2005 Season Preview

Hope springs eternal for every team once the calendar turns to August and two-a-days begin, signaling the official start to another exciting college football season. The 2005 Arizona State Sun Devils are looking to capitalize on a solid nine-win campaign in 2004 that culminated with a thrilling win over Purdue in the Sun Bowl. This Friday will mark the first time the Devils will begin camp following a bowl victory since 1998, after ASU beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in December '97 at the Sun Bowl.

The Pac-10 media poll has ASU finishing third in the conference. Overall, cautious optimism seems to be the common link amongst Devil fans as there are plenty of reasons to be excited (returning players, schedule, etc) as well as lingering question marks that need to be answered (running back, defensive personnel losses, etc).

Mark Your Calendars:

September 10: ASU @ LSU
October 1: USC @ ASU
November 12: ASU @ UCLA

For any rabid college football fan, it doesn't get much better than a road trip to Baton Rouge, where Arizona State is expecting approximately 7,000 of its fans to travel to. Schedule-wise, ASU has a fairly decent go of things in Pac-10 action as they get defending national champions, the Southern California Trojans, at home and miss the California Bears. The Oregon Ducks also make the return trip to Tempe. Road games ASU must at least split in order to finish in the top 3 are the trips to Pullman (Washington State) and Pasadena (UCLA). Both are winnable games but will provide a formidable test for the road-weary Devils in the swing month of November. Archrival Arizona caps off the regular season at home on November 25.

OFFENSE (8 returning starters):

Projected Starters
* denotes returning starter

WR Derek Hagan*
WR Terry Richardson*
HB Lee Burghgraef*
TE Zach Miller*
QB Sam Keller
LT Brandon Rodd
LG Stephen Berg*
C Grayling Love*
RG Zach Krula*
RT Andrew Carnahan*
RB Rudy Burgess

Key to success in 2005: Run blocking was visibly improved in '04. That trend, hopefully, continues in '05 with a new starter behind center and questionable experience at running back. Sam Keller would receive a big boost if a running game can be established. The table is set with talent and experience back in the trenches.

A main component of the palpable anticipation of the season is the return of eight starters on offense. 4 out of the 5 Offensive Linemen return, along with several playmakers at the skill positions. Running back will be at the forefront of most minds as the position is still in a bit of limbo following Loren Wade's dismissal from the team.

QUARTERBACK

Junior Sam Keller is the new signal-caller under Center and already has Sun Devil fans looking forward to his play after leading the team to a big bowl win last December against Purdue. What he lacks in a perceived lack of arm strength by some, he makes up for it in his leadership and moxy out on the field. Keller finished his brief sophomore outing with 606 yards, one interception, and 5 touchdowns.

Competing for the number two spot behind Keller are Redshirt Freshman Rudy Carpenter and Senior Chad Christensen. Christensen is classified as a Quarterback but has also filled in at wide receiver and running back when needed. Carpenter redshirted in 2004 and served as the scout team quarterback, receiving rave reviews. Derek Shaw, a highly touted prep quarterback from California, will also throw his name in the hat at Tontozona in hopes of securing the back-up job.

OFFENSIVE LINE

With four starters returning, the Offensive Line looks to be a real source of strength for the team in 2005, and is arguably the deepest it has been in the last several years . Senior Grayling Love is among the best in the league and moves to Center this fall. Juniors Stephen Berg and Zach Krula moved into the starting Guard spots in the second half of last year and should retain the same status heading into the season. The fourth returning starter on the line is the consistent Andrew Carnahan at Right Tackle, who has solidified himself very nicely at the position. That leaves Left Tackle vacant, which is surely to be a battle this pre-season. Brandon Rodd played his way into the starting spot early on but went down with a season ending injury in the Northwestern win. Assuming full health, Rodd could be considered to have the inside track to be the starter. Battling him for the LT spot will be RS Freshman Bradis McGriff, a very talented young lineman that has been bothered by injury. If both players are slowed by nagging injuries then offensive line Coach Brent Myers may opt for Chaz White, the Senior with experience that has remained in the shadows a bit the last year or two.

