UP SONGS

Dior (Bonus) – Pop Smoke 

Trapper – Foogiano ft. Lil Baby

OFFENSIVE TWO-DEEP 
 

Quarterback

Jayden Daniels

Trenton Bourguet

Running Back

Rachaad White

DeaMonte Trayanum/Daniyel Ngata 

Wide Receiver

Frank Darby 

Geordon Porter

Wide Receiver

Ricky Pearsall

LV Bunkley-Shelton

Wide Receiver

Johnny Wilson

Andre Johnson

Tight End

Curtis Hodges/Case Hatch

Kyle Horn/Nolan Matthews

Left Tackle

Kellen Diesch

Ralph Frias

Left Guard

Dohnovan West

Roman DeWys

Center

Cade Cote

Jarrett Bell

Right Guard

Henry Hattis

Ben Bray

Right Tackle

LaDarius Henderson/Ben Scott

Notes: 

  • Several players were held out or limited on Day One and are not accounted for in the on-the-field depth chart
     
  • Daylin McLemore got second and third team reps at quarterback throughout practice but spent a lot of his time engaged and sending in the plays from the sideline.
  • During other 11-on-11 periods, Daniyel Ngata and DeaMonte Trayanum appeared with the first team at running back.

  • LV Bunkley-Shelton made numerous appearances with the first team offense throughout practice, exchanging first team reps with Ricky Pearsall

  • Brandon Pierce was eased back into practice but got a couple looks at wide receiver as well in one-on-one and skeleton drills

  • Ben Scott and LaDarius Henderson exchanged looks at first-team right tackle.

  • Case Hatch appeared often as a blocking tight end and h-back with the first team. Nolan Matthews earned a couple looks at tight end and John Stivers got looks in run formations as a blocking tight end. 

DEFENSIVE TWO-DEEP

Defensive End

Tyler Johnson

Stanley Lambert

Alexander Randle

Defensive Tackle

Jermayne Lole

Stephon Wright

Corey Stephens

Nose Tackle

D.J. Davidson

T.J. Pesefea

Defensive End*

Shannon Forman

Joe Moore

Anthonie Cooper

Linebacker

Merlin Robertson

Jordan Banks

Linebacker

Darien Butler

Caleb McCullough

Linebacker

Kyle Soelle

Will Shaffer

Connor Soelle

Cornerback

Chase Lucas

Timarcus Davis

Nickelback*

Jordan Clark

T Lee

Safety

Evan Fields

DeAndre Pierce

Safety

Aashari Crosswell

Kejuan Markham

KJ Jarrell

Cornerback

Jack Jones

Macen Williams/Ed Woods

Notes:

  • *-Nickelback and Defensive end positions rotated on/off the field based on the formation
     
  • Several players were held out or limited on Day One and are not accounted for in the on-the-field depth chart
  • T.J. Pesefea rotated in frequently with the first team at defensive tackle and nose tackle

  • Timarcus Davis rotated in with the first-team and shadowed Chase Lucas throughout practice

  • Stanley Lambert utilized as pass rush specialist on first-team replacing Forman at defensive end

  • Corey Stephens saw a good amount of reps with the second team playing inside along with Stephon Wright

  • Anthonie Cooper offers versatility on the defensive line, as he got a look at second-team defensive end and defensive tackle.

KICK/PUNT RETURN TWO-DEEP

Kick Return

Rachaad White

Geordon Porter

Daniyel Ngata/Jack Jones

Punt Return

LV Bunkley-Shelton

Jack Jones

Rachaad White

A CLEAN SHEET

  • No quarterback threw an interception on the day and, according to the coaching staff, no wide receiver had a drop. 

LET'S BE FRANK

  • The Sun Devils saw everything they could have wanted out of Frank Darby in his transition to the role of X receiver. His leadership abilities were evident throughout practice, constantly getting on some of the younger players to finish plays and providing his typical exuberance.

  • One humorous moment came with the quarterbacks working on route running with their receivers early in practice. Head Coach Herm Edwards challenged Jayden Daniels to hit Darby on a new route to which Darby came back to the ball while Daniels sailed it in the miscommunication. "I'm coming back to you on that one, 5!" Darby yelled while Edwards wasted no time giving Daniels grief. "Hey 5, you need to practice, too!" After the exchange, Darby asked Daniels for another rep while the rest of the quarterbacks and wide receivers shifted to the next drill. The duo connected perfectly the second time around.

  • Darby was quick to take responsibility for his own mistakes as well, taking credit for a false start on the offensive line and immediately coming to the sideline to knock out a set of push-ups.

  • While the leadership skills were evident, his own football skills were on display throughout. Known for his abilities as a deep threat, Darby spent the majority of practice working the short to intermediate routes and was clearly a favorite target for Daniels. 

  • He went toe-to-toe in one-on-one drills with senior corner Chase Lucas - also his roommate. Darby put on a clinic in his first couple reps before Lucas caught on and the two battled throughout.

  • By the end of the day, the defense had keyed on Darby and worked to limit him in later 11-on-11 periods, opening the door for LV Bunkley-Shelton to shine. 

D.J. AND T.J.

  • Interior linemen D.J. Davidson and T.J. Pesefea had dominant moments throughout practice and were constantly wreaking havoc in the Sun Devil offensive backfield. 

