While its offense has looked much improved through the early portion of fall camp, Arizona State got a more significant test Wednesday morning during the first live hitting scrimmage, which ran 39-plays.
Don't mistake it as a final exam though, with sophomore end Junior Onyeali (rib cage muscle) and sophomore tackle William Sutton (headaches) sitting out, the defense's four man pass rush wasn't operating at its peak.
As a result, the offensive line held up very well, providing junior quarterback Brock Osweiler with downfield opportunities and he took advantage, hitting with senior receiver Aaron Pflugrad for a 45-yard touchdown and sophomore tight end Chris Coyle on a 30-plus yard catch.
All told, Osweiler completed 9 of 12 passes, with about half of his throws swing passes. Those passes were generally shut down by a defense that successfully swarmed to the football when asked to make plays coming forward.
"Some goods and bads on both sides," Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said. "The first couple series the No. 1 defense pretty much dominated, and then the offense came back and made some big plays. Consistency offensively wasn't there like I had hoped. But that's the first time we went 40 plays. We'll know a heck of a lot more Saturday when we go for a longer period of time. Our corners I thought played real well in the beginning, and did some darn good things. So it's about what I expected for the first time."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Kelly connected with junior Rashad Ross on the longest play from scrimmage, over 50 yards.
The Sun Devils generated the vast majority of their yards from scrimmage on three big passing plays and a big run by junior running back Cameron Marshall.
Erickson said Pflugrad's transition to outside receiver, which began in the spring after a bout of vertigo, is now staring to look as though it was pay dividends. The receiver and Osweiler bonded in the summer, running and throwing together nearly every day.
"He's awesome," Erickson said. "His work ethic is unbelievable. And he can catch it and run. You get him 1-on-1, he's kind of like those little guys that play in the (NFL.) But he's special for us."
ASU's defense was largely solid last season but gave up too many explosive plays on breakdowns in the secondary. That may again be it's biggest concern entering 2011. With junior corner Deveron Carr still nursing a hamstring strain and redshirt freshman corner Devan Spann out with his second shoulder separation of camp, sophomore Osahon Irabor was the only participant at the position Wednesday with any playing experience. Sophomore walk-on Harrison Evens struggled at times in heavy action and true freshman Rashad Wadood also saw action.
With three solid offensive tackles locked in place and senior guard Adam Tello still recovering from back surgery, redshirt freshman Jamil Douglas got some looks at left guard with the second-team. Senior
Senior cornerback Omar Bolden ran at about half speed across the field in 50-yard spurts. He also jumped around and slapped helmets with teammates while celebrating strong plays from the defense.