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Ten players who benefit from Arizona State transition to new offensive, defensive coordinators

Which Arizona State players will see their standing improve in the transition to 2017 with Phil Bennett leading the team's defense, and Billy Napier coaching up the offense? Here's our take.

1. JayJay Wilson -- Pound for pound, Wilson is one of the best athletes on Arizona State's roster. He's a dynamic tight end weapon in the passing game who was underutilized in the offense under coordinator Chip Lindsey. As a sophomore in 2016 Wilson had just four catches, three of which were for touchdowns. Just about every time the Sun Devils targeted Wilson down the field in the red zone something good happened due to his playmaking capability. He releases well from a three-point alignment and is rangier for a 250 pound tight end, with the ability to stress the seams of defenses and the ball skills to catch the ball in traffic. Wilson is not a liability as a blocker whatsoever and can play in any alignment. He's very competitive, plays with an edge and physicality, and has a good base. Wilson should be unleashed in 2017 with the departure of Kody Kohl and arrival of an offensive coordinator, Billy Napier, who comes from a background in which the tight end has been much more of a factor.

2. Kalen Ballage -- A classic pro-style running back who resembles Darren McFadden or DeMarco Murray from a style standpoint, Ballage has been stuck in an ASU offense that isn't ideally structured for his type of talent. He's deep-set toss sweep, outside/stretch zone and power inside running back who is going to be at his best when a quarterback is under center with a pro-set of I-formation. He's a head of steam player who has a natural inclination for the edge and runs better on the perimeter than inside, particularly when he's forced to set up out of a shotgun offset alignment. He needs more of a build up to the line of scrimmage when running inside to see it and use his impressive speed as an true asset. As a senior, Ballage may have more opportunities to do what he's best suited for with the transition to Napier, and particularly if ASU pairs the offense with more of a pro-style quarterback. 

3. Renell Wren -- With the departure of Viliami Latu the Sun Devils just don't have another returning 1-technique defensive tackle on the roster with Wren's potential. He's one of the best looking physical specimens on the roster, which is going to immediately reflect well with ASU staffed by a new defensive coordinator (Phil Bennett) and new defensive line coach (Michael Slater). He has the heft the hold up when playing over the football, and the length to be a disruptive force. Wren needs to take the next step from a consistency and leverage standpoint. He made strides in that regard as sophomore but still has plenty of room to improve. When the Sun Devils are going to look at playing heavier on the interior of the defensive front, however, they're likely to find that Wren makes the most sense. He'll pop out to coaches in the spring as a guy with intriguing potential. 

4. Thomas Hudson -- The tight end is going to become more important immediately under Napier, we believe, and not simply from a pass catching standpoint. Hudson has the type of size and versatility that Napier's going to be used to seeing at the position in the SEC as an inline player. The bodies are just too big and securing the edge in the run game just too important to be left to undersized players unless that's the only option. As the tight end becomes more valuable, and with the departures of not only Kohl but Raymond Epps, who transferred to SMU, someone is going to have to fill that void. It's not going to be just one player (Wilson) either. This is the opportunity that Hudson has coveted and the 6-foot-5, 260 pound player could be poised to take advantage. He has good enough range and receiving skills to be a full service player. 

5. Robbie Robinson -- As a true freshman last season, Robinson handled situational nickel corner opportunities quite well in the first half of the year. Oddly, he didn't the same reps in the second half of the season even though his performance in the role wasn't equalled. We've heard there is some concern about Robinson's height -- he's about 5-foot-8 -- being a limiting factor as perceived by ASU's coaches in 2016, but Robinson played well for a true freshman. He has terrific short area explosiveness and change of direction. He tended to stay in phase even when playing in the toughest of situations, and when he didn't, he showed good recovery quickness. Bennett is the type of coach who has used very light personnel groupings even on base downs, and he has a very potent personality. If he wants Robinson on the field, it's likely going to happen, so Robinson is benefited by the transition. 

6. Malik Lawal -- Led by Koron Crump, Christian Sam and D.J. Calhoun Sun Devils have a good combination of talent and experience at the top of their linebacker pecking order. But it falls off quickly and the unit overall is pretty shallow. The versatility and explosiveness of Lawal has intrigued us since he committed to the Sun Devils, but he just hasn't been given the chance on the field as yet. Now entering his third-year sophomore season, and with a new coordinator who has seemed to really like athletes similar to Lawal in the past at Baylor, it could be a ripe opportunity. Lawal could play as an edge pass rusher similar to Crump (backing him up this year and setting a course to be a starter after that) but also has potential to play as a WILL 'backer. He's a willing player with linear speed who can use some added size, but is naturally strong. 

7. Steve Miller -- It's true with all players but perhaps offensive linemen as much as anywhere other than quarterback: a new position coach brings a fresh set of eyes and an ability to quickly incorporate some new tweaks to technique or mental approach. Sometimes it just takes this different perspective to click in the mind of a player. Miller is a very absorptive player and wants to be better but some of his skill base, like firing his hands quickly enough and how to do that so he can take full advantage of his terrific size and athleticism, hasn't developed that rapidly. He's now transitioning to being coached by Rob Sale, who might be able to work with Miller in a way that allows him to tap further into his potential, which is ample. In recent years ASU hasn't had hardly any 6-foot-4, 325 pound guys with this type of potential. Miller has great foot quickness and overall speed and range as lineman. If he's not a key reserve at minimum and a regular starter as a junior, something has gone awry. 

8. Chase Lucas -- Homogenous defensive backs littered Baylor's secondary in recent years, a terrific sign for Lucas. It was essentially a base nickel with several of the players easily interchangeable between safety, corner and nickel at Baylor the last couple seasons. In Lucas, the Sun Devils have a blank canvas athlete who played primarily on offense in high school but nearly fought his way off the redshirt list as a freshman last season on defense. Coaches don't even know whether Lucas will line up at cornerback or field safety this spring, but it doesn't matter because athletically he's got the size and movement skills to play either spot, especially now that he's 182 pounds. A defense that has been desperate for more athletic range the last two seasons is going to find Lucas very appealing, especially with Bennett having a background working with defensive backs in the past. 

9. Terrell Chatman -- Wide receivers like Chatman are frankly a dime a dozen at the Alabamas of the world, where Napier comes from. But at ASU? Not at all. Chatman has had a very quiet two years at ASU as he's adjusted to college, but at 6-foot-3 and 188 pounds he's got the size, speed and route composure to be a downfield threat. That's something ASU hasn't had enough of and could catch the attention of Napier and new wide receivers coach Rob Likens in practices this spring. Chatman has had a tendency to make some highlight type grabs in a practice setting, but consistency and scheme comprehension have held him back. Is Chatman going to pass N'Keal Harry on the depth chart? Of course not, but is it possible he pushes into the rotation? He has that potential. There have been guys like this at ASU who haven't panned out. Brandon Smith comes to mind. But Chatman is too talented to not continue to push for it. 

10. Bryce Perkins -- Let's be clear right off the bat: Perkins is a real longshot to be Arizona State's starting quarterback in 2017. But he was totally on the outside looking in before suffering a serious neck injury in camp last August. It was basically transfer or switch positions. Now he'll get a fresh set of eyes with Napier, and that can't be anything other than positive for a guy who improved dramatically as a quarterback in high school and has unbridled passion for the position. Perkins is an elite human being. He's capable of managing an offense but arm talent is a bit limiting and what he'll have to overcome. 


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