2006 Season Preview

Do the Devils (7-5, 4-4 in 2005) make it to Pasadena after a 10-year itch? With nine returning starters on offense, the answer likely rides on a rebuilt defense. Head coach Dirk Koetter will also be looking to notch his first conference road win in California, a key ingredient in putting together a Pac-10 title run as that road runs through defending champion USC and Cal.


*Projected Starters

LT *Brandon Rodd
Julius Orieukwu

LG *Stephen Berg
Leo Talavou
Shawn Lauvao

C *Mike Pollak
Thomas Altieri

RG *Robert Gustavis
Paul Fanaika
Zach Krula

RT *Andrew Carnahan
Richard Tuitu'u

Newcomers: Saia Falahola

Versatility remains a major theme up front as several linemen can play a couple of spots. All Pac-10 candidate Andrew Carnahan took some snaps at left tackle in the spring but it appears that he will remain on the right side heading into camp. Brandon Rodd can also play guard if injuries begin to mount. Center Mike Pollak is another jack of all trades player, but his solid play and experience at center will keep him at bay in the middle of the line. Junior Robert Gustavis is listed as the starter at right guard due to senior Zach Krula's ankle surgeries that will keep him out for the first half of the season, at least. Gustavis is the least experienced out of the hogs upfront, and time will tell if he will be the weakest link on what should be a well-oiled unit. As a side note, if Krula's condition does not improve, he may not play at all this year and apply for a medical redshirt to play in ‘07.

The experience that guards Gustavis and Leo Talavou received when Krula and Berg sat out with injuries part of last season can hopefully pay dividends this fall as the Devils look to turn the proverbial corner. This unit has the potential to be a real strength this fall but certainly must improve upon their mark of allowing a Pac-10 worst 36 sacks, injuries or not.


*Keegan Herring
Shaun DeWitty
Preston Jones

Newcomers: Ryan Torain (JC), Dimitri Nance, Rodney Glass

Sophomore Keegan Herring is poised to become the first 1,000-yard rusher at ASU since Delvon Flowers in 2001. Herring rushed for a freshman school record 870 yards and six scores last season. Koetter liked what he saw from a healthy Shaun DeWitty in the spring, and he will continue and provide stiff competition for Herring. The two should be ready to handle the load here as Rudy Burgess moves over to receiver. The arrival of JC running back Ryan Torain, along with the services of DeWitty, has built up some anticipation that the Devils may finally have the personnel to convert on short yardage situations. Preston Jones has proven to be fairly productive when given an opportunity, but unlike last season he may get lost in the shuffle this year. Dimitri Nance and Rodney Glass may end up redshirting this year, but provide a bright future for the maroon and gold at this position.


HB *Brent Miller
Dane Guthrie

TE *Zach Miller
Andrew Pettes

Newcomers: Lance Evbuomwan

Despite the move of senior Jamaal Lewis to wide receiver, the tight end shouldn't lose a step. Junior Zach Miller was hampered by injuries a bit last fall but looks ready to continue his impressive body of work here in Tempe and is a preseason All-American selection. His brother, Brent, will start opposite him at the primary blocking H-Back spot. 2006 marks the Tempe debut of Dane Guthrie, a transfer from Florida, who won rave reviews last season on the scout team. However, Guthrie's performance during the spring was labeled as disappointing, and he will undoubtedly have something to prove. Sophomore Andrew Pettes rounds out the rotation, and will look to make his mark on the team.


(X position)

*Mike Jones
Jamaal Lewis
Nate Kimbrough

(Z position)

*Terry Richardson
Rudy Burgess
Brandon Smith
Chris McGaha

Newcomers: Kyle Williams

Despite some young talent waiting in the wings, the staff decided to go after a JUCO receiver to bolster this unit after three productive seniors exhausted eligibility. Angelo Richardson, former high school teammate of quarterback Sam Keller, was set to don the Maroon and Gold this fall but tragically suffered bullet wounds in the back this past spring that put his athletic career in jeopardy. Around the same time, senior Terry Richardson was suspended for spring drills but has since been reinstated to the team. If Richardson's recent comments on the suspension hold true, he comes back for his final season with a renewed fire as he steps into the leading role left vacant by Derek Hagan.

