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August 16, 2012PAYSON -- By his own admission, Arizona State freshman quarterback Michael Eubank couldn't make nearly all the throws he wanted to during spring practices down the field.
He was leaving balls short, or too long or without the right touch despite the 6-foot-5 gunslinger's arm being big enough to hit all of them.
Well, what a difference a few months can make.
Eubank showcased a much improved arsenal of passes Wednesday on the first day of Camp Tontozona practices, completing not only the check down throws, but also the deep balls.
"He has one of the strongest arms I've seen personally," ASU junior wide receiver J.J. Holliday said. "Every time I'm running a deep route I've got to make sure I'm going full speed because I know it's going to get there. It's great, I love the deep ball, that's why I play football."
Eubank credited much of his improvement to working not only on the home run passes, but the shorter ones as well. Making sure he could complete the easy passes made him more confident to take shots down field.
"Every single throw has been a focal point, in the spring I wasn't really able to complete that many passes," he said. "During the summer, I just worked on everything, my shorts, my intermediates, my swings and my longs. Just everything that requires me to throw the ball and it's helped a lot."
The tempo of the Sun Devils' offense also helped Eubank to not force any throws when they aren't there.
"We have a rhythm offense, it's 1-2-3 go and if something is not there as soon as it's supposed to be, you go to your other options and check down," he said. "But you're already peaking at your check downs while you're looking so if it's not there you just take off."
The quarterback's offseason work has already impressed the coaching staff, with Eubank competing with sophomore Taylor Kelly for the starting job over sophomore Mike Bercovici. But more than that, Eubank is also turning heads of his teammates as well.
"Eubank is a great passer, I've just seen his mechanics gotten so much better, and I met him in March," ASU junior wide receiver Alonzo Agwuenu said. "I believe that's what he's going to keep doing, get better and better."
Onyeali on the move
In the newly installed 3-3-5 stack defense, ASU junior defensive end Junior Onyeali saw time at the field side end position Wednesday, a change from where he has typically lined up this fall with the second team at devil backer in the middle of the stack scheme and rushing off the edge in other looks.
"I love it, I love playing the position," Onyeali said. "It's fun, as long as I am rushing the passer, I'm good. It's what I love to do. I have no problem moving around. We're making sure we're going to be successful in the end."
The move paid off in a big way Wednesday afternoon when Onyeali intercepted sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly as he was trying to throw a screen pass over him.
"I just read the screen," he said. "I was surprised he threw it to me."
Although he missed Wednesday's first practice with mild knee inflammation, ASU junior defensive lineman Mike Pennel was back in action for the afternoon session, participating fully and reporting he felt good.
"Everything is fine," he said. "I had a little bit of soreness in my knee that they had to handle but everything is fine now."
While he sat out the morning practice, Pennel spent his time training at what coach Todd Graham likes to call "muscle beach." Players there ride stationary bikes, pull rope, do push ups and dips and go through other non-contact drills to help productively pass the time.
"I have to say it's actually a little bit harder than actual practice," Pennel said. "We tried to sing, but they hushed us up, they want to keep our spirits down. We're not supposed to want to be over there."
ASU junior defensive tackle Jake Sheffield missed both practices on Wednesday with issues from leftover scar tissue in his left calf. He's been out a majority of camp to this point.