Filling the Holes

With kick off less than 20 hours away, the Sun Devils still have a few unanswered questions to address. Eight starters on both sides of the ball, have moved on in their college football careers, most of them now in the NFL. The projected starters have shown that they can fill the void in practice, but can they play on Saturdays?

Let's start with the offense. At quarterback, we lose the Pac-10 all time touchdown leader in Andrew Walter but his replacement Sam Keller has shown flashes of excellence leading the Devils to a victory in the Sun Bowl. He also took home the MVP trophy, in his first career start. Most Devil fans are confident that we will not skip a beat with the junior under center.

Speaking of center, we have a new one, converted guard/tackle Grayling Love, a 1st team Pac 10er, who will now play the position he properly fits and one that he will most likely play at the next level. Love replaces Drew Hodgdon, the long time Sun Devil anchor of the offensive line who is currently with the NFL Houston Texans. Once again, there will not be a drop off in talent in at the center spot. This year's offensive line is being compared to that of the 1987 Rose Bowl team. Juts being mentioned in the same sentence as those monsters alone is a huge compliment. It's a testament to how well Dirk Koetter and Staff have done at recruiting and developing this unit.

The running back position - here is where the big question mark lays. Rudy Burgess has shown he can do it, but his frame has not proven that it can take the beating game in and game out. Randy Hill is coming off knee surgery, Cornell Canidate wasn't sure if he would ever run again, Price Wilks is coming off a redshirt year, and Keegan Herring is coming out of high school. A position that one year ago today didn't seem at all like an area of concern with proven depth returning, is now waiting for a player or two to step up and carry the load.

Burgess will be the first one to tell you that he wants someone to take over the starting spot so he can play the "Rudy Burgess" position that he is so dangerous at. Keegan Herring shined at camp and showed toughness physically as well as mentally. Randy Hill shows very little ill effects of his rehabbed ACL. Cornell Canidate is going to be brought up slow and time will tell if Price Wilks can contribute. My best bet is that Keegan and Rudy split the load the first few games and then when Keegan gets fully adjusted to the college level, Rudy will move over to his "RB" position creating one of the most dangerous backfields in the country.

Moving on to the other side of the ball. The Devils have to replace five senior starters including 1st Pac 10 selection Riccardo Stewart at safety and 2nd team selection Jimmy Verdon at defensive tackle. The safety position provides depth and experience with Josh Barrett, who was plugging in for Stewart a few times when he was injured. The coaches have always raved about Barrett's potential, let's hope he can live up to the hype.

Replacing Jimmy V at defensive tackle might be the most difficult task to perform. Not only was Jimmy V a leader on the field but was also a leader off the field. DeWayne Hollyfield shined at Camp T, but it's the other JC transfer, Quency Darley who will be the starter. They both have some game experience but not nearly enough considering Verdon and Hill practically never came off the field. It will be interesting to see how well the defensive tackle position will perform this season, especially when the resurgent Brett Palmer comes back. It is for these players to elevate their game in order for the Sun Devils to be as successful against the run as they were in '04.

Ishmael Thrower was a pleasant surprise at the defensive end spot for the Devils in 2004. If Thrower had one more year of eligibility, he almost certainly would have been a 1st day draft choice. But alas he is gone and it is time for another player to grab the spotlight and sack the opposing quarterback. The leading candidate for that role is Will Kofe, a Junior College transfer from Dixie State in Utah. Kofe played well at Camp T bringing home the Defensive Newcomer award.

Losing Chris McKenzie hurts. Getting R.J. Oliver back helps ease the pain. Chris is a guy, who like Thrower, could have used another year of college ball. Oliver, if healthy, should return to his '02 form when he led the Pac 10 in deflections and interceptions. Keno Walter-White is another JC transfer that is poised to have a strong season, even though he starts 2005 as a reserve.

In the middle, Justin Burks has moved onto the NFL but Dale Robinson did some moving as well, going from the outside spot to fill the middle linebacker spot occupied by Burks last season. Robinson feels more comfortable in this role and has been getting rave reviews from Head Coach Dirk Koetter and new Defensive Coordinator Bill Miller.

In spring ball, Matt Fawley and Emmanuel Franklin were experienced starters. Both are now gone for their own reasons. That leaves several hungry back ups finally getting an opportunity to play ball on Saturdays for the Devils. Who is going to step up? Well, Robert James has been the starter in Fawley's spot all summer so that answers that question. With Manny's departure coming a lot later then Matt's, it leaves a much bigger position to fill at safety. Good news though, ASU is loaded at this role with guys like Jeremy Payton, Derron Ware, Josh Barrett, Zach Catanese, and Maurice London. Catanese and London are slated to start against Temple.

So how will the Devils fill these after mentioned holes this season? Well, we will Start to find out tomorrow night when we battle Temple.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories