It wasn't just perspiration that had Arizona State football coach Dirk Koetter aglow after the Sun Devils practiced in pads for the first time Wednesday.
“For the first day of pads, even though it's half pads, our tempo was really strong today," Koetter said. “That team period was scary — the speed of it. That was like game tempo out there.
“We're going to have to learn to really help each other practice or else we're never going to last the whole season. We're going to beat the hell out of each other."
Koetter said he was impressed with the play on both sides of the ball. One of the players drawing the highest praise was 6-foot-3, 256-pound freshman defensive end Kyle Caldwell, a Saguaro High School product.
“Kyle was unbelievable," Koetter said. "I've never seen a freshman be able to bull-rush like that. He's going to have to develop some moves and he's going to play against some better guys and some guys who are more polished pass blockers, but that guy is pure, raw speed and power. Wow!"
ASU practices one more time in the Valley — 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. today — before heading up to Camp Tontozona on Friday for a full-pads workout at 3:30 p.m.
Koetter said Wednesday that incumbent Josh Golden and Emmanuel Franklin, who missed last season after undergoing brain surgery, are locked in a battle for the starting cornerback spot opposite R.J. Oliver. Koetter said Glendale Community College product Chris McKenzie is still in the mix because of his speed and athleticism, but:
“(Chris) is still learning how to make the transition from juco to Pac-10."
With Josh Amobi, Mason Unck and Solomon Bates all having moved on, the linebacker position is one of the biggest question marks for the Sun Devils.
Junior college transfer Justin Burks and sophomore Jamar Williams, who played in 13 games and started one last year, are the leading candidates, but Koetter admitted it will take time for the duo to fill the shoes of last season's standout core.
“There's going to be some growing pains at linebacker because of the inexperience, but that's what college football is," he said. "You've got guys coming and going and we'll just have to make the best of it."
Receiver Matt Miller, a Mountain View High product, sat out Wednesday with a hamstring injury; Koetter said it is nothing to worry about.