Spring Practice Preview Roundtable

Devils Digest's staff of Byron Kline, Joe Healey, Kyle Caldwell and Hod Rabino each take a comprehensive look at the state of the Sun Devils entering this year's spring practice.

Byron Kline

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on offense?

Can Taylor Kelly take the next step?

Taylor Kelly surprised most Sun Devil fans by wrestling away the starting job late last Fall and then had one of the better seasons of any Arizona State signal caller in recent years by setting a school record for completion percentage (67.1%) and finishing ninth nationally in passing efficiency (159.88). For the season, Kelly passed for 29 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. But in the team's final 6 games of the regular season, his numbers dipped compared to the first half of the year, throwing for only 11 scores and 7 interceptions as the Sun Devils dropped four of their last six games. Kelly is undoubtedly the quarterback for this team, but in order for the Sun Devils to challenge for the Pac-12 South title and a possible Rose Bowl berth, they'll need Kelly to continue his progression.

Can the wide receivers develop any consistency?

The wide receivers as a whole were by far the biggest disappointment for the ASU offense in 2012. Despite having two starting seniors who figured to play prominent roles in the offense after coming off of strong junior campaigns in Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross, the receiving unit failed to meet the high octane standard set by Head Coach Todd Graham. Tight end Chris Coyle actually led the team in receptions, and back-up running backs Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster had more catches than any wide receiver, other than Ross. In 12 total games, the Sun Devil wide receivers amassed just 12 total touchdown receptions, three of which were hauled in by Ross in the team's 55-24 thrashing of Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Are Marion Grice and DJ Foster ready to be the primary ball carriers?

Gone is Cameron Marshall, who had been the starting and primary ball carrier for the last three years, although the transition began to take place last season as Marshall's carries were divided up amongst the other ASU running backs. Now Grice and Foster will take over the reins, no longer featured as change of pace backs, but rather the starting 1-2 backfield combination that had Sun Devil fans during salivating the second half of the 2012 season. Grice led Arizona State with 679 rushing yards and a whopping 18 total touchdowns while Foster racked up over 1,000 total yards (rushing/receiving) and six scores. Together they're a formidable duo, but will the lack of an experienced, more physical attacking running back hinder the Sun Devil running game in 2013?

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on defense?

Can the secondary overcome the loss of the two seniors after becoming one of the best units in the conference in 2012?

Without a doubt, the unit that improved the most in 2012 was the defensive secondary. Anchored by a couple of hometown seniors in Keelan Johnson and Deveron Carr, the ASU secondary finished the season as one of the top units in the country, limiting their opponents to just 178.8 passing yards per game, good for 12th nationally. The secondary hauled in 14 of the team's 21 total interceptions, which was tied for fourth most in the country, led by Keelan Johnson's five picks on the year. But with Johnson and Carr gone, the question now becomes, who will fill those roles?

Who will replace Brandon Magee at MLB?

Brandon Magee's influence on the Sun Devils in 2012 went beyond the numbers, although those were nice too; 115 total tackles - including 17 against Arizona - and one interception returned for a touchdown. He was the on-field leader for the Arizona State defense who gave the unit a voice and someone to rally around. While the team is loaded with talent at the position, it'll be hard to find anyone who can replace the intangibles that Magee brought to the field each and every day.

Is Carl Bradford ready to become the next Sun Devil defensive beast?

Last year was Will Sutton's coming out party. But down the stretch, there weren't many players in the conference who finished the season stronger than Bradford. The Devil backer finished 2012 with 79 tackles and 11.5 sacks, including sacks in each of the last six games of the season. With Sutton back and reinforcements on the way to beef up the defensive line, the versatile Bradford could see more time back at the linebacker position. But no matter where Bradford lines up in 2013, you can bet he'll find the quarterback.

Most intriguing position battle on offense?

Alex Garoutte vs. Jon Mora

Okay so it's not really offense, but hey, it's not like we have a quarterback battle to dissect every day like we did last year at this time. Unlike years past, the Sun Devils were not negatively affected by their field goal kicking in 2012. But while Garoutte began the year as the starter, it was Mora who finished the season taking the big kicks, including a 39 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter against Arizona which jumpstarted ASU's memorable fourth quarter comeback in Tucson. Will Mora be the starter heading into the spring? If so, what does that mean for Garoutte? Or will Alex reclaim his spot and the regular kicking duties? As long as the Sun Devils have a confident and consistent kicker heading into the Fall, I think all ASU fans will be relieved.

Most intriguing position battle on defense?

Who will anchor the opposite corner position to Osahon Irabor?

This question may not get properly examined nor answered until the Fall, but Carr had been the starter opposite Irabor the past two seasons and despite a slow, injury-plagued start to his Sun Devil career, submitted a solid senior campaign. Robert Nelson would seem like the likely candidate, but at 5'11" and 170 pounds, he might lack the frame to be an every down cornerback and may be better suited for nickel coverage. Freshman Will Earley, Marcus Ball and junior college transfer Damarious Randall will surely add some much needed depth in the Fall, but until then, Nelson, transfer Lloyd Carrington and Deantre Lewis will battle it out in the Spring.

