Washington State Preview

After an upsetting loss at home to Oregon State a week ago, Arizona State takes to the road for the first time in Pac-10 Conference action to face Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.

Unquestionably the recent doormat of the league, the Cougars under second hear head coach Paul Wulff are 3-14 since the start of the 2008 season, the worst record for a WSU head coach in such an opening stretch to his Cougar coaching career.

Though the Sun Devils have had nearly all of whatever momentum that mounted in the season's first three games come to a halt last week against Oregon State, WSU is rated at or near the cellar in most offensive and defensive statistical categories and provides a very potential platform for ASU to get back in the win column.

Washington State Projected Offensive Starting Lineup

QB 10 Jeff Tuel Fr. 6-3 207 Fresno, Calif.

RB 31 Dwight Tardy Sr. 5-11 204 Walnut, Calif.

WR(X) 2 Daniel Blackledge Jr. 6-0 175 Colorado Springs, Colo.

WR (F) 1 Gino Simone Fr. 5-11 174 Sammamish, Wash.

WR (Z) 84 Jared Karsetter So. 6-4 205 Spokane, Wash.

TE 14 Tony Thompson Sr. 6-2 239 Seattle, Wash.

LT 75 Tyson Pencer RS-Fr. 6-7 297 Delta, British Columbia, Canada

LG 74 Alex Reitnouer Fr. 6-5 253 Pasadena, Calif.

C 69 Kenny Alfred Sr. 6-3 289 Gig Harbor, Wash.

RG 79 Brian Danaher Jr. 6-4 291 Colfax, Wash.

RT 76 Micah Hannam Jr. 6-4 290 Gig Harbor, Wash.

Washington State Offensive Preview

The Cougar offense has struggled, to say the least, rating in the nation's bottom 25 in all major offensive categories: 117th in passer efficiency (94.12), 116th in scoring (15.0 ppg.), 112th in total offense (283.0 ypg.), 102nd in rushing offense (101.4 ypg.) and 94th in passing offense (181.6 ypg.).

Already on its third starting quarterback this season, WSU has handed the offensive keys to true freshman Jeff Tuel, who began the season with the intention of redshirting but ultimately leapfrogged the Cougars' incapable quarterbacks Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael. Tuel earned the starting nod against Oregon last week but was forced out of the game due to a first-quarter injury and attempted only two passes. In total, Tuel has completed 15-of-24 passes (62.5 pct.) for 133 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception.

Barring injury, Saturday will mark the first full game for Tuel at the collegiate level, a tough task for the newbie to face as the Sun Devils rank first in the Pac-10 and third in the nation in total defense (232.0 ypg.) and first in the Pac-10 and eighth in the country in pass defense (156.5 ypg.).

Lopina and Lobbestael remain as competitive reserves to Tuel; however each has failed in starting opportunities which occurred during both this and last season.

On the ground, WSU hasn't shown a much more stable attack, which is largely due to the season-ending injury suffered by former California Bear James Montgomery, who totaled 167 yards in three games. The Cougar running attack boasts little prowess and the Sun Devils' punishing defensive front should have a noted advantage and ultimately force the ball into Tuel's hands.

Senior Dwight Tardy has started all five games and is listed on the first-team this week, having carried 52 times for 182 yards (3.5 avg.) with one touchdown. Sophomore Logwone Mitz (6-1, 229) is listed as WSU's back-up at running back and has netted 98 yards on 28 rushing attempts (3.5 avg.).

The saga of player conduct issues and other team departures has strongly impacted the entire team, and offensively no position has been hit harder than wide receiver, where two of the probable projected starters – Jeshua Anderson (quit football to focus on track) and Kevin Norrell (dismissed from team)– are no longer members of the Cougar football team.

At wide receiver for WSU, talented is limited and depth is virtually non-existent, as junior Daniel Blackledge, sophomore Jared Karsetter and true freshman Gino Simone are listed as the starters in the Cougars' primary three-receiver formation.

