2005 Season in Review

2005 was a roller coaster of a campaign for the 7-5 Sun Devil football team. A near victory in September over powerhouse LSU had the ASU fans on the edge of their seats for the upcoming Pac-10 slate. By the time October was coming to a close, ASU was looking to break a three-game losing skid marked by a disappointing loss to Stanford. Nevertheless, 2005 marked the first time in nearly 20 years that a Sun Devil team finished the season with a win over archrival Arizona and a bowl victory.

A few things we learned:

-- Arizona State may have one of the best quarterback tandems in the country. Sam Keller had an outstanding start in 2005, until he succumbed to a thumb injury. Redshirt freshman Rudy Carpenter stepped in and led the team to wins in 4 of their final 5 games, while setting a new ASU mark in passing yards for a freshman quarterback.

-- After disappointing outings against conference heavyweights in 2004, ASU showed they can play with the big boys this season. Injuries eventually took a big toll but the Devils can look to the LSU and USC games as blocks to build on for the future.

-- Depth issues were exposed, particularly on defense. Run defense and the lack of a pass rush really hurt this side of the ball. In order for the program to turn the corner, significant improvements are in order for the maroon and gold defense.

-- Special teams were a big difference-maker this season. A blocked kick and multiple blocked punts spelled disaster in the LSU and Stanford losses, however, two Terry Richardson returns for touchdowns propelled ASU to a Territorial Cup win and a near upset of USC.

-- The run game is still a work in progress. Keegan Herring and Rudy Burgess combined to give the Devils better production on the ground this season but a compliment in the form of a bigger back that can move the chains on 3rd and 1 type of situations is still missing.

Position Grades:

Offensive Line: B-

Injuries hit this group hard for most of the season. The original starting five of Brandon Rodd, Stephen Berg, Grayling Love, Zach Krula, and Andrew Carnahan gave quarterback Sam Keller excellent pass protection. Krula was lost for the season after the Northwestern game and the line was never the same. Keller eventually got roughed up during the USC and Oregon games, which led to thumb and shoulder injuries ending his season. Furthermore, the ground game sputtered a bit with the loss of additional linemen such as Love and Carnahan. As a matter of fact, Rodd would be the lone player to start all 12 games for this unit.

Depth became a concern at the midway point of the season when reserves Chaz White and Leo Talavou were having some communication problems. A bulk of the 36 sacks given up by the line this season occurred during that time period. White ended up coming around and finishing the season off strong at left tackle. Mike Pollack is a versatile player on the line and appears ready to take over Grayling Love's spot at center.

Running Back: C+

True freshman Keegan Herring showed great potential in his first year in Tempe and appears to be an important puzzle piece for the future. The Peoria native was a crowd favorite early on with his style of hitting the holes fast and hard. His 870 yards broke a school record for freshman running backs. Herring combined with sophomore Rudy Burgess gave the maroon and gold a more consistent punch at running back this season as compared to last when the position was beset with injuries and suspensions. Burgess was no slouch himself, however, and was the starter in the backfield that provided some needed consistency and run blocking. The sophomore finished with 644 yards on the ground and 655 receiving.

The running game was affected when the injuries begun piling up on the offensive line, but it also lacked a power punch to grind out the tough yards when the offense needed to sustain drives. If Koetter does indeed move Burgess back to wide receiver next season, Herring and the rest of the bunch will need to be on top of their blitz pick-ups and blocking schemes.

Wide Receiver: A

Derek Hagan closed out his career as a Sun Devil in fine fashion by etching his name in ASU and Pac-10 record books. The senior caught 77 passes, accounting for 1,210 yards of offense. Hagan and junior Terry Richardson combined to give Arizona State one of the conference's top receiving duos. Richardson was a key contributor with his dependable hands this season, finishing 2005 with 37 catches and 5 touchdowns. Perhaps the junior's finest game as a receiver in the Maroon and Gold came in September on the national stage against LSU.

Two seniors rounded out the receiving group and made some big contributions despite the bevy of balls they had to share with the two after mentioned players. Matt Miller was second only to Hagan in receiving touchdowns with 7 and stepped up as a consistent depth threat for both Keller and Carpenter. His 23.5 yard per catch average was a big help in stretching the offense, and was outstanding in his last ever game in the Insight Bowl. Moey Mutz caught 21 passes and scored a big touchdown in the LSU game. Redshirt freshmen Nate Kimbrough and Michael   Jones saw little action but will be competing in the spring for spots vacated by the three seniors.

Tight End: B+

With sophomore Zach Miller battling injuries this season, junior Jamaal Lewis stepped up in a big way with five touchdowns in nine games played. Lewis dazzled fans by laying out for passes that would often result in either a score or a big catch on a 3rd down to keep the offense on the field. Despite those injuries slowing him down, Miller came back and showed he's still very much a force to be reckoned with over the middle and caught 38 balls for four scores. Senior Lee Burghgraef was as always Mr. Consistency as a primary blocker but was rewarded with a touchdown pass against USC, which provided one of the more memorable moments of the season. Elder Miller brother, Brent, can catch well but is also a very solid blocker and will probably see the field more in 2006 with Burghgraef's spot up for grabs.

