PAYSON, Ariz. — Much of the offseason chatter surrounding the Arizona State football team has focused on its inexperienced quarterbacks and offensive linemen. With that in mind, Sun Devil offensive line coach Chris Thomsen asked his players a simple question on their first night at Camp Tontozona on Tuesday.
“Have you all heard it enough yet — that we’re the ones that are holding everything back?”, Thomsen said. “‘How sick are you of that? How ready are you to go prove that wrong?'”
It’s an easy motivational rallying cry for the troops, but with four new starters on the line and a new quarterback behind center, the reality is that ASU may need to simplify its offense to adjust to the many “green” players the maroon and gold will throw into the fire this season.
Coach Todd Graham acknowledged that likelihood at his season-opening press conference last week.
“I think that is probably one of the biggest things we need to adapt to,” he said. “We need to figure out that line of being able to execute but still keeping things simple. At the end of the day, what is important is to design a scheme that fits your players.”
The latter message is the one Graham and his staff are delivering to redshirt sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins and redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins, who are all still battling for the starting job after Mike Bercovici graduated.
“It’s not really just simplifying it; it’s not dumbing it down or making it for a less knowledgeable player,” Wilkins said. “It’s really just catering to the quarterback that is out on the field and doing the plays that that quarterback is comfortable with. We’re all capable of doing anything the coaches throw at us.”
Wilkins may feel that way, but Lindsey acknowledged a shift in thinking.
“Day one install is very, very short and simple for us. The reason for that is day two is going to be something different, so I don’t want a ton of stuff,” he said. “We don’t have five returning starters on the O-line. We don’t have an experienced quarterback so it wouldn’t make sense for us to come out and really throw a whole lot at them.
“When you get into game planning you have to tweak things, week to week, and you’ll add a wrinkle here and there, but we want to make sure we get really good at our base offense and be able to execute our foundation plays.”
In that respect, Lindsey’s arrival late last season to replace departed offensive coordinator Mike Norvell just before the Cactus Bowl seems beneficial.
“Coach Lindsey is a little bit different in his approach in that he doesn’t carry quite as much volume — in the run game especially (compared to) what coach Norvell did,” Thomsen said. “Having some guys who haven’t played as much transitioning into an offense that doesn’t do quite as much — the timing is pretty good on that and I think will help us.”
ASU will spend the next month of camp sorting out what works and what doesn’t before its season opener against Northern Arizona on Sept. 3. Even as his quarterbacks progress through the program from year to year, however, it’s not certain that Lindsey will expand the playbook as much as Norvell did with Taylor Kelly and Bercovici, both seniors.
“I’m a high school coach so it was important for us to keep it simple everywhere I have been,” Lindsey said. “For me, that’s the norm. I think it’s important to evaluate your team and build the offense around your guys and I’ve said that since I’ve been here.”