A focused Richardson would go a long way as the position will have a new look this year. Senior Jamaal Lewis will line up at receiver after spending his first three seasons at tight end. Lewis, who scored five touchdowns in ‘05, brings reliable and a big frame hands that will be especially helpful in goal-line situations. The versatile Rudy Burgess will finally get a chance to play primarily as a pass catcher instead of running the ball. His playmaking abilities will provide Koetter with an array of combinations to tinker with. Sophomore Mike Jones' stock rose over the spring after his play landed him a spot atop the depth chart. Sophomore Nate Kimbrough and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith have had their moments but need to find more consistency. Much like the offensive line, this unit has an abundance of versatility, and by season's end we will see very possible combination of the aforementioned personnel on the field.


*Sam Keller
Rudy Carpenter
Brett Boon

Newcomer: Danny Sullivan

Both Sam Keller, a senior, and sophomore Rudy Carpenter are more than capable of running the offense. Keller threw for 2,165 yards in 2005 before going down midseason with a thumb injury. Carpenter stepped in and performed like a seasoned veteran, leading the nation in passing efficiency with a 175.01 mark and a 4-1 record as a starter.

Keller has more big game experience and Carpenter is the more mobile of the two. Keller is tentatively penciled in as the starter heading into preseason camp but Koetter recently stated that the best quarterback coming out of practice #18 will be the starter. With Carpenter outplaying Keller during spring drills, the job is certainly up for grabs, and needless to say this will be the most anticipated position battle in camp.


DE *Tranell Morant
Kyle Caldwell
Kellen Mills

DT *Michael Marquardt
Brett Palmer
Shannon Jones
Tashaka Merriweather

DT *Jordan Hill
Will Kofe
David Smith

DE *Dexter Davis

Loren Howard
Wes Evans

Newcomers: Martin Tevaseu (JC), Alex Fa'agai (JC), Jon Hargis, Zach Niusulu

This position is the most intriguing on the defensive side, simply because the Devils finally have the numbers to field a quality rotation that will feature many new faces. However, health is a major key here as the quality of that rotation can quickly take a downturn if some players don't heal their bodies in time for the season's kick-off. Two quality ends, Kyle Caldwell and Loren Howard, have battled injuries their entire careers, and were severely limited in the spring. The two seniors, and good friends, should be ready to go when camp begins. Coming out of spring however, Florida transfer Tranell Morant, also hobbled during the spring, and redshirt freshman Dexter Davis sit atop the depth chart. Morant appears to be a key player at one spot but Davis' starting job is likely to be relinquished if Caldwell and/or Howard are still healthy when September rolls around.

JC transfer Alex Fa'agai is still rehabbing his knee, and in all probability won't figure into the rotation and redshirt. Zach Niusulu will redshirt due to a shoulder injury. Senior Will Kofe has moved inside to tackle but can also be an option at end after playing there extensively last season.

Junior Michael Marquardt has locked up the starting spot at tackle next to senior Jordan Hill. JC transfer Martin Tevaseu's role in the rotation may depend on the play of senior Shannon Jones and junior Brett Palmer. Jones won't play significant minutes until he improves his conditioning and Palmer must regain his form from last pre-season. David Smith, who showed some promise in 2005, will try to solidify himself in the rotation.


SAM *Chad Lindsey
Wes Evans

MIKE *Beau Manutai
Adam Vincent
Mike Nixon
Antone Saulsberry

WILL *Robert James
Derron Ware

Newcomers: Garrett Judah (JC), Jeff Bereuter, Travis Goethel, Gerald Munns, Jamarr Robinson

Arguably the biggest question mark on defense as the Devils head into fall camp. Replacing the leadership and 185 combined tackles of Dale Robinson and Jamar Williams won't be easy. Weak side linebacker, junior Robert James, is the lone starter returning from last season. Chad Lindsey is listed as the starter on the strong side after playing as a true freshman in ‘05.

