With an eye on playing better in the latter stages of the season, Arizona State football coach Dirk Koetter used three more scholarship freshmen against Texas-El Paso than had been publicly announced.
Zach Miller, the former Desert Vista High School All-American, started the game at H-back as expected.
But in the fourth quarter of the 41-9 victory, tight end Andrew Pettes, wide receivercornerback Jeremy Payton, and Devil back Antone Saulsbury also played. Additionally, first-year walk-on Rodney Cox played.
Unless they are injured, they can’t be redshirted this season.
"We felt that looking down the road we always get to those last four Pac-10 teams and we’re running out of bodies on special teams," Koetter said. "Every week we’d go, ‘who are we going to play on special teams?’ We just said there’s four guys that if we play them now, and we keep working them, those four guys will be able to help us in the stretch run."
Koetter is 2-10 in the regular season after Oct. 31 during his three seasons at ASU, the only victories coming against Arizona.
"And it’s not like we’ve been a juggernaut in November lately," he added wryly. "We’re trying to plan for November."
Koetter said Pettes, from Phoenix Moon Valley, is playing himself into more than special teams duty.
"He’s made huge strides the last few weeks," the ASU coach said. "He’s closed the gap on the second group," of sophomore Jamaal Lewis and redshirt freshman Brent Miller. "I wouldn’t count him out, he’s getting better and better."
Payton played both receiver and cornerback. Saulsbury is considered ASU’s top prospect for the Devil back position.
Cox is a 6-foot, 194-pound defensive back from Compton, Calif. He graduated from Cathedral High School.
Sophomore Stephen Berg of Tucson will move into the left guard spot replacing Brandon Rodd, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
Koetter said with only nine healthy varsity offensive linemen, Berg will also practice at tackle to give starters Chaz White and Andrew Carnahan a rest.
Freshman Leo Talavou, who is redshirting at right guard, will be practicing with the second unit at left guard so Berg can practice at tackle
The swelling in Rodd’s right knee was so extensive doctors don’t yet know the extent of the injury.
The performance of backup safeties Daniel Varvel and Maurice London was encouraging, Koetter said.
"What that does is, if we do get into a bind at corner, and Riccardo (Stewart) stays healthy, we can always work (safety Emmanuel Franklin) some at corner," Koetter said.
Franklin jammed the thumb on his right hand. He was to have it X-rayed Friday. Franklin, incidently, was misaligned on his scoring interception return.
"We said if you’re going to make mistakes, make them at full speed, and he did," Koetter said.