Filling out the depth on the line are Tackle Julius Orieukwu, Guards Leo Talavou and Robert Gustavis, and Center Mike Pollack. Talavou is a mountain of a man but moves well for a player his size. He'll be a competing for time off the bench this season after redshirting last fall. Pollack has seen a decent amount of playing time already after filling in for the departed Drew Hodgdon last year.

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Pre-Season All-American Derek Hagan opted to return for his Senior season and will lead this veteran group of receivers that has remained in tact from last year. In 2004, Hagan finished with 83 catches and 10 touchdowns. Junior Terry Richardson is a solid number two receiver, hauling in 45 catches along with his exciting playmaking abilities. Senior Matt Miller is a deep threat and will be looking to stay consistent in his final year donning the Maroon & Gold. Moey Mutz also provides solid depth at the position and may be a third or fourth option for Keller at times with his consistently well-run routes and sure hands.

The two wild cards also competing for catches will be Redshirt Freshmen Nate Kimbrough and Michael   Jones. Kimbrough stands a better chance to crack the rotation after having a very nice spring and a solid redshirt year.

The undisputed offensive newcomer of last season was heralded valley prep Tight End Zach Miller. Miller is considered among the best at the position in the league and in the nation after finishing with 56 catches and six touchdowns as a true freshman. The combination of his hands and Senior Lee Burghgraef's blocking abilities have the position set nicely. Junior Jamaal Lewis is a fluid, pass catcher that figures to see minutes like last season in certain down and distance situations. Brent Miller, older brother of Zach, has seen a small amount of minutes and will continue to compete for more. Redshirt Freshman Andrew Pettes, Sophomore Kellen Mills, and true Freshman Jovon Williams round out the depth chart.

RUNNING BACKS

Running back is the position of mystery for the Devils heading into the 2005 campaign. Sophomore playmaker Rudy Burgess is penciled in as the starter and has shown plenty to warrant excitement of him in the backfield. However, it remains to be seen if his body can hold up to the physical toll a running back takes over a full season. Burgess has gained some muscle in the off-season and is ready to help the team out in whatever fashion he can.

His carries may be limited to preserve health which will in turn give a handful of guys waiting in the wings a chance for game time reps. Junior Randy Hill is a positive yard carrier between the tackles but is coming off a torn ACL injury. Senior Cornell Canidate is looking to make a comeback after a fine start as a Freshman, leaving his nagging groin injury behind him. Redshirt Freshman Price Wilks will get an opportunity to practice with the offense after spending '04 with the scout team. Sophomore Antone Saulsberry came over from the defense last season and showed enough skill for the staff to keep him at the position. Saulsberry does have a redshirt year available if needed. Two new running backs will also get a look in camp as Colorado product Shaun Dewitty and local standout Keegan Herring join the fray. Herring is a darkhorse among some due to his experience blocking at fullback, not to mention his exciting athleticism.

DEFENSE (6 returning starters):

Projected Starters
* denotes returning starter

DE Kyle Caldwell*
DT Jordan Hill*
DT Quency Darley
DE DeWayne Hollyfield
LB Jamar Williams*
LB Dale Robinson*
LB Robert James
S Maurice London
S Josh Barrett
CB Josh Golden*
CB Chad Green

Key to success in 2005: Pressuring opposing quarterbacks. With a talented but injury prone secondary, there needs to be a consistent push up front to help out. Hill and Caldwell can be successful but it's up to Darley, Talbot, Hollyfield, and company to step up in order to let them do their jobs. It also remains to be seen how new defensive coordinator Bill Miller will utilize blitzes in contrast to Brent Guy.

