2007 Season Review

Dennis Erickson's debut in Tempe was a resounding success. The new skipper captured a 10-3 record, marking the 11th time in school history that the Sun Devils have finished with at least 10 wins. Erickson also garnered Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. Let's take a look back at the season contributions and a brief look ahead at each position.


It was a tale of two halves after starting running back Ryan Torain went down with an injury in the Washington game. The senior had netted 553 yards in six games before being lost for the season. When Torain was sidelined, the ground game wasn't quite the same without a featured ball carrier in the backfield. Fortunately for the Devils, they were able to turn to junior Keegan Herring and sophomore Dimitri Nance. Herring led the way with 814 yards and still gave the offense a big play threat. Nance added 548 yards behind Herring. The two also accounted for twelve scores on the ground.

Looking Ahead: Torain leaves some big shoes to fill in 2008. ASU will be looking for more production from Herring and Nance as well as seeking a few others. Jarrell Woods has two years remaining after transferring over from the junior college ranks last year. Shaun DeWitty enters spring practice as the fourth tailback on the depth chart.


Rudy Carpenter was visibly improved over a sluggish 2006 campaign but the signal-caller remains a popular target for criticism. Carpenter suffered from confidence issues last season but Erickson instilled some faith in him as early as last spring. The junior threw for 3,389 yards, up from 2,523 a year ago. Carpenter's numbers also included twenty-seven touchdowns and twelve interceptions. The signal-caller started all 13 games despite throwing behind an offensive line that gave up numerous sacks.

Looking Ahead: Carpenter will be a fifth-year senior this coming season. Among the things he needs to work on this off-season is decisiveness in the pocket and getting rid of the ball a little quicker if nothing is there. The pass protection may be an adventure next season as well so the senior will need to be more mindful of his mental clock in the pocket. Danny Sullivan came in relief of Carpenter in the Holiday Bowl and showed he may be more of a capable backup than previously thought. Sullivan added nearly 40 pounds to his frame last off-season and has shown glimpses of a strong arm. Freshmen Samson Szakacsy and Chasen Stangel are coming off redshirt years with Szakacsy undergoing elbow surgery during the season.


The front line will likely go down as the most maligned unit of the 2007 season. Based on injuries that have taken out some key players in the past, the health of this unit was arguably the biggest concern coming into the season. Yet, even a healthy line performed below standards. Most notably, the front five were responsible for the majority of the whopping 59 sacks this season.

ASU's senior-laden line was led by Mike Pollak, who garnered First Team All-Pac-10 honors at center. Pollak joined senior left tackle Brandon Rodd and right guard Paul Fanaika as the only three linemen to start all 12 games at their respective spots. Robert Gustavis was replaced by Shawn Lauvao as the starting left guard five games into the season while sixth-year senior Zach Krula was unseated by Julius Orieukwu at right tackle soon afterwards. Thus, ASU settled on a starting five of Rodd, Lauvao, Pollak, Fanaika, and Orieukwu for most of the second half of the 2007 campaign. Despite the leadership, the group still wasn't as cohesive as a unit and really struggled in pass protection.

Looking Ahead: The Devils lose a wealth of experience in Pollak, Rodd, Gustavis, Orieukwu, and Krula. Lauvao and Fanaika return at the guard spots, with redshirt freshman Adam Tello also in the mix at guard. Richard Tuitu'u will get a long look at right tackle. Junior college transfer Tom Njunge recently inked a letter of intent with ASU and will also participate in spring drills at left tackle. Ian Scheuring and Mike Marcisz will get a chance to compete at the backup tackle positions. Thomas Altieri and Garth Gerhart will battle for the vacancy at center this spring. Matt Hustad, Montana's player of the year in high school, is a versatile lineman coming off a redshirt year with the scout team and can play at guard or tackle depending on how things shake out.


Brent Miller played his last season in Tempe after younger brother Zach departed for the NFL. Miller caught twenty-four balls for 234 yards and one touchdown. Senior Tyrice Thompson enjoyed a rebirth of sorts under Erickson and found his way onto the field after being an afterthought for most of his career. Thompson hauled in sixteen catches and one very memorable touchdown in the Arizona win. Brady Conrad also added a score. Perhaps fans were spoiled by having Zach Miller the three previous seasons but the tight ends, overall, were very average in both passing and blocking duties this season.

