A long day that included a team appearance at Pat's Run in the morning led to a sluggish start to Arizona State's 2 p.m. scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium, but by the time it was over, the Sun Devils put on a pretty good show for several hundred fans who braved mid-90 degree temperatures.
Mistake-prone, lethargic play early in the scrimmage on both sides of the football had offensive line coach Gregg Smith occasionally calling out, "come on, hurry up," and other staff members bemoaning dropped passed and missed assignments. But once junior quarterback Brock Osweiler got the offense into gear, it performed smoothly, and ASU finished with three touchdowns on the afternoon.
Osweiler, who finished 13 of 21 for 145 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, moved the Sun Devils to their first south end zone visit in the third series of the day, culminating with a scoring reception from junior A.J. Pickens, who was aided by an excellent perimeter block by senior Gerell Robinson.
"I thought it went well," Osweiler said. "Obviously it wasn't perfect by any means but it wasn't bad. I think the biggest thing in spring ball is as long as you get better in certain areas every single day and improve on the things you maybe didn't do so well during the week I consider the day a success and I thought that's what we did today. There were a few errors, a few turnovers, but at the same time we made plays. I'm happy with today and I think as long as we keep getting better we'll be alright."
Junior running back Cameron Marshall had a short touchdown run on Osweiler's next series, a quick 3-play strike with came in large part to an electric 51 yard run by sophomore Kyle Middlebrooks, who skirted multiple defenders in space before eventually being brought down.
Freshman quarterback Michael Bercovici came out briskly in his first series of the day following Osweiler's second touchdown-producing drive, ensuring the energy stayed at an elevated level.
"That's something I pride myself on," said Bercovici, who finished 7-of-19 for 124 yards, numbers which belied how impressive his buzz-worthy performance was. "Those guys, they've been out here for a couple reps, it's my turn to get in and I'm fresh, so I've got to pick up the energy. It starts with the o-linemen, those guys can get tired pretty easily sometimes so if I pick them up and everything is flowing well, one play sparks a drive in this offense because we're so fast getting up to the ball as fast as we can in this offense.
"It's just really important that we do the little things right and the mental mistakes eliminate as fast as we can. That's what our offense is about, three, four (yards), there goes a 50 yard throw and that's what's important."
Bercovici didn't throw any touchdowns in his first Sun Devil Stadium appearance, but his infusion of energy was sustained in Osweiler's subsequent drive, which resulted in his second touchdown pass of the day, an 11-yard strike to Miles, who motioned across the field, received the ball in the flat and used a good block to reach the end zone untouched.
"I did some things I haven't done before," Osweiler said. "I threw the ball away in the red zone and the next play was a touchdown, where maybe a year ago I would have forced something and there would have been a turnover. And then at times, especially at the start of the scrimmage, we started slow and any time an offense starts slow, I put the blame right on myself. I'm the head of the offense and if we don't move, that's my problem. Today was a good day, I got better in certain areas but there's always room to improve."
Secondary makes plays
Though the offense had an improved performance, it didn't come through the scrimmage unscathed. Osweiler had a poorly located and perhaps slightly late throw to sophomore J.J. Holliday that was grabbed by a well located sophomore corner Osahon Irabor. Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly was picked off on a wildly inaccurate pass by sophomore cornerback Harrison Evens and later, Kelly was intercepted by senior safety Jonathan Clark on a play where Clark broke hard on the play before Kelly had even released the football.
Walk-ons stand tall
With ASU coach Dennis Erickson playing reserves extensively in order to avoid injury, several walk-ons who regularly are with the third team defense, had big performances. Sophomore linebacker Grandville Taylor made three impressive tackles, showing surprisingly explosive burst and sure tackling.
"It feels great man, I walked on to the team two years ago, I'm just out here working hard every day, trying to move up the ladder, represent my school to the fullest, my family, my city, San Francisco," Taylor said. "When I first came I was a little kid, 210 pounds, been working hard in the weight room, now I'm up to 230 pounds. I want to be a part of this defense. I'm excited about the future."
Not to be outdone, sophomore linebacker Brandon Johnson had perhaps the most vicious hit of the spring when he tackled junior walk-on running back R.J. Robinson, who received seven carries and caught two passes for a net of 15 yards.