Arizona State Football 2004 Report

The 2004 season has come to a close for this edition of Sun Devil Football. There were highs (Iowa win) and lows (USC loss), but at the end of the year it all translated to a solid 9-3 finish, a bowl win over Purdue, and a finish in the top 20, both occurring for the first time since 1997. takes an in-depth look at last season and grades the Devils, position by position.

Offense Offensive Line: B+ There was some shuffling on the line throughout the year with eight different players getting a starting nod at some point of the season. Grayling Love was the mark of consistency at the left guard position and earned First Team All Pac-10 honors. Right tackle Andrew Carnahan, the only other lineman to start all 12 games, had a solid sophomore campaign and garnered a selection to the conference's second team. Tucson product, Stephen Berg, notched 11 starts and was a pleasant surprise this year and proved he can play both guard spots. The lone senior of the group, Drew Hodgdon, missed time at the beginning of the year due to a toe injury. Freshman Mike Pollack stepped in for Hodgdon at center and did an admirable job in his absence. Zach Krula and Chaz White both played key roles this year as well.

Having gone up against some physical defensive lines from the likes of Iowa, USC, and Cal, the pass blocking was relatively good. In some games, Andrew Walter had all day to make his reads. Run blocking was, for the most part, inconsistent. The Northwestern game was enjoyable to watch with the offensive line taking over in the fourth quarter and allowing running back Loren Wade to milk the clock down. The Sun Bowl was perhaps the finest game by the hogs up front this year. There were some very big holes opened up for Rudy Burgess on the ground, which led to the crucial fourth quarter touchdowns.

Running Back: B-

This position was decimated in numbers due to a variety of reasons. Starter Loren Wade was suspended indefinitely following the Iowa win for illegal benefits and did not return to the field for the rest of 2004. Randy Hill went down with an ACL injury in the Oregon State game. Hakim Hill won't be back for his senior season in 2005 after being dismissed from the team while they were preparing to face Purdue in the Sun Bowl. Things looked bleak at running back so Dirk Koetter moved receiver Rudy Burgess and linebacker Antone Saulsberry over to help. Walk-on Preston Jones climbed up the depth chart and got several carries too with the position in flux. The Burgess experiment was a big success, when he rushed for a team high 186 yards versus Stanford. Along with that came a price and Burgess' small frame took a beating. It took the redshirt freshman several weeks to regroup and regain his health. A rested and rejuvenated Burgess help secure ASU's win in the Sun Bowl.

With the Wade suspension and everything else that happened at this position, it's hard to make a good read on this group. It went from being a position with good depth to virtually none at all. Prior to the shake-up, Loren Wade was running well. Hakim Hill was arguably the unit's best blocker in pass protection, although Wade continued to improve in this area. Burgess is a special talent to have in the ball game but would rank low in pass blocking mostly because defenders have a considerable size advantage over the speedster.

Tight End: A

True freshman Zach Miller lived up to all the hype surrounding the Desert Vista product. His presence alone had defensive coordinators tweaking their schemes slightly against the ASU offense. Miller finished the season with 56 catches and six touchdowns. In doing so, he set ASU freshman records for receptions and receiving yards, eclipsing Sun Devil great and All-Pro Todd Heap. Miller was also named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American by several media outlets. Older brother, Brent, got into the action this year after an injury sidelined him in 2003. Brent Miller caught three balls with 1 of those resulting in a touchdown. Lee Burghgraef was Mr. Consistency again this season and continues to be a solid blocker. He even lined up a few times in the backfield. With Zach Miller filling up one spot and Burghgraef seeing time at the other, it was a little more difficult for the other tight ends to see a lot of snaps but Jamaal Lewis did a nice job whenever his number was called. He finished the season with a pair of touchdowns on six catches and had his best game against the Oregon Ducks.

Quarterback: A-

Andrew Walter's arm was a big key to the Sun Devils' success this year. 3150 yards and 30 touchdowns later, Walter leaves ASU with his name entrenched in the record books, including surpassing John Elway's Pac-10 record for career touchdowns. Unfortunately, Andrew wasn't able to play in the Sun Bowl and ended his season with a second half shoulder injury in the Arizona game. Sam Keller finished the game and nearly led a Sun Devil comeback. Keller would then make his first career start against Purdue and threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns.

With an inconsistent running game to work with, Walter's achievements are that much more impressive. Defenses could leave a safety back at times with not much of a run game to respect and Walter still led the offense with efficiency and didn't make too many costly mistakes.

Wide Receiver: A-

The offense needed a compliment receiver to step up across Derek Hagan this season and Terry Richardson proved worthy of that role. Richardson ran better routes and was generally much more consistent than he was last season. Derek Hagan continued to improve on the intangibles that makeup great receivers and others took note of it. Hagan was a Pac-10 Second Team selection and will be one of the conference's top receivers coming back for the 2005 season. The Walter and Hagan connection averaged 104 yards per game and netted 10 touchdowns. Richardson saw pay dirt six times and effectively averaged 56 yards per game. Former walk-on Moey Mutz continued to improve and played quite a bit this year. He came up with some key catches that sustained some drives for the offense. Matt Miller was seemingly inconsistent with his talent again. Miller's hail-mary catch in the Stanford game was unforgettable as it was the game winning catch with just seconds left in the contest.

