April 13, 2008

Scrimmage analysis

The following is a position-by-position look at how many of the Sun Devils performed in Saturday's scrimmage, and especially in the context of how well they've played in the spring to this point.

Quarterback -- For the most part the singal-callers all took what was there, made relatively accurate throws and weren't afraid to throw it away. Coverage was generally pretty good by the defense so passing numbers weren't anything to brag about but they were OK.

There were a few really big plays, the biggest of which, a 51 yard reception from Rudy Carpenter to Kerry Taylor for a touchdown (it was a jump ball with Taylor and Terell Carr both catching it and Taylor winding up with it as they hit the ground) was brought back because the coaches basically overruled the officials and called it a sack (QBs aren't hit in these scrimmages so it's a judgement call).

Carpenter has been pretty consistent this spring and today was no exception. His favorite targets have been Taylor and Chris McGaha, and as has been the case we saw a number (but fewer than last Saturday) of screens and other short passes to backs and hot route type receivers.

Danny Sullivan wasn't quite as on as the last scrimmage, while Chasen Stangel had a better day, completing half his throws and doing so rolling out on a lot of plays.

The third and fourth team QB didn't get the same pass protection as the others and they're working primarily with walk-ons receivers which makes it tough.

Samson Szakacsy's lack of arm strength nearly resulted in a "Pick Six" but Max Tabach dropped the ball. Szakacsy is extremely mobile, as we know, but he can't get the ball to its intentended target as quickly as it needs to get there as yet, and that's just on intermediate routes. His ball velocity needs to improve by the fall as he comes back from the surgery and hopefully it will.

Running Backs -- The guys who stood today were Jarrell Woods and Shaun DeWitty. If Woods didn't have two fumbles he would have been maybe the offensive player of the scrimmage. One of the fumbles you can't really blame him for because as soon as he got the ball, Luis Vasquez had his hand on it as well and he didn't have time to really secure it. A second fumble later was a clear mistake. But Woods ran so hard, he was carrying defenders and just showing great effort. He squats over 600 pounds and some say he's the strongest on the team pound for pound and you saw that today. He had six carries for 30 yards and one catch for nine yards.

DeWitty also ran hard and three carries for 14 yards. It's easy to make a case that either Woods or DeWitty should be the short yardage back even though Dimitri Nance is now 220 pounds. Nance is more of a nimble inside runner than a power back regardless of weight and strength. Neither Nance nor Keegan Herring did much today but also neither had a lot of room to operate and few holes to squeeze through on their attempts.

Wide Receivers -- Taylor was very good and that's been the case all spring. He's perhaps the spring offensive top performer as of right now. He's probably passed Kyle Williams on the depth chart in the slot or is close to doing so. But he's also capable of playing on the outside without a problem. He may be the most versatile receiver on the team. His route running and ability to get open is impressive. He's shifty in open space.

What is really something that could work for ASU is when it goes 4-wide with Taylor and Williams both in the slot on opposite sides. That's bound to create mismatches unless a team brings in extra DBs. Brandon Smith has stepped up this spring with Mike Jones not playing due to baseball but Smith dropped two balls today that should have been caught, one of which wasn't ruled a catch but should have been. He also was yelled at by Erickson after breaking off a deep go-type route before realizing the ball was being thrown to him and trying to make it up late in the route, but by then it was too late. He did recovery a Williams fumble on the 1-yard line after Williams' 33 yard catch in the end zone for a TD.

Tight End -- The surprise of the day may have been Wes Evans, who stepped into action and had three catches for 35 yards. He did a really good job finding soft spots with his routes and running well after the catch and I didn't notice any really glaring mistakes on the inside either. He plays hard, handles his assignments relatively well, is tough and might be able to provide some depth.

Lance Evbuomwan dropped what should have been an easy TD grab which is a shame because he's been doing a lot better in practice with his blocking and effort. He did have two catches for nine yards and has at least put himself in a position where there will be interest to see how he does in camps.

Offensive Line -- Substantially fewer penalties and mistakes overall from this group over last Saturday's scrimmage. They weren't thrown as many blitzes their way because Dennis Erickson, I belive, wanted them to get a chance to just block more generic defensive calls and build confidence.

The offensive tackles showed improvement with pass protection. Shawn Lauvao had some nice blocks when pulling in the run game, but he and especially Thomas Altieri let DT David Bertrand create a little too much havoc inside. Richard Tuitu'u and Paul Fanaika looked to have pretty solid performances on the right side.

Defensive Line -- Bertrand and Paul Unga made the biggest impressions inside. Bertrand is not going away any time soon in this competition for a spot in the regular rotation at tackle. Unga is quicker than most of the other DTs on the team and even though he's not as physically strong as the others, he used that speed advantage to get two sacks. It may have been his best day of the spring and you can't count him out for a backup role.

The DEs didn't do nearly as much today as the last scrimmage which is a credit primarily to the OTs. Dexter Davis and James Brooks did each have one sack but that was really about it and those were as much coverage issues downfield as anything else. Vasquez had a hurry and the caused fumble. DE is still a team strength though when you look at overall peformance but the depth is questionable.

Linebacker -- Gerald Munns and Mike Nixon did a great job and were everywhere. They blew up some plays and were consistent with tackling in space against backs.

Travis Goethel was only credited with two tackles but without looking at film it appeared he handled his assigments better today.

Morris Wooten had some smash hits and one fumble recovery and one fumble caused. He brought the wood, but he also appeared to be in the wrong gap at least twice just watching it live.

Anthony Reyes continues to be one of our favorite walk-ons. He brings it every day and had like five tackles, the most of anyone. Coming up against the run he's very solid.

Chad Lindsey had two nice plays including one of the bigger hits of the day. He's done well this spring, but there is so much talent ahead of him at the position.

Oliver Aaron also had one of the biggest hits of the day, but otherwise do anything that particularly stood out.

Defensive backs -- Overall, coverage was good today, guys were where they needed to be on the field. I didn't notice more than few players significantly out of place, maybe the deep safety once or twice not having as much depth as he should have. That's about it.

Troy Nolan had four tackles. His spring has been quiet but efficient, just like today. Jeremy Payton had four tackles. He didn't get over to help Carr on one play as quickly as he should have but he played fine overall.

The corners more than held their own today. Terell Carr was beaten once or twice but not nearly as much as last weekend or in general the last couple weeks with the first-team. He had one good pass breakup and three tackles. The critical play, he was in position for the interception of the 51 yarder deep but just didn't come up with it. Problem is, the WR did. In that situation, he has to knock it down as opposed to try to grab it. What is good about about Carr is he continues to show good tackling form and he keeps plays in front of him almost always. Not a lot of yards-after-catch allowed by Carr. He did, however, get owned by Nance on one play where he went low for the tackle and Nance brushed him off.

Omar Bolden had a few balls caught on his side, which is more than the usual zero he gives up (OK, maybe not zero, but he doesn't yield much) but still nothing major.

Seeing walk-on Pierre Singfield move past him on the depth chart may have been motivation for Grant Crunkleton because Crunkleton had two pass breakups and didn't give up much of anything today. It might have been his best day thus far. Singfield was also playing fine, three tackles, one forced fumble, keeping plays in front of him. If anyone struggled a bit it was probably Travis Smith. But it wasn't a bad outing by any of them.

Special Teams -- Weber made all three kicks including one from 49 and one from 51 yards. Richards made both of his, including one from 42. In punting, Weber boomed one from the back of the end zone over 60 yards in the air with great height and he hit a line drive shot over 60 yards off a bounce pass from snapper Thomas Ohmart. It was the one really bad snap of the day. Punt returns were not really live hitting to prevent injury.

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