Quarterback: B+

A year ago at this time, there was a palpable excitement surrounding Sam Keller following his performance in the 2004 Sun Bowl. The optimism was a bit tempered, however, because nobody knew exactly what to expect for a full-season with record-setting quarterback Andrew Walter gone. Any worries were quickly extinguished when Keller carved up a formidable LSU defense for 461 yards and four touchdowns. Keller would go on to light up the scoreboard until thumb and shoulder injuries limited his performance and ultimately ended his season. His final statistics include throwing for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Enter redshirt freshman Rudy Carpenter, who quickly turned heads by engineering a near comeback at Stanford. The Californian would go on to a 4-1 record as a starter and pass for 2,273 yards and 17 touchdowns. Carpenter's performance was enough to spark recent talk of a quarterback controversy as the Devils start preparations for the 2006 season.

Defensive Line: D

The front four were, undoubtedly, the most maligned unit of the year. The loss of Jimmy Verdon and Ishmael Thrower was evident from the beginning when the Devils failed to record a single sack against Temple in the season opener. The line accounted for only 7.5 sacks, 5.5 of which belonged to senior DeWayne Hollyfield. Take out the Oregon State game, where everyone feasted on Matt Moore due to the Beavers porous line, and the defensive line collected only 4.5 sacks all year. Numbers like that eventually caught up to the Sun Devils when the lack of depth was exposed. The defensive line was shuffled around due to injuries but the common theme was that it was an undersized and overmatched group.

Jordan Hill's move inside to tackle last season paid off because he was able to take advantage of single coverage. Without much help around him this year, Hill had to flirt with obscurity. He and Hollyfield teamed for 50 tackles on the interior. Senior Quency Darley notched 22 stops. The only lineman penciled in as a pass rush specialist headed into the season, Kyle Caldwell, battled injuries most of the year and limited him to 17 tackles. Junior Will Kofe and senior Mike Talbot were short on experience but played hard off the bench to chip in a combined 45 tackles. Three transfers will be eligible in 2006 to help the line but depth is still an issue heading into the off-season for defensive coordinator Bill Miller.

Linebacker: B

It's hard to imagine where the defense would have been without a playmaker like Dale Robinson. The senior was voted Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-10 and leaves ASU with a blaze of glory. Robinson tallied 115 tackles and 4 sacks while lining up in the middle and off the edge to help with a pass rush. Senior Jamar Williams intercepted three passes to go along with his 70 stops on the season. New to the linebacker spot this season, Robert James finished with 36 tackles, five of which were for a loss.

Two reserves, redshirt freshman Adam Vincent and junior Beau Manutai, came on strong in the second half of the season and will be favorites to see a lot more time in 2006. Vincent appears to have a nose for the ball as a youngster that should only get better with more time while Manutai has the bulk to plug some gaps behind the line. Both teamed up for 49 tackles this season. Another underclassmen to watch in the future is Chad Lindsey, who played as a true freshman in 2005. Next year may not be as kind to the linebacking unit as they lose Robinson and Williams and will be a bit short on experience and numbers.

Safety: C+

The 2005 season started out an a sour note for the safety group when it was learned that Emmanuel Franklin became academically ineligible. However, that left the door open for senior Maurice London. After a forgettable junior season, London was visibly improved and cracked the starting lineup this season. Junior Zach Catanese followed up a strong spring, where he was one of the most talked about additions, by starting all 12 games. The two starters combined for 162 tackles.

Sophomore Josh Barrett had 37 tackles, primarily off the bench. Nickel back Jeremy Payton showed some flashes this season as a redshirt freshman with 25 tackles and three pass break ups. Overall, the safeties may have been in a precarious situation to begin with because of the defensive line domino effect. The need for run support seemingly took away some of the efficacy on pass defense.

Cornerback: B-

Mike Davis, Jr. was mostly an afterthought headed into '05 but turned out to be arguably the most improved player for the defense this season. His 11 pass break-ups alone tied the mark that last year's starters, Josh Golden and Chris McKenzie, had combined for in 2004. Golden wrapped up a solid career with 51 tackles and two interceptions this season and his four years of experience will probably be missed next season.

Keno Walter-White looks like the front-runner to start at one spot next season after cutting his teeth this season. Walter-White had a typical transition year from the JC ranks but seems to have the potential if he stays healthy. The transfer finished with 26 tackles and a trio of pass break-ups. Two other reserves played this season but were never really 100% due to nagging injuries, senior RJ Oliver and sophomore Chad Green. Without much of a pass rush up front, it was hard for this corner group to shine at all this season.

Special Teams: B

If not for Terry Richardson's emergence as one of the most dangerous returners in the league, this unit is pegged for a lower grade due to punt team problems. A blocked kick and a blocked punt led to 14 points for the Tigers and sabotaged what looked to be a victory over LSU. Three more punts would go on to be blocked before some wholesale changes were made by special teams coach Tom Osborne. He scrapped the spread punt protection formation and opted for kicker Jesse Ainsworth on punt duty instead of sophomore Chris McDonald. Ainsworth's number was not called too many times this season on field goal attempts but he did make the most of his opportunities by converting on 9 of his 11 attempts. The junior was also a fixture on kickoffs, often booming his kicks near the back of the endzone and out of the hands of dangerous returners like Reggie Bush and Maurice Drew.

The importance of Richardson's two punt returns can't be understated. His first return for a score ignited the team into believing they could play with USC and his second, perhaps, salvaged the rivalry game and completely stole the momentum from Arizona in the season home finale. The receiver ran for nearly 1,000 yards returning punts and kickoffs this season.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories