Arizona State's All-Decade Team

The Sun Devil football program certainly had its shares of successful and disappointing seasons from 2000 to 2009, and throughout those years some players stood above the others in their respective positions. Some picks were easier to make than others, so here are our selections for the best players during that time period.

Quarterback

This was one of the hardest selections to make for this team, and we decided to give the nod to Andrew Walter over Rudy Carpenter. You can make the argument that Walter didn't enjoy a balanced offense like Carpenter did for most of his career, which probably make his achievements a bit more notable. Walter also had a more consistent career year in and year out. Walter is the school leader in TD passes in a season (30), career TD passes (85), passing yards in a season (3,877), and career passing yards (10,617).

Running back

Ryan Torain, despite playing just one and half seasons in Tempe, may be one of the easiest picks of this squad. The Butler JC transfer gained 1,229 yards in his Sun Devil career in just 19 games which is good for 8th best in the ASU record books. He also scored 17 touchdowns in his brief maroon and gold tenure and was one of the all-around most explosive offensive players this past decade.

Running back

We had to find a spot on the All-Decade team for the consummate utility man Rudy Burgess , and since he spent a good deal of his career in the backfield, we slotted him at running back. Easily the most versatile athlete on the All-Decade team, gaining over 1,000 yards in all three categories: rushing, receiving and returns. He accumulated 4,379 career all-purpose yards with 19 total touchdowns on 446 total touches. He played some cornerback as well, but made his biggest mark on the other side of the ball.

Right tackle

In a position that has been a revolving door for nearly the entire decade, we settled on Andrew Carnahan for our pick here. The physically imposing 6-8 288 lineman started 25 games at right tackle before his senior season was cut short by injury. Was part of an offensive line that was helped ASU reach some of his highest achievements on offense the last ten years.

Right guard

Starting 35 games at right guard Paul Fanaika was one of the foundations of the front five between 2006-08. Just like Jones he was a former walk-on who earned a scholarship, which actually bore Jones' name. Was named the team's most outstanding offensive lineman the end of his senior campaign.

Center

Making our pick at this position was certainly one of the more challenging tasks, having a three-headed monster consisting of Scott Peters , Drew Hodgdon and Mike Pollak. We settled on Pollak because he was a major contributor during all of his four years in Tempe. Already as a redshirt freshman he filled in for the injured Hodgdon and did a remarkable job doing so. He started the last 31 games of his career and culminated his tenure with a first team All-Pac 10 selection.

Left guard

We know Shawn Lauvao ended his ASU career at left tackle, but he actually started 17 games at left guard compared to 12 at his last position. Furthermore, he's more than likely to suit up at guard on the NFL level. He finished his career with 33 consecutive starts including the two aforementioned roles, as well as right tackle, and played a total of 42 games in Tempe.

Left tackle

A no brainer selection here in Levi Jones. The one time walk-on, who came to ASU on an academic scholarship, was a mainstay here in the 2000 and 2001 campaigns. First team All-Pac 10 in 2001, and also won the Morris Trophy award for best conference offensive lineman that year. Tied with Suggs for the school's highest pick this decade in the NFL draft – 10th overall. You can definitely make an argument that ever since he left the Sun Devils that the team is still searching for a left tackle of his caliber.

Tight end

If Todd Heap played more than one year in this decade, we may have had a harder time choosing between him and Zach Miller, so naturally the Phoenix Desert Vista product, nicknamed "The Truth" is our selection. Miller has definitely etched his name in a major way in ASU's record books in the tight end categories with the most receptions is a season (56), career (144), and career TD's (14). He was a consensus All-American pick in 2006, and in the heyday of the ASU offense this decade one of the favorite aerial targets of the various ASU quarterbacks to play during that period.

Wide receiver

Derek Hagan's name is all over the ASU record books with the school's career best marks in receptions (258), receiving yards (3,939), and receiving touchdowns (27). When he finished his tour of duty with the maroon and gold he was the Pac-10's all-time leader in career receptions, second in conference history in receiving yards, and seventh on the Pac-10 career receiving touchdowns list. He was only the 10th player in Pac-10 history to record 3,000 or more yards and 200 or more catches in his career. Earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors as a senior and for two consecutive years he was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

Wide receiver

Somewhat a close battle here between local products Shaun McDonald and Chris McGaha, but when you look at the record books the answer becomes clearer. While McGaha has more career receptions than McDonald (168 to 156), McDonald still holds the record for most receptions in a season (85), receiving yards in a season (1,405) and has a substantial advantage in career receiving yards and touchdowns. Both certainly made their mark in ASU's passing game in the last ten years, but McDonald's numbers came at a time where he didn't have the same level of talent surrounding him at wide receiver compared to McGaha.

Defensive end

Is there any question who should be our selection here? Terrell Suggs had 24 sacks in the 2002 season, when he won the prestigious Lombardi Trophy, as well as the Bronko Nagurski and Ted Hendricks Awards. ASU's career leader with 44 sacks, and 65.5 tackles for loss. A consensus All-American pick in 2002 (unanimous selection). Was an absolute unstoppable nightmare for an opposing offensive coordinator. Tied with Levi Jones for the school's highest pick this decade in the NFL draft – 10th overall.

Defensive end

Granted, Dexter Davis' senior season paled in comparison to his first three years, but it is hard to ignore his overall contributions. He is one of the Sun Devils' most consistent defenders starting all 50 games of his ASU career, the most starts by any player in school history. Third on the school's list in sacks (31) and finished in the top three in sacks in the Pacific-10 Conference as a sophomore and junior. He led all Pac-10 freshmen in 2006 in quarterback sacks (6.0), tackles for loss (10.5) and forced fumbles (three). Despite a subpar senior campaign earned the respect of the Pac-10 coaches who had to scheme against him as they selected first team All-Pac 10.