Which newcomer are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

Chans Cox. It's hard not to be excited to see this local blue chipper finally strap on his pads and hit the field in Sun Devil maroon and gold. Rated as the nation's top high school fullback, Cox will add immediate depth to the Sun Devil linebacker core. After being spurned by numerous other local prep stars, it'll be a pleasure to watch Cox suit up and fulfill his Sun Devil dream.

Which redshirt player are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

Terrell Davis: The Canadian running back made a name for himself with a shining performance in the team's maroon-gold scrimmage to conclude their return to Camp Tontozona back in August, highlighted by an 80 yard touchdown run that showcased his speed and tough, physical running style. With the departures of seniors Cameron Marshall and James Morrison, the Sun Devils will have a need for another able running back to add to their backfield in 2013. We've already seen what fellow newcomers Foster and Grice have been able to do within the new Sun Devil offense; we'll soon get a chance to see if Davis can make a name for himself as well.

Which player is most likely to emerge as the spring practice surprise?

Normally this nomination would go to former Sun Devil running back James Morrison, who seemingly always impressed during the Spring only to be the forgotten man come the Fall. This year, I'm looking for Steffon Martin to have a breakout performance. The senior-to-be began 2012 slowly but really found his stride towards the end of the year. Martin registered 27 tackles last season, but tallied 15 of them in the last 6 games of the year. I expect Martin, Chris Young and Bradford to hold down three of the four linebacker spots throughout the Spring.

Which player's starting position could be in jeopardy coming out of spring practice?

Anthony Jones: Talented but thus far, wildly inconsistent. Jones possesses all the physical qualities you'd want in a college linebacker but struggled to stay on the field in 2012. The departure of Magee opens a door for the senior, but with other talented underclassmen waiting in the wing, it may not be long for Jones to be overtaken for one of the starting spots. Carlos Mendoza should feature prominently in the battle, after having his freshman campaign cut short due to a shoulder injury. Grandville Taylor and Salamo Fiso should also push for playing time in the two-deep depth chart as well.

What aspects on offense need to be addressed the most?

The Sun Devils need to find themselves a go-to wide receiver for 2013. Someone Taylor Kelly can look for consistently when he's in trouble, who can go over the middle and isn't afraid of a little contact. Will that guy be Kevin Ozier, who had 21 receptions and five touchdowns as a junior? Or Alonzo Agwuenu, who struggled early on after transferring from the junior college ranks? Also, if sophomore-to-be Richard Smith can turn himself into Jamal Miles 2.0, the sophomore/junior version, the Arizona State offense will become even more explosive in 2013.

What aspects on defense need to be addressed the most?

The secondary is the biggest concern. We know the defensive line will be "eating" plenty in 2013, but if the Sun Devils are going to take the next step as a team, they'll need to solidify the secondary now that Johnson and Carr are gone. There are a lot of unknowns heading into the offseason, like Carrington and Marlon Pollard, and more help on the way, but for a group who progressed so much as a unit in 2012, there will be plenty of questions to be answered in the Spring.

Spring practice will be a success if…

If the Sun Devils can avoid any major injuries, get their conditioning up to par and establish most of their two-deep depth chart heading into the summer.

Joe Healey

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on offense?

Who will step up at wide receiver?

With losses in the starting lineup (Jamal Miles, Rashad Ross) as well as elsewhere on the depth chart (J.J. Holliday, Karl Holmes), ASU is faced with the task of filling numerous holes this spring.

Though the fall depth chart at the position likely will appear much different than in the spring due to the large crop of receivers in the 2013 signing class, spring ball will be a great opportunity for the current players to make a mark.

Kevin Ozier (pictured) is firmly planted as one starter and senior Alonzo Agwuenu and sophomore Richard Smith likely will join him on the first team, with players such as Kyle Middlebrooks, Gary Chambers and Josiah Blandin as second-team options.

In all, not only does ASU need bodies to fill depth positions but the team greatly needs playmakers at wide receiver, as a lack of consistency at the position last year was noticeable.

How will ASU fill the offensive line openings?

In working to replace departed starting right guard Andrew Sampson and right tackle Brice Schwab, ASU has multiple options—some of which will cause a greater shake-up on the offensive line.

Left tackle Evan Finkenberg and center Kody Koebensky, both seniors, presumed to be locked in to their respective positions.

Jamil Douglas (pictured) enjoyed a solid first season as a starter at left guard last season, though the distinct possibility exists that he will shuffle to right tackle this season. If he does and both guard spots are open, a trio of sophomores consisting of Evan Goodman, Mo Latu and Vi Teofilo likely will have the first crack at the openings.