The competition at the middle linebacker spot will overflow into fall camp. Senior Beau Manutai's grip on the starting job isn't as firm as originally thought after last season ended. Manutai had ankle surgery in the spring, which opened the door for former Los Angeles Dodger and valley product, Mike Nixon. Originally pegged as a safety, Nixon, up to 226 lbs., found a temporary home at linebacker and Koetter likes the "quarterback mentality" and football smarts he brings to the table. Sophomore Adam Vincent finished 2005 quite strong, and should see even more action this year.

Depending on any injuries and the play of five newcomers here to linebacker, Nixon may move back to safety. Those newcomers include one JC transfer, Garrett Judah, and four incoming freshman. Judah should get into the rotation early along with at least one of the freshman. All four have solid credentials coming out of high school and can definitely make their presence known on a unit that is relatively inexperienced.


S *Zach Catanese
Jeremy Payton
Uriah Marshall

S *Josh Barrett
Rodney Cox
Troy Nolan
Angelo Fobbs-Valentino

Newcomers: Ryan McFoy

If Josh Barrett can stay healthy, ASU can field one of the better safety tandems in the conference. The junior had a great spring practice and locked up one safety spot opposite All Pac-10 candidate Zach Catanese. Barrett is one of the fastest players on the team and appears ready for a breakout season. Catanese returns as the team's top returning tackler from ‘05 with 107 stops.

Sophomore Jeremy Payton is the most experienced back-up, and will continue to see extensive time in the nickel package. JC transfer Troy Nolan was injured in the spring, which slowed his development in the system. Former walk-on Rodney Cox may also figure into the rotation after a solid spring, and will continue to be one of the team's most valuable contributors on special teams.


*Justin Tryon
Chad Green
Grant Crunkleton
Travis Smith

* Keno Walter-White
Littrele Jones
Chris Baloney

Along with the linebackers, cornerback is a position that took a hit due to the graduation of some key seniors. The overall collection of talent is perhaps the best it has been in several years, and Koetter has been signing the praises of this unit during the off-season. Much like the defensive line, health will be a major factor in the success of the group. JC transfer Justin Tryon shined in spring practice and thus far is living up to his lofty JC accolades.

Littrele Jones, a junior, was penciled as the other starter following spring practice. However, one can reasonably assume that senior Keno Walter-White, who has also been slowed by an injury since coming over from JC last season, will assume that role. Expect to see JC transfer Chris Baloney heavily in the mix after acclimating himself in the spring. Junior Chad Green is as talented as any player in this group, and has some experience to boot. Injuries have bogged him down since his arrival, and will naturally dictate his contributions in 2006. Freshmen Grant Crunkleton and Travis Smith are the future at the position but have no experience yet after coming off of redshirts, and will have to have an outstanding camp if they want to climb up the depth chart. Overall, it's a dicey predicament here as injuries may very well start to take a toll here. Thus, Rudy Burgess may play some snaps on this unit after experimenting here in the spring, and become the first two-way player at ASU since J.R. Redmond.


P *Jonathan Johnson
Jesse Ainsworth

PK *Jesse Ainsworth

LS *Jason Burke
Zach Miller

PR *Terry Richardson
Rudy Burgess
Nate Kimbrough

KR *Terry Richardson
Rudy Burgess
Nate Kimbrough

JC transfer Jonathan Johnson is looking to fill the shoes of departed punter, Chris MacDonald, who transferred to Texas State. With all the struggles on this unit of the special teams (four blocked punts in 2005), there's obviously great hope that Johnson can shore up this deficiency. An experienced long snapper such as Jason Burke should help ease the transition for the new punter.

Senior Jesse Ainsworth is capable of punting the ball after taking over those duties halfway through the ‘05 season but his talents shine most in place kicking. The senior frequently provides the Devils touchbacks on kickoffs, and with the lower kicking tee implemented in college football this season, it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this will have on Ainsworth. The senior is a consistent field goal kicker, converting on 9 of 11 attempts last season.

Terry Richardson returns as one of the top return men in the country. The receiver scored on two punt returns last year and had a 15.3 yard punt return average. The abovementioned lower kicking tee should provide Richardson a chance to put up big numbers on his kick returns. While Richardson sat out in the spring, Burgess and Kimbrough displayed their skills as returners and showed that the depth on this group is better than ever.

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