Defensive tackle

Very few former high school players have made the impact their first two years on the ASU defensive line as Lawrence Guy did. A gifted defensive tackle who wreaks havoc in the backfield for quarterbacks and ball carriers. The junior to-be played in 23 games, and moved to the starting lineup for the final eight games of his freshman year. Was named to several Freshman All-America teams and is one of the anchors of the most dominant ASU defense this decade.

Defensive tackle

We selected Jordan Hill over Michael Marquardt here because of a slightly longer Sun Devil tenure. Hill was a three-year starter and one of only three current Sun Devils to have played all 49 games during the 2003-05 seasons. For his career, he has collected 123 total tackles (58 solo), 24.5 tackles-for-loss and 12.5 sacks and ended the 2006 season as ASU's active career leader in tackles for loss and sacks. Another reason we give the nod to Hill is the fact that he had to pack on the pounds to make an eventual successful transition from linebacker to defensive tackle.

Outside linebacker

There have manly solid linebackers to play this decade for the Sun Devils, but there's also no way we could leave Mike Nixon off the list. After playing minor league baseball for four years Nixon proved that it's never too late to make a successful career transition. Played in all 50 games over the last four years, starting 31. Totaled 253 tackles (169 solo), 25.0 tackles for loss 5.5 sacks, 16 pass break-ups, eight interceptions, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his career. He paced the team in tackles in both 2008 and 2009. His five interceptions as a junior in 2008 tied for the most in the Pac-10 that season. Off the field he was just as accomplished being named a three-time First Team Academic All-Pac-10 and First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII honoree.

Middle linebacker

Not a very easy selection here. Justin Burks had an underrated ASU career. Adam Archuleta and Vontaze Burfict were bookends standouts this decade, but played just one year each during this period. Thus, Dale Robinson, the 2005 Pac-10 Conference Pat Tillman Co-Defensive Player of the Year is our selection here (albeit playing the position just one season). Had a very productive two year career in Tempe. Started 23 of 24 career games, led the team in tackles as a senior and finished second as a junior. Finished his two-year career with 208 tackles (124 solo), 28 tackles for loss and 8.5 quarterback sacks. His tenacious hits will be playing on ASU highlight videos for years to come.

Outside linebacker

Jamar Williams was a versatile and athletic three-year starter in Tempe, and started 35 of 48 career games. Had 256 career tackles (155 solo), 25 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, six sacks and averaged 5.3 tackles per game in his career. Earned multiple accolades throughout his career, beginning as a co-recipient of the team's Bill Kajikawa Freshman of the Year Award in 2002, and concluded his ASU career as the Defensive Most Valuable Player in his final collegiate game against Rutgers in the 2005 Insight Bowl.

Safety

Troy Nolan was the consummate ball hawk at safety. This JC transfer started all 25 games in his ASU career. He recorded 128 tackles (81 solo), 13 pass break-ups and 10 interceptions. He scored five touchdowns: four interception returns and one fumble return and tied the single-season school record with two interception returns for a touchdown in both 2007 and 2008. Had six interceptions in 2007, the most by a Sun Devil since Nathan LaDuke also had six in 1989.

Safety

Very tough call here between Riccardo Stewart and Jason Shivers, but we ultimately had to go with Shivers here. The Phoenix South Mountain product became the first Sun Devil in history to lead the team in tackles for three straight seasons, and averaged 8.7 stops a game.

Cornerback

Justin Tryon was another JC transfer who made the most of his two-year tenure with the Sun Devils. Started all 26 games and quickly emerged into one of the Pac-10's elite cover cornerbacks. He collected 103 career tackles (80 solo), 23 pass breakups, four interceptions, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Additionally, he totaled 27 passes defended in his two years.

Cornerback

Even though he had a career riddled with injuries, R.J. Oliver was probably one of the better ASU corners this decade. He started 32 of 40 career games and collected 146 career tackles (97 solo), nine interceptions and 31 pass break-ups. Had his finest year as a sophomore in 2002, earning honorable-mention All-Pac-10 honors after leading the conference with 22 passes defended.

Punter

Nick Murphy edges Tim Parker here by being named twice a semi-finalist of the Ray Guy award. Murphy had the most punts of any ASU player this decade.

Kicker

Thomas Weber is another player where his earliest accomplishments overshadow his most recent ones. Nonetheless, as the school's only Lou Groza award winner, which he captured as redshirt freshman in 2007, he still would be the obvious pick. Weber was also a consensus All-American that year, and is tied for the ASU record (with Mike Barth) for the most points in a season (118).

Return specialist

It was just impossible to pick between Kyle Williams and Terry Richardson, since both excelled respectively returning punts and kickoffs. So we will give the nod to both. Williams had 74 punt returns for 768 yards (10.4 avg.) for his career and in 2007 was named to the All-Pac-10 First Team as a punt returner, ahead of Cal's Dean Jackson.

Richardson is arguably the most dangerous kick returner in school history. He averaged 28.7 yards-per-return on kickoffs with one touchdown, the highest career kickoff return average in ASU history.

Player of the Decade

Hands down this honor goes to Terrell Suggs. To say that his Lombardi Trophy season was dominating would be a gross understatement. He finished his career with NCAA-record 44 sacks, 163 tackles, 65.5 tackles for loss (an Arizona State record) and 14 forced fumbles which was good enough to land him on SI.com's All-Decade team as well. Additionally, out of all the standout ex-Sun Devil players this decade the defensive end made the biggest impact on the NFL level.


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