Not Just Another Spring Practice

Under an incumbent coaching staff, the storylines going into spring practice are usually few and far in between. In ASU's case, the 15-practice session that starts on March 19 will offer much intrigue, as a new head coach and almost an entire new staff evaluates the Sun Devils for the very first time on the field. Here's a look at every position and the plots each of them entails.


Regardless of class, all quarterbacks will have to learn the new offensive system of Head Coach Dennis Erickson. Nonetheless, spring practice offers the team's returning quarterbacks Rudy Carpenter and Danny Sullivan a leg up on freshmen Samson Szakacsy and Chasen Stangel who will join the Sun Devils in the summer. Barring unforeseen circumstances Carpenter should still be the starting quarterback at the end of spring, and should thrive in a scheme that will utilize his mobility and the shotgun formation. With two scholarship quarterbacks entering the program, one of them will not redshirt. Thus, Sullivan will have to grasp the system quickly so he can remove any doubt that he will be the backup quarterback in 2007.

Running Backs

No unit on the ASU team is as established at this one. Ryan Torain is the undisputed starter, and Keegan Herring is a very capable ball carrier that has proven his worth time and time again. The real battle here would be for the third spot on the depth chart between Shawn DeWitty and Dimitri Nance. The former is more adept at run-blocking, which takes an even a more important meaning than before in the spread formations Erickson will often employ. Both players have a redshirt year to burn, something incoming junior college transfer Jarrell Woods (also joining the team in the summer) doesn't have the luxury of. Given these circumstances DeWitty and Nance are probably not only fighting for a higher echelon in the depth chart, but also starting the battle against exercising their redshirt year.

Offensive Line

Left tackle Brandon Rodd, left guard Robert Gustavis, center Mike Pollak, right guard Paul Fanaika, and right tackle Julius Orieukwu are ingrained as starters. Senior Zach Krula will compete for time at right guard after being granted a sixth year of eligibility and his health will naturally be the biggest factor in his quest for a starting position. Center Thomas Altieri, guard Shawn Lauvao, and tackle Richard Tuitu'u saw varying degrees of playing time in 2006 and a strong spring could enter them in consideration for the first team.

Tight Ends

In the two-tight end alignment, it's a given that Brent Miller is a starter at one spot. Thus, it remains to be seen who will play along him. Brady Conrad saw the most game-time snaps out of the rest of the group, and should have the inside track. Dane Guthrie has always been an intriguing prospect that hasn't shown the ability yet to be a productive player. Time will tell if spring will be his breakout party.

Wide Receivers

Competition here is as wide open as the Grand Canyon itself. Arguably the best two wide receivers on the team, Rudy Burgess and Nate Kimbrough will sit out some (Burgess) or all (Kimbrough) of spring practice. That gives opportunity for wide receivers such as Chris McGaha, Kyle Williams and Brandon Smith, who bring back some experience from last year, to get a plethora of looks and maybe gain a leg over the tandem of aforementioned wideouts in learning Erickson's new scheme. Speaking of that scheme, word is that is should be less complex in nature compared to last year so it will be worth noting if the learning is indeed a dull one for this group. Mike Jones will be shuttling between football and baseball, which should on paper, put him at a disadvantage at this position.

Defensive Line

First-year players will stand a chance to make more noise at this position than any other. Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis are entrenched as starters at defensive tackle and defensive end respectively. David Smith, who showed much promise in 2006, will start at other defensive tackle but will have to fend off players coming off redshirts like Alex Fa'agai and Zach Niusulu. Tranell Morant and Brett Palmer probably have the highest mountain to climb in terms of elevating their status on the depth chart, but their game experience could possibly make a difference.

Kellen Mills will start at other defensive end and compared to Smith has probably a much stiffer battle holding down his position against talented JC transfers Luis Vasquez and Eric Tanner, with the former probably standing the better chance of being the starter come spring game.


While it returns the most experience of any defensive position, it's probably newcomer and JC transfer Morris Wooten that will be closely watched as he tries to nail down the starting middle linebacker position - a feat that many feel is certainly within his reach. Gerald Munns, Mike Nixon, Travis Goethel, and Robert James all saw significant playing time last season and will engage in a fierce battle for the two outside positions. That quartet of players makes it extremely difficult for players such as Chad Lindsey and Garrett Judah, Sr. to make themselves significant factors in the depth chart.


Out of all the roles on defense, this one perhaps has the least competition among its players. You can absolutely pencil in Josh Barrett as one starter, and Jeremy Payton, who was regulated mostly to play nickel situations, will be given a chance to begin spring as the other starter. Ryan McFoy, who had an impressive freshman season won't make things easier for Payton, nor will Troy Nolan, a talented JC transfer who had to redshirt due to injury.


Much like safety, it has one undisputed starter. The only question is who will lineup opposite Justin Tryon? As it stands right now, Chad Green may be running first team on March 19th. Yet, Chris Baloney, who played well in limited duty last year and JC transfer Jarrell Holman, will stage a fierce competition to unseat Green. Grant Crunkleton could be the dark horse in this race, if he can overcome his inexperience.

Special Teams

Thomas Weber, who's coming off redshirt, received rave reviews from outgoing kicker Jesse Ainsworth and will have very little competition securing the starting place kicker position. Jonathan Johnson certainly has nothing to worry about resuming his role as the starting punter. Roles as holder, something Johnson did partake in at the end of last season, and long snapper will be worth following in the spring. Punt and Kick returners are definitely up for grabs, with Tryon (kick returns) and Williams (punt returns) being the early favorites.

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