2004 Sun Devils Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> Dirk Koetter (4th year, 17-20, 43-30 overall)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 5-7 (2-6, T-8th in Pac-10)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2002 Holiday Bowl (34-27 loss to <A HREF=http://kansasstate.TheInsiders.com>Kansas St.</A>)

Key matchup(s): Sep. 18 Iowa, Sep. 25 Oregon State, Oct. 16 at USC, Nov. 26 at Arizona

Star Power: Andrew Walter QB, 6-5 235 senior, Derek Hagan WR, 6-2 192 junior, Loren Wade TB, 6-0 212 sophomore, Drew Hodgdon C, 6-3 285 senior

Notable Additions: Zach Miler TE, 6-4 245 Desert Vista HS, AZ, Maurice London S, 6-0 185, JC transfer, Dale Robinson LB, 6-1 240 JC transfer

Notable Subtractions: S Jason Shivers, FB Mike Karney, WR Skyler Fulton (all drafted by NFL teams), P Tim Parker.

Notable Returnees: Grayling Love OG, 6-3 297 junior, Jamar Williams LB, 6-1 243 junior, R.J. Oliver CB, 5-9 174 senior, Riccardo Stewart S, 5-10 215 senior

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/02/04Texas-El Paso
09/11/04@Northwestern
09/18/04Iowa
09/25/04Oregon State
10/02/04@Oregon
10/16/04@Southern California
10/23/04UCLA
10/30/04@California
11/06/04Stanford
11/13/04Washington State
11/26/04@Arizona
Offensive Overview: With Andrew Walter skipping the NFL draft and returning for his senior season, the Sun Devils will have one of the premier signal callers in the country. Derek Hagan will undoubtedly serve as Walter's main target, but overall the quality depth at wideout is suspect. Nevertheless, redshirt freshman Rudy Burgess showed in the spring that he could be as good as the departed Fulton. Drew Hodgdon anchors an offensive line, which has a good mix of veterans and younger players. Arizona State's running back core, headed by Loren Wade, is among the conference's elite. Thus, the Devils' potent ground attack could help the team's passing game. Koetter has long yearned to run a double tight end offense, and this year he will have the depth at that position to do so. The change should be undetectable to those watching the Sun Devils, but any scheme change can bring inevitable growing pains with it. Look for sophomore Jamaal Lewis and blue chip recruit Zach Miller to lead the tight ends in the receiving game, and provide more production from this position than last season.

Defensive Overview: The much-maligned 4-2-5 alignment will give way to the more traditional 4-3-4 this season. The heaviest concerns on this side of the ball rest with the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle. Senior Jimmy Verdon's move from end to tackle should give a much needed boost, and allow the young and talented sophomore Kyle Caldwell to utilize his pass rush abilities more frequently. The ASU staff is hopeful that these moves can improve the team's abilities to harass opposing quarterbacks and stop the run. Jamar Williams is arguably the team's best defender, and probably the only likely defensive candidate for All Pac-10 honors. When healthy Riccardo Stewart is a tackling machine, but his physical condition has always been a cause for uneasiness. R.J. Oliver has one last chance to prove that he's the proverbial lockdown cornerback he's been touted as.

Special Teams Overview: Sophomore Jesse Ainsworth was just about what you would expect from a freshman kicker. His field goal abilities must catch up to his solid kickoff skills, in order for him to become a dependable contributor. Redshirt freshman punter Chris McDonald will have to fill Parker's big shoes, and at the conclusion of spring practice it was still unclear if this mission was within his reach. During spring Burgess and sophomore wide receiver Terry Richardson have provided encouraging signs as dangerous kick and punt returners. While this group wasn't the team's Achilles heal in 2003, it needs to be more of a difference maker in 2004.

The Sun Devils will have a winning season if... they can dramatically improve their defense, namely the defensive line, get significant contributions from its special teams, and develop more aerial targets for Walter to throw to.

TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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