Route running and blocking downfield by all the receivers was noticeably better this year and along with the emergence of Richardson all contributed to this unit being one of the best receiving groups from top to bottom ASU has had in the last few years. With everybody returning in 2005 and several guys coming off of redshirts, this group will be counted on to ease Keller's transition at quarterback.


Defensive Line: A-

The move of Jordan Hill to defensive tackle from linebacker was a big success. Hill was the team's co-leader in sacks on the year with seven. Hill proved to be a formidable pass rusher in the middle, something the line desperately needed after an anemic pass rush in 2003. His fellow tackle, Jimmy Verdon, closed the book on his ASU career with 40 tackles and two sacks. At one end spot, Kyle Caldwell continues to evolve into a force to be reckoned with. He had 26 tackles and seven sacks this season. Teams would tend to run away from Caldwell's side and Ishmael Thrower did not back down from the challenge. The senior finished with 38 tackles, 10.5 of those going for a loss, including a handful of sacks. Gabe Reininger was penciled in as a starter heading into the year but was forced into a reserve roll with Hill's emergence. Big Gabe was helpful off the bench and aided in the line's run defense.

The Defensive Line gets a high score due to the improvements in run defense and pass rushing. Both of those areas needed a lot of help after last season's debacle. Kudos go out to the line for being the most improved unit this season.

Linebacker: A-

The trio of Dale Robinson, Justin Burks, and Jamar Williams has dominated some teams this year. Robinson had a coming out party at Northwestern with 14 tackles against the Wildcats. His crushing hits became a trademark early in the year and his season concluded with a total of 93 tackles. Justin Burks, the senior and middle linebacker of the group, finished as the team leader in tackles with 95. Williams pitched in with 81 tackles, two sacks, and 3 interceptions.

It was a treat watching this group of guys play. Their physical style made for a very solid front seven for ASU this year. Justin Burks, the biggest beneficiary of this year's 4-3-4 scheme, considerably stepped up his game from a year ago with better tackling and pursuit angles. All three made big contributions to the better run defense as well.

Safety: B

Emmanuel Franklin was arguably the most improved player on defense this year for ASU. The transition to safety from cornerback was relatively smooth sailing. JC transfer Maurice London was being talked about as the starter opposite Stewart but Franklin's play forced London into seeing minimal action. Franklin was the team's leader in interceptions with four and made some key plays for the defense this year. The other senior, Riccardo Stewart, also came up with some big plays, especially the tide turning hit in the Northwestern game. Stewart led the secondary in tackles with 63 and was a First Team All Pac-10 selection. Josh Barrett was serviceable in the reserve role and should only get better with more experience.

Cornerback: B

Position coach Mark Carrier's corners were noticeably improved this season. Chris McKenzie cashed in on his senior season with much better coverage and knowledge of the schemes this year. McKenzie's consistency couldn't have come at a better time since the group lost it's most experienced cover guy, R.J. Oliver, early at Camp Tontozona. Josh Golden stepped up as the starter at the other spot. Golden gave up some big plays but also made some nice ones himself. He's arguably the least popular Sun Devil among fans but he should take stock in his improvement as consistency will be the goal for him in 2005. Chad Green and Mike Davis Jr. came off the bench and were serviceable. Davis looked average in coverage on some plays but on others, looked lost. Green performed as a redshirt freshman usually does at this demanding position but displayed the raw talent that can make his future very exciting.

Overall, the unit was better across the board this season – that's what experience will usually do for you. There was also better tackling than in years past. Not a perfect campaign, but certainly a building block for next year for guys like Golden and Green.


The specialists, Jesse Ainsworth and Chris MacDonald, aren't really the root of the problems that continued to plague the team here. It's the coverage teams that need work. Ainsworth started the season out on fire during his field goal duties but finished up on a very average note. Ainsworth has the leg for long field goals but needs to find his accuracy again. He was a total of 18 for 28 on his attempts and a perfect 40 of 40 in PAT tries.

Chris MacDonald was named to a couple of Freshman All-American lists following the season. On 64 punts he averaged 43.1 yards. MacDonald downed 16 punts inside the 20-yard line and his longest kick of the season went for 72 yards.

Rudy Burgess saw action returning both kickoffs (22.5 yards a return) and punts (7.5 yards a return). His electricity gave the Devils a legitimate chance of some big returns but his unsure hands ultimately forced coach Tom Osborne to go with Terry Richardson as the punt returner to avoid more fumbles. Sharing duties on kickoffs was Josh Golden, who averaged 22.8 yards a return.

The biggest improvement on Special Teams must come from the field goal and punt units. Two of MacDonald's punts were blocked, one being due to a low snap. Three of Ainsworth's Field Goals were blocked as well.

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