Goodman also could be an option at right tackle if Douglas remains at left guard. In any event, expect Goodman, Latu and Teofilo to be involved in heavy competition for starting reps.

What will be seen from Mike Bercovici?

After sitting out all of 2012, this spring undoubtedly will be a major proving ground for Bercovici. Many message board contributors and other speculators generally assume Bercovici's days at ASU are numbered, but his desire to be a Sun Devil is something that should not be underestimated.

Incumbent starter Taylor Kelly ended the 2012 season on a very strong note and Michael Eubank has a definite role in the offense due to his physical attributes. Bercovici, the odd man out in 2012, will need an outstanding spring to change the tides as Todd Graham has mentioned that the quarterback position is not a wide open race to start the spring due to Kelly's achievements last year.

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on defense?

Who fills in for Magee and Johnson?

ASU only loses three defensive starters, and one of the vacancies, field cornerback, presumably will be filled by Robert Nelson. The other two positions—WILL linebacker and field safety—are vacant with the losses of key contributors in Brandon Magee and Keelan Johnson, respectively.

With these two absences, the likely candidates at linebacker appear to be Carlos Mendoza (pictured) or Grandville Taylor. Mendoza showed tremendous promise before a season-ending shoulder injury in the second game of the year while Taylor is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship last year.

At safety, last year's backup was Ezekiel Bishop, while Laiu Moeakiola could be an option if he moves from the boundary safety position. Both players have high upside but have been limited due to injuries in their young careers.

With a host of talented fall arrivals on defense—both freshmen and junior college transfers—the depth at WILL linebacker and field safety could look significantly different in September as it does in April, so the aforementioned players will have to showcase their skills in impressive fashion this spring to solidify a first-team role in the fall.

How will depth in the secondary shake out?

With the losses of starters Deveron Carr and Keelan Johnson, top reserve Kevin Ayers and potential depth players such as Kevin Anderson, Jarrid Bryant, Joe Eason and Oliver Johnson, the depth chart across the board at safety and cornerback is a significant concern entering the spring.

Starters Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor return at boundary safety and boundary corner, respectively, and Robert Nelson presumably will fill Carr's position at field corner.

Outside these three, the remainder of the depth chart is very much an unknown as Ezekiel Bishop and Shane McCullen combined for a total of 19 tackles in 2012 on special teams and mop-up duty.

Three wild cards in the secondary this spring figure to be Lloyd Carrington, Laiu Moeakiola, Marlon Pollard and Rashad Wadood. Carrington sat out last season after transferring from Pitt, while Moeakiola and Wadood both missed most (if not all) of 2012 due to injuries. Pollard, a former four-star recruit, comes to ASU after spending time at both UCLA and Eastern Michigan and has one year of eligibility remaining. Similar to Moeakiola and Wadood, Pollard missed substantial time in 2012 due to injury.

Carrington, Pollard and Wadood should be able to compete for second-team duties at cornerback and Moeakiola has the potential to battle for starting reps at safety. Luke Williams is another option at safety.

The competitors in the secondary can't rest on their laurels as a total of five defensive backs will join the roster this fall, many of which are poised to be immediately inserted into the lineup.

Will we see Mike Pennel?

There's really no way to sugar coat how disappointing Pennel was in 2012 as his enormous physical stature would figure to make him a potentially dominant factor if not for his highly questionable work ethic. However, despite multiple trips to Todd Graham's dog house, Pennel is still technically with the team and could have a spot on the 2012 roster as a senior. It remains to be seen if he will be featured in a playing capacity on the field this spring or if his work will be done in a different capacity.

Most intriguing position battle on offense?

Backup Quarterback

When predicting the first-team offense for the spring, there are multiple logical choices regarding how ASU will fill openings left by departed seniors. To find a truly intriguing position battle, I believe you have to dive into the second-team and many eyes likely will focus on how Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici (pictured) compete this spring.

Many fans and critics presume that Bercovici is on his last leg as a Sun Devil; however, that assumption likely is awfully premature. It is well known how the strengths of Bercovici and Eubank vary, and it remains to be seen if Bercovici's strong arm can capture a position over Eubank's running abilities.

Since ASU did not sign a quarterback in either of the past two recruiting classes, the competition between Bercovici and Eubank could have significant implications regarding the stability of the position group as a whole in 2013.

Most intriguing position battle on defense?

Field Safety

On a defense with numerous strengths, field safety is a major question mark. With the departure of Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 member Keelan Johnson, the primary candidates to start this spring figure to be Ezekiel Bishop, Shane McCullen and possibly Laiu Moeakiola.

Between the three there is little cumulative game experience of substance, even in the case of McCullen, a fifth-year senior in 2013.

It is largely expected that a fall newcomer will fill the starting role this year—potentially JUCO transfer Damarious Randall or stud freshman Marcus Ball—so the position battle this spring is critical for the current competitors to retain a legitimate depth chart spot in the fall.