Looking Ahead: It's anybody's guess as to how the tight end position shakes out next season with the losses of Miller, Thompson, and Conrad. Considering those three were the top guys, production-wise, the position battles figure to be wide open. Dane Guthrie, who will be a senior, originally transferred to ASU as a tight end but moved to defensive end this past season. Chances are that he will enter spring as the leading candidate to start at his old role. Jovon Williams and Andrew Pettes saw some time this past season and will be in the mix. Lance Evbuomwan is another possibility, if he can compliment his fine receiving skills with the required blocking prowess the position calls for. Erickson has praised the development of freshman Dan Knapp on the scout team so he may be the wild card option this coming spring.


After a forgettable campaign in 2006, the receivers made huge strides from a year ago. Sure-handed sophomore Chris McGaha emerged as Carpenter's favorite target, particularly on third downs. 40 of his 52 receptions in the regular season were for a first down. McGaha finished the season 98 yards shy of the 1,000 receiving yards mark with 70 receptions. Michael   Jones, who also doubles as an outfielder for Pat Murphy's baseball team, emerged as the top deep threat this season. The junior led all receivers with twelve touchdowns on fifty-four catches.

Rudy Burgess and Kyle Williams also had key roles over the course of the season. Williams made some spectacular catches along the way and showcased his elusive speed while Burgess always remained a reliable option for Carpenter. The two combined for nine scores this year. Freshman Kerry Taylor emerged early in training camp and gave fans a few early glimpses into his young career with eight catches and one touchdown.

Looking Ahead: The position appears to be in good hands again next season, no pun intended. The team will be without Burgess but the depth and returning players stand to make his loss a manageable one. McGaha, Jones, and Williams are penciled in for a lot of snaps in 2008. Kerry Taylor managed to work his way up the depth chart as a true freshman and is another one to keep an eye on. The X-factors may be Brandon Smith and T.J. Simpson. Erickson praised Smith after turning in a solid spring but the sophomore fell out of favor this fall with an early injury and just wasn't the same afterwards. Where he and Simpson, who is coming off a redshirt year on the scout team, fit into the mix remains to be seen. Nate Kimbrough, who will be a senior, rounds out the dept chart.


A unit that is always an annual question mark for the Devils ended up being a delightful group of overachievers this season. Defensive tackle Michael Marquardt was one of the defense's unsung heroes with twenty-nine stops and three fumble recoveries. David Smith added another twenty-six tackles at the other tackle spot. Those numbers may not sound like a lot but the two occupied gaps and allowed the linebackers make more plays. Dexter Davis earned Second Team All-Pac-10 accolades at defensive end by chipping in 10.5 sacks, second best in the conference. Junior college transfer Luis Vasquez was among the top newcomers on defense this season with his team-leading fourteen tackles for loss.

Jon Hargis emerged as the top reserve at defensive tackle. The redshirt freshman notched twenty-one tackles, including three for a loss. Paul ‘Unga and Dane Guthrie also added a combined twenty-seven stops off the bench.

Looking Ahead: The fact that the line will be without the services of Marquardt does create a big void for next season. Hargis will likely get a long look if he or Saia Falahola don't switch to the offensive line. Originally recruited as an offensive lineman, Falahola made the switch to defense but a tricep injury sidelined him for most of the season. Jonathan English was one of two true freshmen to play on defense this year and his progression at tackle will also keep him in the mix. Outside of those three, Alex Asi, Zach Niusulu, and Bo Moos will round out the group this spring. One of the priorities this off-season will be the development of the pass rush. With Davis and Vasquez returning, the stats should only get better but building more depth behind them is essential. ‘Unga, along with Eric Tanner and James Brooks will get a chance this spring.


Migraine headaches had previously slowed Robert James but the senior capped off his career in fine fashion this year. James was a First Team All-Pac-10 selection at linebacker with 113 tackles. The local Maryvale HS product also added four interceptions. James had an integral role in ASU's revamped run defense that finished the regular season 13th in the nation, allowing 100.9 rushing yards per game. Travis Goethel is also deserving of a tip of the hat following a very solid season. The sophomore was second on the team in tackles with eighty stops and four forced fumbles. Goethel started 12 games at strong-side linebacker for the Devils this season.

Three different Sun Devils started at middle linebacker this season, Morris Wooten, Mike Nixon, and Gerald Munns. Wooten notched forty-seven tackles in eight starts while Nixon finished with sixty-three stops, two sacks, and four pass break ups. Nixon's lateral speed made him a more attractive matchup in a starting role against fast teams like Cal and Oregon. Gerald Munns put up twenty-six tackles, including five for a loss, in a shortened season due to a knee injury.