Blackledge leads the squad with 15 catches for 152 yards (10.1 avg.) with one score, while Karsetter has tallied a team-best 206 yards on 14 catches (14.7 avg.) with two touchdowns – making these two the only players on the roster to have caught a touchdown this season.

Simone has made 13 receptions for 114 yards (8.8 avg.) while junior Jeffrey Solomon (6-0, 195), listed as the top reserve at both the "X" and "F" receiver spots, has caught 11 passes for 128 yards (11.6 avg.). Rounding out the scarce receiver depth chart is Canadian junior Johnny Forzani (6-1, 197), who has a pair of receptions for a total of 50 yards, and sophomore walk-on Nick Proen (6-0, 193), who has yet to enter the stat book this season.

Similar to the Sun Devils, the tight end position hasn't proven to be much of an offensive focal point this year, as starter Tony Thompson leads the group with six catches for 53 yards (8.8 avg.), while redshirt freshman Skylar Stormo (6-5, 245) is listed as Thompson's top back-up and has been credited with two receptions for 19 yards.

Though ASU has suffered a slew of offensive line injuries thus far this year, WSU has been in even worse shape, as 10 different Cougars have started along the offensive line – with a different combination in each of the past three contests. Needless to say, Washington State does not boast a wealth of depth to be able to survive such a lack of continuity among the offensive front. For WSU's matchup with ASU, four scholarship offensive linemen – Steven Ayers, B.J. Guerra, Andrew Roxas and Zack Williams – are listed as injured on WSU's media relations depth chart.

The line's standout clearly is senior center Kenny Alfred, who will be flanked to his left by redshirt freshman Tyson Pencer at tackle and greyshirt freshman Alex Reitnouer at guard, while junior tackle Micah Hannam and junior guard Brian Danaher figure to occupy the right side.

Reitnouer is technically listed as the backup left tackle, while senior Reed Lesuma (6-4, 303) stands as the second-string left guard. Sophomore Chris Prummer (6-1, 281) is Alfred's reserve at center and junior Joe Eppele (6-7, 309) is the top second-team option at both right guard and right tackle.

Behind a patchwork offensive line and with few playmakers in either the run or pass game, Tuel surely is provided more disadvantages than advantages from his offensive teammates.

The Cougar offense – which failed to score against ASU in last year's meeting – has been and continues to be a woeful sight, and with the potency – and hopeful vengeful attitude from two straight losses – that ASU's defense maintains, the edge clearly stands in favor of the Sun Devils when WSU has the ball.

With the struggles suffered by WSU's offense, its defense has been equally impotent, ranking 120th in the nation in pass defense (309.8 ypg.), 119th in total defense (505.6 ypg.), 115th in passer efficiency defense (158.01), 114th in scoring defense (36.6 ppg.) and 108th in rushing defense (195.8 ypg.).

Ouch.

No player on the field will be watched – at least by those in attendance due to a lack of TV coverage – than ASU quarterback Danny Sullivan, who desperately needs a solid performance to earn confidence from all who favor the Sun Devils. Though Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson urges that Sullivan has done nothing on the field to be worthy of demotion, Sullivan will have to work very hard to make the public and media share that view.

Washington State Projected Defensive Starting Lineup

LDE 98 Jesse Feagin Sr. 6-4 258 Long Beach, Calif.

LDT 61 Anthony Laurenzi RS-Fr. 6-3 290 Placentia, Calif.

RDT 90 Toby Turpin Jr. 6-5 284 Los Alamitos, Calif.

RDE 89 Travis Long Fr. 6-4 247 Spokane, Wash.

SAM 45 Andy Mattingly Sr. 6-4 249 Spokane, Wash.

MIKE 43 Alex Hoffman-Ellis So. 6-1 233 Los Angeles, Calif.

