Game Date (Kick-off Time): Thursday, Sept. 1 (7:00 p.m. PST)
Head Coach: Bob Biggs (19th season, 136-71-1)
Conference: Great West (Football Championship Subdivision)
2010 Record: 6-5 (3-1 Great West/2nd)
Honors Candidates: OL Robert Ayoette, Sr.; S Byron Gruendl, Jr.; K Sean Kelley, Sr.; OL Ray Wilburn, Jr.; QB Randy Wright, So.
9/1/11 at Arizona State
9/10/11 at Montana State
9/17/11 San Diego
9/24/11 at Hawaii
10/8/11 Humboldt State
10/15/11 UT-San Antonio
10/22/11 at South Dakota
10/29/11 at Southern Utah
11/12/11 North Dakota
11/19/11 at Sacramento State
at California (5-7 2010 record) (L, 52-3)
Portland State (2-9) (L, 41-33)
at San Diego (5-6) (W, 38-24)
at Weber State (6-5) (L, 20-9)
at San Jose State (1-12) (W, 14-13)
South Dakota (4-7) (W, 17-13)
South Alabama (10-0) (L, 24-21)
Southern Utah (6-5) (L, 55-24)
at North Dakota (3-8) (W, 35-16)
at Cal-Poly (7-4) (W, 22-21)
Sacramento State (6-5) (W, 17-16)
At quarterback, last year's Great West Rookie of the Year Randy Wright returns to guide the Aggie offense, however he will have his work cut out for him to begin the year as UC-Davis has to reload after losing its two main focal points in the pass game. Wright was effective and accurate during his debut year, completing 58.9-percent of his passes for 2,432 yards with 17 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Unfortunately for Wright, UC-Davis has painfully few playmakers on offense, as only one returning player on the roster caught more than 13 passes last year. The Aggies won't get much balance on the ground as they return one of the nation's poorest rush offenses, ranking in the bottom-10 in the FCS in 2010.
Running backs Josh Reese and Colton Silveria are listed as the candidates to start, with Marquis Nicolis and Nick Aprile behind them. Reese was a dual-threat as a rusher and receiver last season, ranking second on the team with 329 rushing yards and is the team's second-leading returning receiver with 27 catches for 163 yards in 2010. Aprile, the team's leading returning rusher with 389 yards last year, is also listed as the second-string fullback behind projected starter Mark Martindale.
Expected to operate with at least three receivers in each set, Corey Galindo is listed as the starter at the "H" spot, with Dwight Smith behind him. Anthony Soto, the team's leading returning receiver with 29 receptions for 344 yards in 2010, is slotted at the "X" position, with Alex Cannon as his backup. At the "Z" receiver role, Tom Hemmingsen stands on the first team, backed by T.J. King and Brooks Baker. With 13 receptions for 140 yards last year, Hemmingsen joins Soto as the only Aggie wide receivers on the game day depth chart to have caught a pass in 2010.
At tight end, Michael Cody and Taylor Sloat are the top two options, with Mark Martindale—also a fullback—as a third. Of the trio, only Cody was involved in the offense in 2010, catching five passes for 44 yards.
The offensive line figures to be one bright spot for UC-Davis on offense, as three upperclassmen—senior right tackle Robert Ayotte, junior left guard Sean Davies and junior center Ray Wilburn—are listed as starters. Sophomore right guard Jimmy Kunkel is listed as the starting right guard and left tackle Ian Joseph, a redshirt freshman, certainly will be placed in trial by fire by matching up with ASU's Junior Onyeali in his college debut.
The offensive line reserves included Aaron Colldeweigh (LT/RT), Tim Ketaily (LG), Ivan Perez (C) and Al Doiron (RG).
In the defensive front, Andrew Benjamin (32 tackles) and either Jacob Maxon (seven tackles) or Brock Galvin (39 tackles) will be the top options at tackle. In not too dissimilar form compared to ASU, the Aggies' tackles are on the lighter side, as the three primary starting options range in weight from 260-280 pounds. Anthony Kaspar and Nick King (two tackles) are listed as the remaining reserves.
UC-Davis boasts first-string experience on the edges, in senior left end starter Victor Lee (22 tackles) and junior right end Bobby Erksine (35 tackles). Tommy Grillo (20 tackles) will backup Lee, with Marques Barron behind Erksine.
One area of major concern for the Aggie defense is its complete lack of an established pass rush, as the returning defenders collectively tallied only 7.5 sacks in 2010.
The bulk of UC-Davis' defensive talent is found in its back seven, with an accomplished set of linebackers and a secondary that enters 2011 with great expectations. Jordan Glass (MIKE; 66 tackles), Byron Gruendl (WILL; 57 tackles) and Reese Ludwig (SAM) are slated to start at linebacker, with Ryan Dimino, Neil Pierce and Ryan O'Holleran (four tackles) as the respective reserves.
The secondary, expected to be a key strength of the team, includes cornerbacks Jonathan Perkins (39 tackles) and Jonathan Calhoun (13 tackles), with Jabari Howard as the top reserve. Fred Rice (six tackles), Andre Allen (39 tackles) and Alex Hines fill out the depth chart at cornerback.
Free safety is a position that seems somewhat unsettled with Kevyn Lewis (39 tackles) and Earnest Sayles III (five tackles) listed as potential starters, with Phillip Thrappas as their reserve. Patrick Shelton (seven tackles) is listed as the top strong safety, with Charles Boyett behind him.
UC-Davis features excellent kickers in Sean Kelley and punter Colton Schmidt. Alex Hines and Jonathan Perkins are slated to be the top kickoff returners, with Tom Hemmingsmen and Anthony Soto marked as options to return punts.
ASU Injury News and Lineup Notes
• Quarterback Brock Osweiler will be making his first career start in Sun Devil Stadium.
Keys to a Sun Devil Victory
Stay Focused and Stay Healthy
ASU can ill-afford to overlook the lower-division Aggies because of the gigantic matchup with Missouri looming eight days in the future. The team needs to execute with efficiency, build a sizeable lead and let the starters rest in the second half. Above all, ASU must remain healthy and not take any unnecessary risks.
Gain Confidence for Reserve Skill Players and Kickers
There are multiple running backs and wide receivers that figure to play a greater role than last year (or ever at ASU) including Kyle Middlebrooks, George Bell, Kevin Ozier and Rashad Ross. UC-Davis is a good opportunity to get these player some touches to prevent any jitters in the higher-profile games to follow.
When camp concluded, fewer issues were more concerning than the lack of consistency at placekicker. If Alex Garoutte can connect on a few attempts—even if they are chip shots—it can slowly build confidence for the first-year kicker.
Don't Be Afraid To Show Your Swagger
Though there's no need for first-team players to unnecessarily remain in the game during the late stages of a blowout, there's also no reason for ASU simply to coast off of the talent advantage. Playing aggressively in every facet of the game sends a message to future opponents and fans that this Sun Devil team is not one to be taken lightly.