Which newcomer are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

DL Kisima Jagne

Christian Westerman has all-conference potential but barring a major surprise he'll have to follow the traditional NCAA transfer rules and sit out this season. Chans Cox was one of Arizona's premier high school players the past few seasons, but he likely will play a reserve role to Carl Bradford this season at Devil backer, while JUCO transfer Nick Kelly figures to be a depth player at multiple line positions to start his ASU career.

In many ways, Jagne is the most intriguing of the midyear transfers as he has the physical prowess to be an all-league candidate by the time his college career is over. However, Jagne has been labeled as being "rough around the edges" and in need of some refinement and detailed coaching, which possibly will alter the immediate expectations for Jagne's contributions.

This spring, depth along the defensive line will be difficult to come by as even with Jagne, the Sun Devils still list only nine scholarship defensive linemen (assuming Mike Pennel remains on the roster). Additionally, of those nine players six will be seniors in 2013, creating a need for underclassmen to develop.

The position group's general depth will improve dramatically in the fall with the arrival of JUCO transfers Demetrius Cherry and Marcus Hardison, so though Jagne has a solid opportunity for repetitions this spring, he will have to perform at a high level to remain ahead of the curve for the fall.

Which redshirt player are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

LB Salamo Fiso

This question is slightly loaded since there is a handful of players that weren't traditional first year freshmen—QB Mike Bercovici (depth reasons), CB Lloyd Carrington (transfer), LB Carlos Mendoza, S Laiu Moeakiola and CB Rashad Wadood (injuries).

Of the "typical" redshirts, the most intriguing option to me is LB Salamo Fiso. One of ASU's top recruits from the 2012 cycle, unlike classmates such as D J Foster and Jaxon Hood, Fiso was retained on the scout team as a redshirt last season. With half the two-deep gone at the two inside linebacker positions (starting WILL Brandon Magee and backup SAM Brandon Johnson), there are holes to fill. Though opportunities exist, time is of the essence for Fiso as fall camp will feature the debuts of a host of incredibly talented newcomers at linebacker.

Which player is most likely to emerge as the spring practice surprise?

WR Richard Smith

Smith is first in line to take over the receiver spot previous occupied by Jamal Miles, and despite the generally disappointing season Miles had as a senior he enjoyed an excellent spring. The most dynamic of all the wide receivers, Smith showed some incredible playmaking abilities in the time he saw on the field as a true freshman in 2012. Smith likely will have to battle senior Kyle Middlebrooks for reps, but the sophomore has all the requisite skills to make a lasting mark this spring.

Which player's starting position could be in jeopardy coming out of spring practice?

Field Safety

To be very honest, if any of the current options at field safety exits the spring as the confident starter for 2013 it would be a significant surprise.

Ezekiel Bishop has intriguing upside but has had his development stall due to injuries and depth issues, while it remains to be seen if Laiu Moeakiola will compete to start at field safety or remain a backup to Alden Darby at boundary safety.

With a significantly limited amount of game experience at the college level, it is logically presumable that the starting field safety for 2013 is not yet on the active roster, though the candidates this spring undoubtedly will prefer to change that viewpoint.

What aspects on offense need to be addressed the most?

Wide Receiver Consistency

As dynamic as players such as Chris Coyle, Marion Grice and D.J. Foster are in pass-catching roles, ASU has a definite need for improvement among the receivers to ensure that the team is able to operate with more viable passing targets this year than last. This could be a challenging task with very little experience or depth returning at the position. In the fall, ASU will count on a host of newcomers to contribute at wide receiver, making the spring a vital audition opportunity for the current receivers on the rosters.

Kevin Ozier returns as a starter from last year, but this spring the staff will rely heavily on improvements from players such as Alonzo Agwuenu and Richard Smith, a pair that combined for 25 receptions in 2012. Though Ozier saw substantial playing time in 2012 his productivity diminished noticeably in the later stages of the year as he combined to catch only four passes for 78 yards across the season's final five games.

Aside from this trio, only senior Kyle Middlebrooks caught a pass in 2012 (one reception for six yards), and others such as Gary Chambers likely will see ample second-team reps this spring.

ASU has a savvy returning quarterback, two incredibly dynamic running backs, one of the nation's most productive tight ends and a solid offensive line, but the wide receivers collectively will have to step up and perform consistently to prevent the position from being a liability in 2013.

Offensive Line Alignment

With openings at left guard and left tackle, ASU has a few different routes that can be taken to fill the holes. Jamil Douglas could switch from left guard to right tackle, while sophomore Evan Goodman also can play tackle. Goodman, Mo Latu and Vi Teofilo are also options at guard so the coaching staff will have to be strategic with how the pieces are put into place.

Ideally, the lineup will be formed from day one and followed through the entirety of spring practice but the possibility exists that some flip-flopping will occur to find the right fits.

Additionally, the players will have to acclimate to new offensive line coach Chris Thomsen now that Bob Connelly is no longer with the staff, which could create another learning curve for the new first-team linemen.

