Spring Review

Spring practices culminated on Saturday with the final scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium. A victorious White team, led by quarterback Rudy Carpenter and sophomore tailback Shaun DeWitty, gave the few thousand fans in attendance something to talk about over the summer hiatus. The quarterback debate is surely to be a hot topic in the off-season, while other position questions, such as the defensive line, won't have a full answer until the Fall with several injuries to key players.

OFFENSE

Player whose stock rose most: Shaun DeWitty, RB.

A healthy Shaun DeWitty, had a very consistent spring and performed well in all three scrimmages. With some added muscle, the running back is officially in the backfield mix and may provide an added push in short yardage situations. The sophomore had 121 yards in the final scrimmage, and his emergence may also give Koetter some added comfort that the running back position may be in capable hands with he and Herring, which could prompt Koetter to let Rudy Burgess concentrate more on the receiver and cornerback positions in the Fall.

Up front, the offensive line depth is still under some minor construction. Junior Julius Orieukwu has gained some consistency at Right Tackle but will continue to compete in the fall with fellow junior Brandon Rodd. Senior Andrew Carnahan is back at Left Tackle. Seniors Stephen Berg and Zach Krula sat out this spring but will return to their starting guard spots in the Fall. Junior Mike Pollack appears to be a lock at Center. That's what the starting line is shaping up to be with key reserves, sophomore Leo Talavou at Left Guard and junior Robert Gustavis at Right Guard.

Senior Tight End Jamaal Lewis was moved to WR this spring to bolster the loss of three seniors at the position. With top returning receiver Terry Richardson suspended for spring workouts, the door was open for someone out of a group of two sophomores and two redshirt freshmen to pull away from the pack. Sophomore Michael   Jones did exactly that and gained the praise of Koetter. Jones was Carpenter's favorite target in the final scrimmage, finishing with 7 catches for 142 yards and two scores. Sophomore Nate Kimbrough and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith aren't that far behind but need to find more consistency.

The tight ends were relatively quiet on the news front this spring. However, that's probably a good thing. Junior Brent Miller is in the driver's seat to succeed Lee Burghgraef at the primary blocking H-Back position. Brother Zach will likely start opposite him at TE. Sophomore transfer Dane Guthrie has the tolls to succeed, but his performance was labeled disappointing. Sophomore Andrew Pettes is another option off the bench.

As mentioned, running back Shaun DeWitty had a breakout spring, which looks to be a great prelude to the fall with JUCO transfer Ryan Torain adding to the competition. Sophomore Keegan Herring is still penciled in as the starting running back. Junior Preston Jones was ahead of DeWitty on the depth chart coming into spring drills but was limited due to an injury.

Last but certainly not least, the quarterback position remains a very debatable topic on many minds. Senior Sam Keller begun the spring as the starter and finishes it in the same capacity heading into summer workouts. Sophomore Rudy Carpenter picked up where we last saw him in the Insight Bowl, with a strong spring. Fueling the position debate was his performance in the final scrimmage. Carpenter threw for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns, outdeuling Keller's 135 yards. It's a nice problem to have if your Dirk Koetter. On the flip side, depth at quarterback took a hit when it was officially announced that freshman Derek Shaw is transferring a week into spring practice. That leaves walk-on Brett Boon listed as third on the depth chart.

DEFENSE

Player whose stock rose most: Josh Barrett, Safety.

The junior has begun to flourish now that his health has been cooperating. Barrett is penciled in as the starter opposite senior Zach Catanese and has been a big part of why the tandem has earned Koetter's praises this spring as he hopes they can anchor the secondary this season with cornerbacks short on experience. JUCO transfer Troy Nolan's acclimation to the program was cut short when he went out with an injury. Sophomore Jeremy Payton and freshman Mike Nixon saw extensive action as back-ups. Nixon's natural football instincts may propel him to see some action this season in a reserve role. Rodney Cox established himself as a viable back-up player.

The Defensive Line remains a big question mark, due in large part to injuries. Senior Defensive Ends Loren Howard and Kyle Caldwell were held out this spring, although Caldwell did participate in limited drills. Both are expected to return healthy for Camp Tontozona. Senior Will Kofe went out early in spring drills with a sprained knee and Tranell Morant participated in about half of the practices, also due to injury. However, in the scrimmages, he did show flashes of brilliance. Redshirt freshman DE Dexter Davis had a good spring and made some headway with his opportunity there. On the interior of the line, the starters are senior Jordan Hill and junior transfer Michael Marquardt. The two weigh are listed at 298 lbs. and 288 lbs., respectively. The depth behind this duo remains somewhat suspect.

There wasn't too much fanfare surrounding the linebacker position during spring drills. Senior Beau Manutai, a likely starter in the middle, did not participate due to an ankle injury. Former safety Derron Ware moved to the position but is still going through a natural learning curve. Sophomores Adam Vincent and Chad Lindsey, as well as junior Robert James, will see many snaps this Fall. It's also a distinct possibility that one or two of the newcomers at Linebacker this Fall will not redshirt due to numbers alone. An interesting side note here was a small experiment of Safety Mike Nixon at linebacker and whether or not he may be used as a possible hybrid S/LB in the future.

Junior cornerback Chad Green was another player that went down with an injury, forcing him to watch from the sidelines along with senior Keno Walter-White. Both figure to be strong candidates for the starting spots but have struggled to stay healthy. Two JUCO transfers, Justin Tryon and Chris Baloney, showed much promise this spring and are likely to receive some playing time this Fall, if not make a strong case for the starting roles. Junior all-purpose threat Rudy Burgess saw some action at cornerback, and did fine in his new surroundings. The health of Green and Walter-White will determine if Burgess will still play both sides of the ball come August.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The depth chart remains the same at both specialist spots as senior Jesse Ainsworth continues to handle both kicking and punting duties. Junior punter Chris McDonald suffered an injury late in spring practice. Entering the mix this fall is JUCO punter Jonathan Johnson.

With the suspension of veteran returner Terry Richardson, sophomore Nate Kimbrough stepped up in his absence returning kicks. Kimbrough and Burgess both appear to be capable options in the return game. Redshirt freshman receiver Chris McGaha also returned kicks this spring but was seemingly unsuccessful in moving up the depth chart as a returner at this time. Richardson's likely return in the fall, should once again put his as the team's number one return guy.

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