TEMPE – After weeks of holding spring practices at the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields, Arizona State closed out spring ball with the 2022 Spring Football Showcase, giving Sun Devil faithful a first look at the team under the bright lights of Sun Devil Stadium.
“It’s always fun to come into this stadium. It’s a special place,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “(The players) love coming in here and playing on the grass, the young guys and even some of the older guys. They don’t know how good it is until they see the fans in here, and the advantage we have with our fans.”
Sun Devil followers had a lot of questions about the team coming into the Spring Showcase, and most of them won’t be answered until the fall. That includes the outcome of a highly publicized battle at the quarterback position.
Another big question is how the defense will perform following the departure of numerous playmakers, including notable defensive standouts like defensive back Chase Lucas, defensive back Jack Jones, linebacker Darien Butler and defensive lineman D.J. Davidson.
Sun Devil fans weren’t the only ones curious to see how the defense was coming along.
Although they’re in the process of preparing for the NFL Draft, Lucas, Butler and Davidson were all on hand at Sun Devil Stadium to see how the new defense is going to look without them.
Although the scrimmage session of the Spring Showcase was nowhere near full game speed, a few defensive players were able to turn some heads, including senior defensive back Khoury Bethley.
A transfer from the University of Hawaii, Bethley delivered arguably the hardest hit of the night.
When it looked like junior quarterback Paul Tyson had connected with sophomore Chad Johnson Jr. for a sure-thing touchdown, Bethley blasted him in the end zone, separating Johnson and the ball while drawing an audible reaction from the crowd.
Overall, the ASU defensive coaching staff was pleased after the defense yielded only two touchdowns to the offense during the scripted 11-on-11 session of the night.
“If we’re going to be where we want to be, today was a good example,” said ASU defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez. “Even though we kept things very vanilla, and (secondary coach) Donnie (Henderson) wasn’t trying to do too much today, there’s just a lot of stuff that you leave on the field that there’s plenty to grow on. A lot of young guys have really grown up these past couple weeks, so it’s good progress.”
The secondary is an area Edwards believes the Sun Devils can still improve upon.
“It’s a position where we have a lot of talent, not a lot of experience per se, but I like our talent,” Edwards said. “I think the one thing you can’t give players is talent. And if we can just hone them in and get them focused in, there are some gifted players back there.”
However, Edwards thinks ASU could benefit from adding more players to the unit.
“We’re actually probably bringing in two more corners,” Edwards said. “I think we got seven or eight scholarships left, and there are some guys that we’re going to bring them in here. They’re ready to come, and we’re going to wait and see how things work out.”
A defensive back who did participate in Saturday’s Spring Showcase was redshirt freshman Isaiah Johnson, who played in only three games last season. He hopes to see more of the field this season after improving his skills during spring ball.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth throughout the spring, on and off the field,” Johnson said. “On the field, I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit more precise with my technique. Nothing really changed, I just got adjusted to the college speed.”
Johnson said he and the rest of the defense also used spring drills to make strides in their communication skills on the field.
“Communication is very important,” he said. “It starts with my side all the way across the field from the linebackers, to the lineman, to the other corners on the other side. All of that communication stuff helps the whole team, and the whole defense just becomes one and knows what’s going on throughout the game.”