Calling the plays this fall for the defense will be Bill Miller, former Linebackers coach at Florida. Miller intends to keep the 4-3 base defense while inheriting a talented group of returners. The biggest question plaguing the defense at this juncture is who will step up at the two vacant Tackle and End spots. Injuries took a toll on the secondary all throughout the 2004 season and into spring practices earlier this year so a healthy secondary coming out of camp would be a much welcomed sight.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Junior DE Kyle Caldwell and DT Jordan Hill, also a Junior, emerged as a very salty duo for the much maligned Sun Devil Defensive Line last season. Both tied for the team lead in sacks with 7 a piece. Caldwell and Hill are nailed down as starters while the other two spots are up for grabs. DeWayne Hollyfield has practiced at both Tackle and End but is penciled in at End for now. Fellow JC transfer from the 2004 class, Quency Darley, will be competing at Tackle. Both should figure into the rotation and possibly start. Will Kofe, another JC transfer that arrived in the spring, will also be pushing for time at Defensive End. Converted Fullback, Mike Talbot, used last season to cut his teeth at end and should also get some playing time there. Competing with Darley for time on the interior will be newcomer and JC transfer Shannon Jones, the younger brother of former ASU Defensive Tackle Shane Jones.

LINEBACKERS

The team's defensive newcomer of the year in 2004, Dale Robinson, is back but will be lining up in the middle this season. Robinson was the leading tackler last year with 93 for the season. Flanking him will be Jamar Williams, who has a wealth of experience and will also be closing out his Sun Devil career this season as a Senior. Both players bring a wealth of talent and toughness and should be an exciting pair to watch. Sophomore Robert James is penciled in as the starter at the other spot for right now after having a very solid showing in spring practices. However, senior Nick Clapp, a walk-on who earned a scholarship this year, is reportedly pushing James. JC transfer Beau Manutai acclimated himself in the spring and is fighting for a spot in the rotation. Sophomore DeAndre Johnson rounds out the depth chart.

SAFETIES

Emmanuel Franklin received great news earlier this year when the NCAA awarded him a sixth year of eligibility. However, he has failed to meet his academic obligations which has in effect ended his Sun Devil career. Sophomore Josh Barrett should be the starter at one safety if his health is up to par. Senior Maurice London had a solid spring and is hoping to make the Junior-to-Senior year blossom many JC transfers make in their final year and line up at the other starting safety spot. Backing things up are junior college transfer Zach Catanese who participated in spring drills and was very well received. Catanese should be hard to keep off the field if he continues to improve. The future of the Safety group received another boost by nabbing Michigan State transfer Derron Ware. Jeremy Payton who redshirted at wide receiver last season, could be the dark horse of the group and a player that could surprise Sun Devil fans with his play.

CORNERBACKS

Putting health aside, ASU could have a tandem of starting seniors here at corner that bring a plethora of experience with them. However, both have been plagued by injuries over their careers. R.J. Oliver was granted a sixth year of eligibility also but will still report to camp not in full health. If Oliver's foot can eventually heal, it would be a huge boost to have him in the line up. Josh Golden, when healthy, is a decent corner and has made some strides since his days as a freshman. Whether or not you like him, his experience would certainly be a plus to the group if Oliver's comeback is unsuccessful.

Sophomore Chad Green is a talented young corner but has also been plagued with nagging injuries. Mike Davis is a Senior and will likely see some time in the Secondary. His inconsistent play has kept him from seeing more minutes but can be utilized in certain game situations and/or against taller receivers. Redshirt Freshman Uriah Marshall will likely figure into the mix at some point as well since health is seemingly always an issue at Corner.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Certainly not the strongest of suits for the Devils last season but with plenty of experience back on coverage teams and both specialists returning, should be improved. Sophomore Chris MacDonald had a nice Freshman campaign, finishing with a 43.1 yard average but excelled in the placement of his kicks. His job is not above reproach. However, his leg isn't so much of an issue as his protection team is. The Devils cannot afford another season of more blocked punts. Junior Jason Burke returns as the long snapper this season. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth started 2004 off with a bang and then cooled off as the season progressed. The Junior has a very strong leg but needs to regain consistency with his accuracy after missing 10 of his 28 attempts last year.

Rudy Burgess was an exciting returner for ASU last season but enthusiasm waned a little when Burgess showed the propensity for coughing up the ball. In order to keep possession of the pigskin, Burgess was kept on the sidelines in favor of Terry Richardson to return punts. Koetter has several weapons at his disposal in the return game with Burgess, Richardson, Golden, and Kimbrough.

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