It goes without saying that followers of the Sun Devils expect even greater things in 2003. Just a few weeks shy of spring ball, there are several key questions surrounding the Sun Devils. Here they are with a good guess as to what the answers might be.
1. How will consensus All American and national defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs be replaced?
Answer: The Devils may try to make up for the loss through four talented players on a rotation. Jimmy Verdon really came on last year, and all indications are he could break out even more next year. Nick Johnson was terrific as a true freshman, and displayed all signs of a complete DE. Ricky Parker red-shirted this year and is anticipated to contribute heavily. Matt Mason was one of the biggest recruits of last year, but spend much of 02 battling nagging injuries. He will be relied on heavily all the way across the line, especially in run stopping.
2. Will the offensive line help generate a running game and allow ASU's offense to become a dual-threat?
Answer: Many are waiting to see if anyone emerges at the LT spot allowing Regis Crawford to move back to the interior. Likely candidates at the LT spot are: Chad Rosson, Andrew Carnahan, Zach Krula and Steven Berg. There is a chance that Chaz White could move over from LT, however he could start all four years at the RT positions as well. The interior positions would appear to be set with Drew Hodgdon and Tim Fa'aita at the guards, Crawford moving back to C, and Tony Aguilar and Grayling Love providing excellent backup play.
3. Who will step up at RB?
All three RB's who played this past year had breakthrough moments. Cornell Canidate was very elusive and good at running the ball at the end of the game. Mike Williams is the best pass blocker and had his moments running the ball. Hakim Hill has the farthest upside, the best speed, and the best hands. There are also two talented backs coming off RS's. The guess here is Hakim finally puts it all together and becomes the complete back ASU needs in this offense.
4. Will ASU have a #1 WR?
Answer: There are many great prospects to assume the #1 spot. However, no receiver has shown the consistency from game-to-game to fill MacDonald's huge shoes. D-Light will be the deep threat for Walter. Skyler Fulton will be the possession receiver. Big things are expected out of Terry Richardson after red-shirting. Derek Hagan may be the most complete receiver on the team. The team may not have one player like Mac, but will have great production from many receivers. The arrival of future NFLer Aaron Austin is sure to open up the passing game for the rest of the corps.
5. Who gets the nod at the vacancies left by the 3 senior LB's?
Answer: ASU hoped to fill some of that void by signing 5* recruit Justin Burks who enrolled for the spring semester. He may not be ready to man one spot full time, but he is thought to have the perfect size and speed to cover the entire field necessary in the 4-2-5. Jamar Williams will absolutely get a great chance to show his exciting game full time. Barton Hammitt was set to play a lot this year before getting hurt. He is a physical specimen, and many fans will be excited to see him back out on the field. Other candidates are Ishmael Thrower and Scout Team standout Jordan Hill. Should De'andre Johnson qualify he would further strengthen this exciting bunch of prospects.
6. Who are the breakout players to look for in 2003?
Answer: On offense, two players to keep an eye on are Terry Richardson and Hakim Hill. Most Devil fans were surprised that Richardson was red-shirted. Now he will get a chance to show why he was one of the top WR recruits on the west coast. Hill is one of the fastest players in college football routinely beating players to the corner. Can he put it all together mentally and physically to give ASU the talented star they need in their backfield. The guess here is yes.
On defense, the guess is Nick Johnson and Lamar Baker. Johnson was phenomenal as a true freshman, getting to the QB often right after Suggs, or sometimes getting there first. Baker was one of the most heralded recruits ASU ever landed. Unfortunately, he has never been healthy since enrolling. He red-shirted this past year in an effort to get healthy. If he is back to 100%, he could be a huge difference maker on a defense looking for more playmakers.
7. How will Andrew Walter be viewed by the end of the year?
The guess here is Walter may be hard pressed to stay in college after his junior year. His numbers were staggering in limited play this year, especially for his first year starting. There is little doubt he will put up well over 4000 yards next season in full action. If he stays healthy, continues to progress, the NFL scouts will be lining up to take another great player off of ASU's hands. If ASU has any kind of success, he could very well be a top 5 Heisman trophy candidate.
We hope to see many eager fans out at Spring Practice. Koetter will be coaching with more of his players this year than ever at ASU. The team will be fast, competitive and full of confidence after a nice season and a great showing against KSU.
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