WILL 51 Jason Stripling Sr. 5-11 242 Tyler, Texas

FS 26 Xavier Hicks, Jr. Sr. 6-0 219 Fullerton, Calif.

SS 21 Chima Nwachukwu Jr. 5-11 198 Allen, Texas

LCB 3 Brandon Jones Jr. 5-9 183 Seattle, Wash.

RCB 24 Daniel Simmons RS-Fr. 5-10 188 Ontario, Calif.

Washington State Defensive Preview

With such a dismal defense in front of him, one would assume Sully has an advantageous scenario awaiting him in Pullman; however, to many, that theory will have to be seen to believed.

Whatever is in the Washington water that Cougar lineman have been drinking should be avoided like the plague; in addition to the injuries suffered by WSU's offensive front men, its defensive line depth has been depleted as three of the four linemen that started the season opener are unavailable this Saturday as tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo and end Kevin Kooyman will all watch from the sidelines.

True freshman Travis Long has been a bright spot at right end for the Cougars, having started all five games at left end before being switched due to injuries this week, leading all linemen with 21 tackles, while tying for the team lead with two sacks.

Junior Toby Turpin will start his fourth consecutive game in place of Luapo at right defensive tackle and has totaled eight tackles and two fumble recoveries, while redshirt freshman left defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi and senior left defensive end Jesse Feagin will make their first career starts against the Sun Devils. Feagin has registered six tackles, including one tackle-for-loss, while Laurenzi has notched three tackles and one sack this year.

The Cougars' depth along the defensive line this week is completely famished, as junior Casey Hamlett (6-3, 250) is listed as the only reserve left or right defensive end, while redshirt freshman Dan Spitz (6-6, 268) is the only player listed on the second team at either defensive tackle position. Hamlett has posted five tackles and ties for the team lead with two sacks, while Spitz has notched six tackles, including one tackle-for-loss.

Linebacker is clearly the most qualified position on the Cougar defensive roster, as four of the top six tacklers on the team hail from the position group.

Though listed as the backup middle linebacker, sophomore Louis Bland (5-10, 221) is the team's second-leading tackler with 34 tackles, while tying for the team-high with three tackles-for-loss. First-string MIKE ‘backer Alex Hoffman-Ellis barely trails his position mate with 32 total stops, including 2.5 for loss, one interception, which he returned 52 yards for a score against SMU, and one forced fumble.

Starting weak side linebacker Jason Stripling has posted 25 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and one fumble recovery while Andy Mattingly, who played defensive end last year before returning to strong side linebacker, has tallied 24 tackles, including 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and one fumble recovery.

Sophomore Mike Ledgerwood (6-0, 227) and junior Myron Beck (6-0, 209) are ranked as the top reserves at strong side and weak side linebacker, respectively. Ledgerwood has made two tackles in limited duty and Beck has posted 11 total stops, adding a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown in WSU's only win against SMU.

Washington State boasts a pair of highly-qualified safeties which roam the defensive secondary, as senior free safety Xavier Hicks, Jr. and junior strong safety Chima Nwachukwu pave the way for the back four of the Cougar defense.

Nwachukwu, who has also seen time at cornerback, paces the squad with 37 tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss, one interception and one fumble recovery, while Hicks is fourth on the team and second among defensive backs with 26 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss.

Redshirt freshman Jay Matthews (6-1, 205) serves as Hicks' top backup at free safety, while sophomore Eric Block (6-1, 188) and redshirt freshman Kyle McCartney (6-0, 192) are Nwachukwu's contingents at strong safety.

Cougar cornerbacks have frequently and effectively been picked on this season, as the position suffered several personnel shake-ups this offseason, hindering the unit and helping lead WSU to the nation's worst pass defense.

Junior Brandon Jones, a one-time California Bear, has started every game at left cornerback, while redshirt freshman Daniel Simmons is poised to make his fourth straight start opposite Jones at right cornerback. Jones leads the pair with 20 tackles and one interception, while Simmons has 19 tackles and two pass breakups.

