Five Most Important First-Year ASU starters

Arizona State has to replace three starters from last season who were taken in the NFL Draft earlier this year. Who are the key first-year starters to watch for the Sun Devils?

1. Devin Lucien -- Given that Arizona State has lost starters Jaelen Strong to the NFL and Cameron Smith to injury from last season's team, it needs someone to step into and solidify that role other than senior D.J. Foster, who is more of a known entity transitioning from running back to wide receiver. Lucien, a fifth-year senior transfer from UCLA, is ASU's best bet in this regard. He's probably the best big play target among the receivers down the field, with surprising speed and the type of route running potential to get it done. The Sun Devils are potent in the backfield and at quarterback and have a veteran offensive line and returning starter at tight end. If Lucien can round things out as a receiver, ASU should have great balance and an impressive overall offensive capability.

2. Armand Perry -- The Sun Devils return three seniors starters in their secondary and should be very good at those positions, as all are capable earning all-league honors. The newcomer to the starting lineup is Armand Perry, who has shifted from cornerback and nickel duties to being the team's field side safety, which is a monumental task and not only because he'll be tasked with replacing Damarious Randall, a first round NFL selection earlier this year. ASU relies heavily on the field safety's ability to cover receivers in man free situations because of the way it likes to bring five and six man pressures that heavily feature the hybrid Spur position on the same side of the field. If Perry is able to handle this responsibility successfully, it would really elevate ASU's overall defensive capability.

3. Evan Goodman -- Randall and Strong weren't the only ASU players from last season to be taken in the most recent NFL Draft, as left tackle Jamil Douglas went in the fourth round to Miami, where he's now slotted to be a rookie starter at right guard. The player who will replace Douglas is Goodman, who is actually even more athletic a player according to offensive line coach Chris Thomsen. But Goodman is very experienced despite being a junior, and has to show that he's ready to handle elite pass rushers in space on his side of the field and in doing so keep senior quarterback Mike Bercovici safe. He's got the potential to do so, but has to avoid mental lapses or lulls in his physical competitiveness.

4. Billy McGehee -- At right tackle, McGehee is replacing Tyler Sulka, who was undersized at the position. We know McGehee is going to have more potency as a run blocker and that will help the Sun Devils out in the ground game. But how well is McGehee going to handle speed rushers when put on an island? That remains to be seen. HIs biggest test may come in ASU's first game, with Texas A&M boasting two of the best pass rushers the Sun Devils will face this season, including All-American candidate Myles Garrett, who also is a physical force at 265 pounds. How well Goodman and McGehee do with this task will be a great barometer for their overall season capability in 2015.

5. Christian Sam -- We knew in recent months that Sam's ceiling is as high as any of the ASU linebackers because he has the footspeed, quickness and agility of a safety and the prototypical size of an inside linebacker. But he needed to show greater physicality and play with better pad level to prove he was ready for the brute force demands of the Pac-12, and while he had a good month of August in that regard, still has to show it in game settings. The Sun Devils have a goal of giving up fewer big plays defensively, and a big part of that is how consistently sound the gap fits on the interior from the linebacker position. Sam's going to have to not get caught reacting to play actions and formation flow counter to where the ball is designed to go.


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