Distribution of Carries

Even though ASU ranked 25th in the nation in rushing last season, there were some striking variances during the season as the Sun Devils had six games with over 220 rushing yards but four games with 140 or fewer. In the early portion of the season it was apparent that ASU was having a difficult time creating a solid distribution of carries among returning 1,000-yard rusher Cameron Marshall and phenom newcomers Marion Grice (pictured) and D.J. Foster.

Though Marshall statistically ranks among the very best in program history, it will be interesting to see how his carries are absorbed in 2013. Grice presumes to earn more of a "workhorse" role in 2013 while Foster undoubtedly will be used both as a runner and receiver.

In general, it will be interesting to see how the labor at running back is divided and if ASU can gain some offensive momentum by way of what likely will be a smaller stable of backs compared to last year. Will Grice and Foster split the work down the middle? Will Grice be a 20-plus carry back and Foster more of an all-purpose threat? As strong as ASU's one-two punch figures to be at running back, questions remain regarding exactly how the two athletes will be used.

Also in the equation for playing time are Deantre Lewis and Terrell Davis, but it is assumed that Grice and Foster will be the key figures at running back.

What aspects on defense need to be addressed the most?

Defensive Line/Secondary Depth

This offseason, ASU did a solid job of adding players to fortify the defensive line and the secondary; however, eight of the nine new scholarship additions will not arrive until the fall.

Last season, the Sun Devils' overall lack of defensive line depth was hugely noticeable and is an issue that must be addressed for a season-long run of success in 2013.

The Devils are very strong up front with the foursome of Will Sutton, Jaxon Hood, Davon Coleman and Junior Onyeali, but the potency of the remaining depth could use improvement.

Though only one player is gone from the 2012 defensive line depth chart (Toa Tuitea), players such as Jake Sheffield and Gannon Conway will have to continue to improve to be viable options along the line this year. Additionally, Kisima Jagne and Mike Pennel are players with tremendous physical upside but due to inexperience (Jagne) and past disciplinary issues (Pennel) these two might be boom or bust prospects for 2013.

When JUCO standouts Demetrius Cherry and Marcus Hardison join the roster in the fall, ASU will be able to showcase a three-deep of scholarship players across the entire defensive line. However, the Sun Devils will be well-served to develop its current players into increasingly valuable options and have the fall additions become more of a "rich getting richer" situation rather than a scenario of desperate need in which ASU's d-line depth is entirely predicated on newcomer impact.

Aside from three probably starters in the secondary, there is little experience to be found among the depth players. Similar to the situation with the defensive line, ASU has multiple exciting fall additions in the secondary but the team will be much better off if the starters and reserves available for the spring provide the staff viable options.

Discipline Against The Run

ASU's issues against the run in 2012 have been well-documented and the category as a whole is a major area in need of improvement for 2013 to produce improved overall team results. Though the fall lineup—potentially both in the first and second teams—will feature players not yet on the active roster, the squad available for the spring will need to set a greater standard for run defense.

Secondary Consistency

With a multitude of departures at safety and cornerback, the learning curve for both positions could be an area of concern. Though starters Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor return, as does Robert Nelson (pictured), who saw ample action at cornerback last year, the rest of the lineup at cornerback and safety consists of players with little to no game experience with the Sun Devils.

Spring practice will be a success if…

First, just as with any spring practice session, avoiding injuries is a primary focal point. ASU has energy and momentum heading into a crucial 2013 season that features a highly challenging schedule so any drastic personnel losses could be catastrophic in the grand scheme of things. This year's team can ill-afford a crushing loss such as what ASU suffered two years ago when Omar Bolden was shelved for the year due to a spring injury.

On the field, Taylor Kelly's progression from year one as a starter to year two will be a definite factor as he will be expected to take on an increased leadership role and exhibit above average consistency in orchestrating the Sun Devil offense. Offensive line consistency—due to the group's overall lack of experienced depth and also the need to replace two starters—will be a key element as the line will not gain any instant-impact players this fall.

Defensively, a leader or multiple leaders will have to emerge to replace the charismatic Brandon Magee from last year. Also, the Sun Devils will have to find a solution to the team's woes against the run last year.

If these categories can be ones that showcase improvement over the spring, the overall review should be a positive one.

Kyle Caldwell

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on offense?

There is no question that the offense has many intriguing story lines coming into the 2013 season. 2012 showed the base for what Todd Graham was bringing in his play book. A tough run game with lots of play action to keep the defenses honest. A passing game that was going to take what you gave them and some stats that were nothing the last couple seasons had shown.

The offensive line became more aggressive with less zone blocking and allowed the run game to greatly become more downhill. Now that these molds have been established there are still several questions that I would love to see unfold come the end of spring football:

1: Who will emerge as key players at the wide receiver position. With Ross and Miles leaving spots vacant. Can players like Alonzo Agwuenu, Richard Smith and Kevin Ozier keep developing while some key newcomers show up next fall. It will also be great to see how Kyle Middlebrooks fits in this group as they made the switch in the middle of last season with him.