  • Davidson was recognized by Robert Rodriguez several times for his technique and form when taking part in the block shedding drill where most D-lineman were utilizing a swim move.

  • Pesefea also excelled in individual drills, looking to be in great shape and showing explosiveness throughout practice. 

  • Pesefea had two sacks in a five-play span during 11-on-11 drills and might have had another if not for a clear hold.

  • Davidson had at least two sacks and three tackles for loss in the 11-on-11 periods as well.

  • Last season, Davidson was tied for 35th among all defensive interior linemen nationally with a run-stop percentage of 7.8 on the season. His 22 total stops on run plays were tied for 22nd among FBS interior linemen last season.

JACK'S BACK

  • Senior corner Jack Jones took to the field with a renewed sense of purpose and energy and rivaled Frank Darby's usually unprecedented energy levels at times throughout Friday.

  • He was heavily invested in every rep and made sure the offense knew about it.

  • The senior showed it wasn't all talk though and emphasized he wanted to switch to the Number 0 this season because that's the amount of catches he wanted to allow. He did exactly that in 11-on-11 periods, not allowing a catch on a man in his coverage on the day.

  • In the one-on-one period, Jones had the most "wins" among the defensive players with three - including a breakup on the second rep. 

CHAAD OUT OF A CANNON

  • Coaches have spent several weeks raving about junior college transfer Rachaad White and the running back backed up the claims on Friday.

  • White showed a ton of patience followed by explosiveness in hitting the hole and approached practice with a veteran presence.

  • There were only three standout "explosive" runs on the day and all three came by way of White, who had a pair of long gains around left tackle Kellen Diesch and a late rep where he let Dohnovan West bulldoze the field in front of him for another big chunk. 

  • White also took first team reps at kick return in the special teams portion of practice.

LV'ING LA VIDA VOCA

  • Coaches weren't the only ones impressed by true freshman LV Bunkley-Shelton with sophomore captain Case Hatch absolutely raving about the youngster after practice. "That kid is an animal. Oh my gosh, he's one of my favorite kids that just came in. When you see him in practice, this kid never takes a rep off. Every single rep, he's doing something crazy. Even today at practice, he blew my mind. He had this insane catch across the middle. I'm like, 'How is this even possible for this kid?' But he's a great kid."

  • Bunkley-Shelton had the Stick 'Em on the gloves today, making numerous contested catches in coverage including an exceptional one in a one-on-one drill with Jordan Clark. Clark did absolutely everything you could do as a defender and Bunkley-Shelton still made the snag and took it to the house. 

SEEN AND HEARD

  • During 7-on-7 drills, former Sun Devil defensive backs coach and current Sun Devil consultant Donnie Henderson was standing alone on the sideline down the field and in the right place at the right time to catch an overthrown ball caused by significant defensive pressure and solid coverage down the field.  Chase Lucas was in the area in coverage and was elated by the snag and claimed a turnover for the defense. It would have been the only interception of the day. Donnie Henderson looked to his former protege and current Sun Devil Deputy Athletics Director Jean Boyd – "I couldn't get out of the way, so I caught it."

  • Zak Hill emphasized with his running backs and quarters on handoff drills to develop a sense of urgency and game-readiness in every practice rep. 

  • Robert Rodriguez ran a "block/stab" drill with the defensive line, which emphasized hand placement. The concept was to block the hands of the offensive lineman and stab with their hands.

  • Redshirt freshman Anthonie Cooper started the day at third team defensive tackle but didn't stay there long, receiving several looks on the first team throughout the session. In o-line/d-line drills, Rodriguez actually had to tell Cooper to take it down a notch with his pace in order to give the offensive line a fair chance to accomplish what they needed to get done. 

  • The intensity was ramped up in one-on-one drills between the receivers and defensive backs. After his second straight dominant rep over Aashari Crosswell, Curtis Hodges engaged in a little friendly banter. Crosswell took exception and on the third rep, promptly stuffed Hodges at the line before he could even get off. Crosswell had his say afterwards but cooler heads prevailed, something the coaches were quick to recognize as a sign of maturity from Hodges not to respond. 

  • LV Bunkley-Shelton caught fire as practice went on and the final 11-on-11 periods featured the freshmen making a slew of catches in coverage. The success gave the youngster a bit of confidence and he started to let the defenders know before senior corner Jack Jones quickly checked the freshman, "I know you're not talking, Number Three." 

  • Jones was chatty throughout the day and showed plenty of personality, attempting to sneak into the offensive huddle and at numerous times pleading to run routes at receiver. 

  • Despite it being a "non-contact" day without the pads, freshman running back Daniyel Ngata took his fair share of lumps but showed some pretty impressive resilience as he would get knocked down and the play would be blown dead but he would get back up and finish out his runs down the field. 

  • Ricky Pearsall and Nolan Matthews had the most "wins" in one-on-one drills with the secondary. Matthews capped the session with an impressive one-handed grab while Pearsall's last rep was a one of the most impressive as the redshirt freshman dusted his defender and Jayden Daniels had a perfectly thrown deep ball for a touchdown. Pearsall dunked the ball over the goalpost for good measure.

  • The offense and defense were fairly matched in the one-one-one period with the offense getting two "wins" each from Frank Darby, Curtis Hodges, Brandon Pierce and LV Bunkley-Shelton while the defense saw two wins from Macen Williams, Timarcus Davis and Ed Woods.