Five most essential players for ASU success

Injuries really hampered Arizona State last year, as its starting quarterback and a key defensive player were knocked out of the lineup for a period of time. Who are the players the Sun Devils can't afford to lose in 2015 and why?

Which Arizona State players are the most indispensable as it relates to the team's chances of accomplishing its goal of winning an overall Pac-12 Title for the first time in the Todd Graham era?

Here's our take:

1. Mike Bercovici -- The fifth-year senior quarterback is Arizona State's emotional leader and in many ways personifies this team and program more broadly. ASU coach Todd Graham said recently that backup quarterback is one of his biggest concerns for this season moving forward and understandably so. If Bercovici is lost for any length of time, it's going to be a huge and potentially insurmountable hurdle for the Sun Devils' 2015 season goals.

2. Laiu Moeakiola -- Last season when Moeakiola went out of the lineup with an injury against Colorado the Sun Devils just weren't the same on defense. The Spur position requires such a broad skill set that it's tough to fill but Moeakiola is able to do everything effectively when he's healthy, and he's also a stabilizing force more broadly. He can cover receivers, is stout in the alley against the run, and is a pretty good blitzer for the positions. There are probably better backup options this season, but nobody on Moeakiola's level.

3. Nick Kelly -- One of ASU's smartest players, Kelly works seamlessly with Bercovici to communicate things to the rest of the team. It's not a matter of being able to snap the ball or even necessarily executing the blocks from a physical standpoint that is degraded when Kelly is out of the lineup, though those things are real concerns even though junior backup Stephon McCray is a capable player. What Kelly provides intangibly in terms of rhythm and comfort is significant.

4. Kody Kohl -- Simply put, there is no other tight end/3-back on the roster who is able to be totally relied upon going into the season, and the Sun Devils often -- about 20-30 percent of the time -- like to have both of those positions on the field at the same time out of two-tight end sets. As a blocker, Kohl is clearly the best option at the position and integral to ASU's run game success at the point of attack. But he's also capable as a receiver, and this year we may see ASU target the 3-back more in the passing game.

5. Antonio Longino -- It's seemingly been a game of musical chairs in the last year at Devil backer for the Sun Devils, with double-digit players working at the position. Longino was there early in 2014 before flourishing at WILL after a mid-season move. Longino is definitely ASU's best overall defensive player who will used in the role, and his success would have a huge impact on the defense's overall capability, and allow it to make best use of its personnel strength at linebacker.


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