2: Who will the end of spring starters be. This position group has some holes to fill on the right side and with some depth finally in play on the offensive line, it will be very interesting to see how this unfolds as spring comes to an end.

3: How will new position coaches Bo Graham and Chris Thomsen mesh with the offensive staff and strengthen their current position groups.

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on defense?

The depth in 2013 will be deeper than it has been in a long time in Tempe and finding ways to get the best on the field is going to be an epic watch. Linebacker positions are open as well as just about every secondary position minus corner Osahon Irabor who comes in as a senior. With all this being said there are three questions I want to see answered.

1: Who starts up front with their hand in the ground and where. The defensive Line is going to be stacked in 2013 and spring ball is going to show how far guys like Jaxon Hood (pictured) have developed. New comer Kisima Jagne joins the group for spring and it will be great to see how the former local works into the group. Junior Onyeali needs to prove he can still get in the back field because after spring ball there are two big bodies joining this group that I believe can. And at the end of it all here, how much better can Will Sutton get with solid additions joining beside him.

2: Who is the Brandon Magee or Alden Darby behind the defensive front? Who fills in for guys that were "All In" type players and who comes out on top post spring. I love guys who are vocal and play with fierce emotion. I can't wait to see who these new comers are!

3: How will the play book develop with the new comers. The defensive line will add more depth come the 2013 fall camp. So do we see spring football working its way towards more of a four man front or does the hybrid 3-4, 3-3 look stay intact. Later in the season the 1 high looked proved to be great for ASU as they took on Washington State and UofA. Does that look become more of a staple, playing even more downhill that staying 2 high which was how the season started off last year. I personally can't wait to see how this all comes together in spring and with new Coach Jackie Shipp joining the staff it will only get better.

Most intriguing position battle on offense?

Who is going to be the breakout receiver. This was one of the biggest question marks in 2012 and still finds its way into 2013. The wide receiver positions could not be more open with Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross leaving this group. I loved what I saw out of Richard Smith this last season and although he played a hybrid role at times from the 3-back, he was awesome with the ball in his hands. This group will be the most intriguing group to watch and I am pumped to see who is going to stand out over all others.

Most intriguing position battle on defense?

The Linebacker position group as a whole I am really excited about. There is a lot of athletic potential with this group coming into spring football. Being a hybrid type defense that ASU is, it will be great to see who can give them the best look when they have 2, 3 and even 4 line backers on the field. Chris Young (pictured) and his role at Spur will be fun to watch especially since he will get pushed by some new comers when Fall camp begins.

Which newcomer are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

I am personally most excited to see newcomer offensive lineman, Christian Westerman. Eligible or not for 2013, this young man was one of the highest rated players to ever come out of the state of Arizona. He has had some injury issues and yet at the end of everything he wanted to come home and play for Coach Graham and Arizona State. I truly hope he comes in and finds his spot on this team because I think every story like this deserves a great ending. Westerman is the perfect fit for this Offense and what Coach Norvell is trying to do up front.

Which redshirt player are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

This is a very good list of players that will be coming off a red-shirt year into 2013. The linebackers especially will be great to watch as Carlos Mendoza and Salamo Fiso (pictured) come into the depth chart this spring. Mendoza showed us all how athletic he was before he went down with his shoulder injury and Fiso is a highly rated player out of California who will grab some attention for sure. The linebackers in spring will really have to work hard to solidify their worth because it all gets stirred up again come fall camp with several other position additions.

Yet, overall I am most excited about seeing running back Terrell Davis come into action. He was a beast last fall camp and I love his running style. We have two very athletic backs in Grice and Foster yet Davis brings the bat that this Offense can relish off. I really am hoping Davis can come off his red-shirt and show us all some of what he had in last year's fall camp.

Which player is most likely to emerge as the spring practice surprise?

Deantre Lewis (pictured). A name we have all wanted to hear for some time now and I think we see his role come clean by the end of spring practice. Deantre has been shuffled around on both sides of the ball and yet still has stuck with working hard and getting himself back to his old mold. Lewis is going to find a way to shine this spring and emerge on the depth chart going into summer workouts. Mark it down. Let's see it Mr. Lewis!

Which player's starting position could be in jeopardy coming out of spring practice?

The shuffle of the Offensive Line is going to be the battle I personally want to watch for. With several players coming off their first year up front and two seniors leaving there are going to be some major head banging position battles for us to enjoy as fans. I felt last year that Douglas was playing out of position at guard since he was really a tackle beforehand. Finding a better role for him may allow several others to find their way to the interior line. Either way, I do have to say this.. I see the offensive line getting much better in 2013. The development here has been great with all the off season work and now with the play book a year older it is really going to help the boys up front.

What aspects on offense need to be addressed the most?