Looking Ahead: Goethel, Nixon, and Munns are back but James' departure leaves one of the biggest holes to fill on defense next season. In terms of numbers, this is one of the deepest positions, but it's not always easy to replace a player like James. Jamarr Robinson, Oliver Aaron, Jeff Bereuter, and Derrall Anderson are among the younger players to watch this spring, with Aaron and Anderson creating the most buzz. Ryan McFoy was moved to linebacker last spring to add more speed to the group and is another one to closely follow in this upcoming campaign. Antone Saulsberry and Chad Lindsey return as well.


A strong showing in the pre-season proved to be a great springboard for junior Troy Nolan. The junior college transfer redshirted due to injury upon his 2006 arrival to Tempe and the extra year paid off handsomely under the new staff. Nolan ended the season with six interceptions, which was the most in a single-season by a Sun Devil safety since 1989, when Nathan LaDuke also tallied six picks. The safety's interceptions and sixty-nine tackles earned him Second Team All-Pac-10 honors.

Senior Josh Barrett overcame a slow start and injuries to close out his ASU career with thirty-eight stops and seven pass break ups this season. Jeremy Payton and Rodney Cox played well enough in reserve roles and, in Payton's case, a starting role in place of Barrett. Twenty-two of Payton's twenty-nine tackles were solo stops. Cox also notched twenty-four tackles.

Looking Ahead: Barrett has exhausted his eligibility and his experience will be missed next season. Nolan's emergence this season was definitely a plus and lessens the blow next season as Barrett moves on. Cox made his first start in the Holiday Bowl and is likely headed for more playing time in 2008 as a senior along with Payton. Angelo Fobbs-Valentino will also be a senior and his performance this coming spring and fall camp should give us a better idea of where he'll fit into the mix.


Senior Justin Tryon was a valuable member of the secondary this season. Tryon was fifth on the team with sixty-two tackles and led all defenders with seventeen pass break ups. As a result, the senior corner was named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team. The other spot opposite Tryon was up for grabs in pre-season camp with a small handful of hopefuls getting looks. Chris Baloney began the season as the starter but the senior was later replaced by Omar Bolden, a true freshman. Bolden made his first start against Stanford and hasn't relinquished his job since. Bolden's starting debut in Palo Alto was highlighted by a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. The true freshman added thirty-eight stops and six pass break ups for the secondary.

Littrele Jones added some depth off the bench, as did Travis Smith. Smith may have seen a few more snaps if he hadn't suffered an injury in the Oregon State win. Both corners notched a combined twenty-four stops.

Looking Ahead: This unit will be particularly inexperienced come next season as ASU will be without Tryon, Baloney, and Jones. Bolden is penciled in at one spot while the other will have some heated competition. Senior Jarrell Holman and juniors Travis Smith and Grant Crunkleton will begin competing for the open spot this spring. Joining them will be junior college transfer Terrell Carr, who is a spring enrollee from Pasadena, CA. Jeremy Payton was moved to corner earlier this past season in camp but went back to safety. It's unsure whether or not Payton will be moved back to corner yet but the first answers will likely come in spring practice.


Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season was specialist Thomas Weber. The redshirt freshman was in danger of losing his job in pre-season camp but Erickson stayed with Weber and the results were tremendous. Weber was 26 of 27 on field goal attempts, and ended up winning the Lou Groza award and finished as the team's leading scorer with a total of 128 points.

Senior punter Jonathan Johnson couldn't overcome early struggles to keep his job and was replaced by Weber midway through the season as the team's full-time punter. Johnson averaged 37.7 yards on his 25 punts. Weber didn't fare considerably better with a 39 yard average per punt.

As a team, ASU ranked second in the conference in punt return average with a mark of 10.2 yards per return. Kyle Williams was the top punt returner this season, averaging 8.6 yards on 27 punt returns. Williams was named as a First Team All-Pac-10 selection as a punt returner. Rudy Burgess handled the bulk of duties returning kicks and finally broke one for a 98-yard touchdown against USC. The senior was another valuable addition on special teams and cracked the 1,000 yard mark on 46 kick returns this season. One other special teams notable was ASU blocking three kicks this season.

Looking Ahead: Weber will be entering his sophomore season with a firm grip on the kicking duties. In the meantime, finding a punter is worth looking into so Weber can concentrate on field goals, PATs, and kickoffs. Jason Perkins will return for his senior season as the long snapper. Rudy Burgess and Justin Tryon's departures leave a void at kick returner. Wide receiver Chris McGaha may get a longer look here as he gained some experience this season returning five kickoffs, and Omar Bolden will also be tried out here. Kyle Williams will be back as the main punt return man.

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