Sophomore right cornerback Aire Justin (5-11, 164) and redshirt freshman left cornerback Terrance Hayward (6-1, 186) earn second-team duty, with Hayward having notched 12 tackles and Justin only three.

Despite a banged-up Sun Devil offensive line, ASU should have the ability to run the ball on WSU's injury-plagued defensive line, which hopefully will lead to open opportunities in the pass game for Danny Sullivan to match up against college football's most incompetent pass defense.

Washington State Special Teams Lineup and Preview

K 18 Nico Grasu Jr. 6-1 223 Encino, Calif.

P 8 Reid Forrest Jr. 6-0 184 Ephrata, Wash.

KR 20 Marcus Richmond Jr. 6-1 214 Mesa, Ariz.

24 Daniel Simmons RS-Fr. 5-10 188 Ontario, Calif.

PR 12 Jeffrey Solomon Jr. 6-0 195 Seattle, Wash.

A rare bright spot among a generally cloudy Cougar roster is punter Reid Forrest, who ranks 11th in the nation with a 44.7-yard average.

Kicker Nico Grasu began the season four-of-five on field goals but has connected on only one-of-three over the past three games.

Jeffrey Solomon averages 8.0 yards on three punt returns, while Mesa (Ariz.) Dobson High School product Marcus Richmond leads the team with 166 yards on nine kickoff returns (18.4 avg.) and Daniel Simmons has taken a pair of kicks back for a total of 53 yards.

Overall Expectations

Washington State was historically bad in many ways in 2008 and hasn't shown marked improvement this year.

There is no match-up in this game that doesn't favor the Sun Devils; however momentum certainly isn't abundant among the ASU squad and their faithful after a lackluster loss to Oregon State last week.

ASU will enter the Palouse as three-score favorites and despite general inefficiency last week and to a lesser extent in the previous week's loss at Georgia, a Sun Devil defeat at the hands of Washington State still would be considered and apocalyptic occurrence as the Cougars are fresh off a 52-6 waxing at the hands of Oregon and in total have been outscored 79-12 in two Pac-10 games.

ASU Injury Update and Lineup Notes

- Junior Omar Bolden is doubtful for this game. Terell Carr will get the nod at starting corner.

- Safety Ryan McFoy is expected to play in Pullman.

- Brock Osweiler will see some playing time on Saturday off the bench.

- Redshirt freshman Patrick Jamison practiced at first-team right tackle, and could see some there. Sophomore Garth Gerhart practiced at first-team guard. Brent Good could see time at either guard spot.

Familiar Faces

- Running back Marcus Richmond was a high school teammate of ASU offensive guard Brent Good and walk-on linebacker Neil Treffers at Mesa (Ariz.) Dobson High School.

- Running back Arthur Burns was a teammate of ASU running back Ryan Bass, wide receiver Jarrid Bryant and linebackers Vontaze Burfict, Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee at Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School.

- Offensive lineman Tim Hodgdon (no relation to former ASU lineman Drew Hodgdon) was a former teammate of ASU offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg at Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

- Redshirt freshman defensive back Daniel Simmons was a teammate of ASU cornerback Omar Bolden at Ontario (Calif.) Colony High School.

- Linebacker Myron Beck played at Eastern Arizona College and Glendale (Ariz.) Community College – where he was a teammate of ASU punter Trevor Hankins and safety Max Tabach -- before transferring to Washington State.

- ASU graduate assistant coach Chris Peterson coached under WSU head coach Paul Wulff while at Eastern Washington.

Five Questions: ASU at Washington State

- How can ASU rebound from a demoralizing loss against Oregon State?

- Can Danny Sullivan exploit the nation's worst pass defense?

- What type of action will true freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler see?

- How composed will WSU's true freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel remain against the Pac-10's top defense?

- Will WSU's depleted defensive line be able to pressure Sullivan and contain ASU's running backs?


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