It has been a common theme since 2012 yet one of the biggest concerns on Offense is the development of the wide receivers. This was a huge question mark last season and still lingers its way into the current roster. With no real standouts right now it will be very interesting to see how in spring, this position group develops. It will be even more interesting to watch if certain guys find themselves eligible moving into fall camp but that is later down the road.

Another one of the issues that I personally feel needs to be ironed out is the role of the quarterback. Last year's experiment (system) rolling with different quarterback packages proved to allow the opposing defenses to hone in on what plays were coming their way. When Michael Eubank was in the game, it was ever so clear there was going to be some play action involved and the run game was going to be more of the focus over the pass. It was as if the playbook was changed from one guy to the next yet when that occurs it is easy for the other team to chart these tendencies and be prepared for what is coming.

That being said, I thought as the year went on we saw less of this type of activity going on and the playbook was much of the same with both QBs. This helped the flow of the offense and seemed to help Eubank find his role as well.

What aspects on defense need to be addressed the most?

The defense in just one year's worth of time has progressed in some huge aspects. The dominance in the back field this last season shows how a playbook and development of players can completely change a mindset and allow a team to succeed. The secondary was improved tremendously from 2012 as well. Yet, one of the things that stuck out most to me last year was the run defense relationship and reads. Far too many times the linebackers and defensive front seemed to be on separate pages. Whether that now be guys playing out of position or not following the called play, that is another story. But this is definitely an area I would love to see improved in spring ball. The fits need to get tighter and sharper with everyone up front. Safety force on the edge needs to work into this mix as well yet having all the gaps accounted for at the line of scrimmage is something this defense needs to keep working for.

Spring practice will be a success if..

Spring football is always a time for guys to break into the depth chart, prove their value and play books to come together. This fierce competition usually brings out the best of everyone yet with that there can be some injuries that come with that theme. Spring ball to me has always been a huge success if you can get through it injury free. Throughout recent history here this has not always been the case. Yet with this being said, you have to take into account what a great job Coach Gris has done with the strength program. When you are in great shape and when your body is stronger than ever, this can often help with the injury bug.

Hod Rabino

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on offense?

I'm not implying that there will be a quarterback controversy at the end of spring practice, but you wonder how Taylor Kelly will handle a status which is much different than last spring practice as well as Fall camp where Kelly was seemingly all but out of the race for the starting signal caller position. As much as some may downplay it, entering spring as the undisputed starter is uncharted territory for the junior and there is no telling how well Kelly can and will handle that status, how much will it affect his performance and will his performance open the door that much wider in the competition battle for his backups Michael Eubank (pictured) and Mike Bercovici.

There is little question that the tandem of Marion Grice and D.J. Foster is entering the 2013 season arguably not only as the Pac-12's top running back duo but also as one of the best in the nation. Nonetheless, any coach will tell you that you can never have too many running backs on the roster. Thus, now the question is who can emerge as the no. 3 running back on this unit and firmly establish themselves in the rotation. In recent weeks, there appears to be a lot of buzz of Deantre Lewis' improved physical condition and state of mind, but is he ready to finally turn the corner and overcome his unfortunate gunshot wound? We all remember Terrell Davis' 75-yard touchdown run at the Camp Tontozona scrimmage and we hear glowing reports from his scout team exploits. Yet, can he now transform that performance to being a vital player in the running back rotation? Is Marcus Washington who lined up at tight last season a possible dark horse in this race? Whomever the answer lies within has to provide a reliable no. 3 running back which is essential for a run-heavy ASU squad.

I'm not going to get up on my soap box again when it comes to the wide receivers' play, and in theory this 2013 recruiting class should dramatically elevate this unit. The bad news is that none of the newcomers in this role will arrive until the summer so the question is what kind of performance do we see from this collection of players that have underachieved nearly every week of the 2012 campaign? Can some of the returning Sun Devil receivers preform at a surprising high level that you can see them successfully fending off a very talented group of new players?

In your opinion, what are the three most burning questions on defense?

Replacing Brandon Magee at WILL linebacker is easily one of the top priorities on this side of the ball, if not number one on that list. Carlos Mendoza who played in two games before a season ending shoulder injury, provided a very glowing preview of his skills giving hope that he could fill in the enormous shoes that the 2012 leading tackler left behind. On other hand, and as we discussed several times before, Mendoza's durability is now coming into question since he also had a serious injury in his senior year in high school. The redshirt freshman from Christian Oaks (Calif.) High School will have to establish himself early in the spring as the undisputed starter here and truly get a head start on a very talented junior college transfer in Antonio Longino who will arrive here in the summer.

My number two and three burning question on defense relate to the secondary, specifically replacing Keelan Johnson at safety and Deveron Carr at cornerback, two of ASU's cornerstones on this side of the ball. This is also an area where returning players will have to make a strong statement in the spring so they can more than hold their own when talented newcomers arrive for Fall camp. Ezekiel Bishop (pictured) is a player who showed a lot of promise early in his ASU career, but a torn ACL injury during his freshman year and his attempt to bounce back the following season have somewhat buried him in the depth chart in 2012. He is however a player that showed some flashes and can really use a good spring to show that he can fill the void left by Johnson.

