August 9, 2006

Fall Camp 8/8: Sights and Sounds

The well-conditioned Sun Devils have appeared ready to strap on the pads for several days now and so it should come as no surprise that they really got after it on both sides of the ball on Tuesday evening when they got their first opportunity to do a bit of hitting -- and really it was just a bit; enough to leave everyone wanting more -- at the Kajikawa practice facility. Here is our "sights and sounds" edition from the session.

-It's understandable that the players are ready to turn up the intensity now that they're in pads, but what gave us chills was seeing running backs coach John Wrenn working with his impressive group as they began to do some hitting for the first time. Wrenn is a legendary high school coach that Dirk Koetter said he'd been watching for many years just in case the right opportunity presented itself and sure enough, it happened and it was something Wrenn couldn't pass up. Wrenn kept calling out how much he was loving it, to nobody in particular and yet everyone around him and he had a smile on his face all the while. But he wasn't slacking off in his coaching duties by any means. Just as we noticed that Ryan Torain was going a bit soft in a heads-up drill, on the second rep Wrenn seemingly grew eyes in the back of his head and saw what we noticed and made sure the problem was corrected.

-With Loren Howard and Tranell Morant out of action and day-to-day with minor muscle tweaks, it was time for others to step up at defensive end in practice yesterday and today and nobody answered the call more than Dexter Davis. He had a couple of quarterback "sacks" yesterday and followed that up with another strong performance on Tuesday evening. While Will Kofe also had a nice sack on Tuesday and a solid overall showing, it was Davis who demonstrated that he's ready to make plays when called upon to do so. He's not an outwardly emotional guy but he goes about his business with a solid ethic and it's paying off.

-The wide receivers have looked quite good as a whole over the last couple practices, though Terry Richardson has had more than his share of drops this week. He seems to be letting the ball get in on him too much as opposed to catching it out in front of him. Others, like Jamaal Lewis, Rudy Burges, Mike Jones and Chris McGaha have done a really nice job in this regard. Jones did have one drop this evening on a deep ball that was very well thrown by Rudy Carpenter (I believe) and to mentally atone, he went back to his group and knocked out a run of push ups.

-Sam Keller came on today in a manner that was very impressive. Physically he looks quite healthy, he has velocity on his throws and they are coming out of his hand quite nicely and just looking like they should. He was making nice reads, was accurate for the most part and had great poise in the pocket. Carpenter played relatively well and put up that nice looking deep ball he's good at but he didn't appear to be quite as poised in the pocket as Keller and his intermediate and shorter range throws weren't quite as accurate as he's normally accustomed to throwing them.

-It was a major difference having Zach Catanese out of an orange jersey on Tuesday and in the hunt for guys to put a lick on from his safety position. Catanese came up and made several plays on crossing-type routes and he was flying all over the field, as was his first-team running mate Josh Barrett, who had his best practice of camp in our viewings. Barrett is such a phenomenal athlete at 227 pounds, it's really beyond words. It's hard to imagine there will be a better starting duo in the Pac-10 this year than these two guys.

-The play of the cornerbacks was better than any day we've seen thus far in camp. After some shaky play over the last couple of days, Keno Walter-White stepped his camp up in a big way and was breaking up passes all over, it seemed. Justin Tryon also played well and we have to give some recognition to coach Al Simmons, who picked up on Travis Smith giving too much room off the line to a receiver, and began calling out to Smith to move up. Smith didn't listen or perhaps couldn't hear him and he got roasted on an inside slat that might have gone for six points. The key here is not that Smith made a mistake -- he actually had a pretty good day -- it's that Simmons was so on his game and aware of what was about to happen.

-One of the more physically impressive players on the defense Tuesday was Chris Baloney, but where we mistaken when we saw him line up at what appeared to be a weakside linebacker position? This guy is very well put together at 6-foot and 190 pounds and he can play a number of positions from corner to nickelback to safety and maybe, just maybe, a bit of outside 'backer in certain situations. Regardless of where he's at on the field, Baloney is very quick and aggressive.

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