Last year the Sun Devils were beneficiaries of a stellar recruiting class in 99, and 2000. Players like Terrell Suggs, Ben Fox, Chad Howell, Brian Montesanto, Shaun McDonald, Jeff Krohn, and Mike Karney all played significant minutes on an inexperienced team. Newcomers like Danny Masaniai, Paul Glass, and Donnie O'neal all used their JC experience to help the team thrive in pressure situations. This year, several players who redshirted last year, as well as some true freshman made immediate impact, and offered a glimpse of the future of ASU football.
The three true freshmen to play were Daryl Lightfoot, Jason Shivers, and
Lamar Baker. D-Light showed immediately why he was one of the most sought
after players in the nation last year. To play his first
college football game with a hairline facture in his jaw would have been impressive enough. To contribute 80 yards in total offense shows why ASU has a real gem on their team. Lightfoot
had 4 carries for 27 yards, and 2 receptions for 53 yards, including a
splendid 47-yard pass that helped ASU get the ball out of their own endzone.
If D-Light was completely healthy, he probably would have received a chance to
return punts, especially given ASU's inability to do anything effective with
their other players in those situations. D-Light will be a guy that over time
will give opposing defensive coordinators major headaches. Just his
presence when he goes in motion will cause a defensive player or two to have to account
for him. Certainly when Koetter's offense becomes more high octane, Lightfoot
will be a key component.
Jason Shivers got some work with the 2nd and 3rd sting defense. His speed is
a major factor, as he was one of the main blitzers on the punt return team.
Several times when lined up to the outside of the line, he was a step or two
away from the punter. With more practice, and adjustment to the college
game, he should probably be able to block a punt. He also figures to be one
of the first players in if a major injury happens to any of the secondary.
While Shivers may not have a major impact this year, he is definitely going
to be a key cog for ASU in years to come. The former Arizona 100 and 200
meter State Champion will use his speed and desire to hit, to continue the
tradition of solid safeties like Mitchell Freedman, Damien Richardson, and
now Daniel and Williams.
Lamar Baker only saw time with the 2nd and 3rd team also. The much-heralded
defensive back was called for pass interference in his only real test. His
coverage seemed to be pretty good on the play, but he got a little lost at
the end, and decided to interfere with the receiver rather than get burned.
Look for him to continue to play on special teams like last night, as well as
get some extensive action in future games.
On defense, Riccardo Stewart (his story is located in the premium content)
made his first start as the third safety in Defensive Coordinator Brent Guy's
new 4-2-5 scheme. Playing with well established safeties like Willie Daniel
and Al "HMO" Williams had to help ease some of the nerves of the young
safety. For a player who spent his redshirt year as a wide receiver, he made
a great impact on Saturday night. He recovered a fumble that Suggs forced,
and was the leader in tackles. He also was very helpful on pass coverage,
and had a great shot at an interception at the end of the game, that
undoubtedly would have gone for a TD if he had gathered it in. Knowing that
this young man is only going to get better is real exciting to Sun Devil fans.
Other players who saw action were Jimmy Verdon, Jared Wolfgramm, RJ Oliver,
Emmanuel Franklin, Frank Maddox, Brandon Macias, Michael Holloway, Drew
Hogdon, Connor Banks, and Andrew Walter who threw a long incomplete bomb at the end of
the first half.
One of the most scrutinized positions going into this season was the cornerbacks. While San Diego State won't be this unit's toughest test, it certainly
was a great game to gain experience. RJ Oliver and Emmanuel Franklin (if
anyone knows why Franklin's jersey said Franklin - Archie, please post on the
message boards) were both making their first starts in a college game. Both of
these young players were highly sought after in high school, and were expected to
contribute immediately with the departure of several senior corners this year. No one
who was in the stadium will forget the INT that Franklin made. With ASU
backed up to its own 5-yard line, trying hard to maintain its shutout in the
last few minutes, SDSU went for the endzone on 3rd and goal. The rest was a
beautiful read by Franklin, (who said his coaches told him to look for that
pass) a great step in front of the receiver and a 100-yard dash down the
sideline, where the defense and the entire crowd exploded in a joyous
celebration. Oliver had pretty good coverage the whole night, and had a
couple of nice pass breakups. ASU's pressure defense leaves the corners on
the island all the time, and these guys played well enough to not give up any
scores. IF ASU can keep up the great pass rush, these young corners should
be able to hold their own the majority of the time.
Michael Holloway was the first guy in off the bench for the safeties, and he
was able to gain valuable game experience in his first contest. Like
Shivers, he will be a big part of ASU's secondary for years to come.
Macias, and Hogdon were on the 2nd team OL, and got some action at the end of
the game. Adrian Ayala played a bit at the end as well. Connor Banks
was a threat on special teams, and was often the first player down the field,
on punt coverage. Maddox saw plenty of action in the teams two TE offense,
and will probably get more opportunities if ASU uses the TE more.
With one game under all of these players' belt, ASU football has a lot of
young bright spots. These players will all be asked to continue to have a
great impact as the season progresses. All the newcomers faired well in their first game of the 2001 season. Now we are left to see how they will perform in the Rose Bowl against UCLA this week.
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