At cornerback ASU has a very intriguing transfer in Lloyd Carrington who will try and stake his claim to Carr's position, and if his scout team performance is any indication he stands a good chance to do so. Marlon Pollard, a four-star recruit of High School who signed with UCLA and ended his career at Eastern Michigan, was granted one year of eligibility by NCAA and needless to say his sense of urgency will be great. Robert Nelson, one of the heroes of the Territorial Cup win does have the game experience, and more importantly confidence from last year, that can truly aid his in this position battle. Rashad Wadood is another player plagued by injuries his first couple of years in Tempe that could make a push in his position.

Most intriguing position battle on offense?

Alex Garoutte versus Jon Mora

I too have to opt for this special teams' battle, since I just don't see any starters on offense being in much danger of being unseated by a reserve throughout the spring. The coaches seem content with a division of duties where Garoutte (pictured) handles just kickoffs, while Mora executes the extra points and field goals. Yet, you know neither player is content with limited duties and both will aim to be the one-stop shop, so to speak, at kicker. With both players having their respective bouts with inconsistency this could get interesting.

Most intriguing position battle on defense?

Kisima Jagne versus Davon Coleman/Junior Onyeali

If you read my opinions about ASU football long enough you know that how I have been saying that defensive end for essentially the last three, four years has been an area very thin in depth and lacking in production. Even last season where ASU was racking up impressive number of sacks and tackles for loss, I didn't feel that Onyeali and Coleman were consistent contributors as the rest of their teammates.

The 2013 recruiting class did an excellent job addressing that position with Marcus Hardison (a versatile lineman that can play multiple positions on the line) and Demetrius Cherry. Those two players are only arriving in the summer so in the meantime we get to observe the 6-5 265-poung physical specimen, Kisima Jagne, trying to make an early mark. As a true freshman he will have a natural learning curve to battle with, especially against two seniors in Onyeali and Coleman. But can his sheer talent and physical attributes negate that?

Which newcomer are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

Kisima Jagne

For the reasons I just mentioned in the previous question. Addresses an immediate area of need and is someone, just like Carl Bradford on the other side of the line, that can really make offenses pay for double teaming Will Sutton. Which redshirt player are you looking forward to seeing the most in spring practice?

Lloyd Carrington

Size at cornerback isn't something ASU successfully addressed through the recruiting class, but also through transfers such as the 6-0 190-pound Carrington. The corner played as true freshman while Todd Graham was at Pittsburgh and ASU's Head Coach was more than happy when his former player followed him to Tempe. If you recall our interview with ASU cornerbacks' coach, Joe Lorig, Carrington is already considered one of the more talented players at this position and spending a good deal of last year in the program, albeit being forced to sit out, should make his transition that much smoother as he battles for the position vacated by outgoing senior Deveron Carr.

Which player is most likely to emerge as the spring practice surprise?

Darwin Rogers

Every tight end unit in college football would love to have such an impressive player as Chris Coyle, but last season this group was fairly quiet every time Coyle was spelled by one of his backups. Those days appear to be over as Rogers is reported to be in better shape both physically and mentally. He certainly will be given every opportunity to have an increased role and unlike last year he appears to be more suited for the task. Coyle's spectacular play takes you mind of a the depth chart issues here, and if Rogers backs up the expectations placed on him then no one should have much concern about the level of talent here.

Which player's starting position could be in jeopardy coming out of spring practice?

Steffon Martin may have had the typical junior college transfer season, which is similar to a true freshman's first year as he tries to acclimate to a higher level of play and experiencing the inevitable learning curve that will take its toll on one's performance. He can certainly bounce back from a very pedestrian 2012 season at SAM linebacker but I feel that one player that can stand in his way is Anthony Jones (pictured). The Chandler Hamilton High School player surely took note of his fellow local teammates, Johnson and Carr, and their remarkable turnaround in their senior season, and would love nothing better to experience that for himself. Jones, under the ever motivating Paul Randolph who is now the team's linebackers coach, is more than capable of unseating Martin.

What aspects on offense need to be addressed the most?

Establishing depth at running back and tight end, improving tempo of offense and further developing the wide receivers. What aspects on defense need to be addressed the most?

Improving the play of the defensive ends, establishing the depth chart at linebacker, finding suitable replacements for Carr and Johnson. Spring practice will be a success if...

Depth gets developed in the areas of need, the players whom are expected to step up actually do so, and of course avoiding injuries.

But more importantly, as a team under a second-year coach you hope to see players really exhibit their comfort with the schemes, do less thinking so they execute even more effectively and hear, and see coaches spending less time correcting mental mistakes and being able to spend more taking the collective team talent to a higher level.


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