Regular Season Review: Arizona State

Following a 7-5 finish, Devils Digest's Hod Rabino reviews Arizona State's regular season and looks to the future.

1. With the regular season over, has Arizona State met or failed expectations?

Not only did they meet expectations, but Arizona State has to some extent exceeding them. Even the most optimistic followers of the programs wouldn't have thought the team would finish 3rd in the Pac-12 South and really be just a win away from capturing that division. With a new coaching staff and a first-year quarterback no one would have been surprised if this Sun Devil offense would have more that its fair share of struggles and it ended up as one of the best offenses in the conference. The defense had its question marks as well and finished second overall in the league.

2. What one player has made the difference this season?

Defenisve lineman Will Sutton had a phenomenal year which is why he won the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defenisve Player of the Year and fueled an ASU defense which at times was simply dominating. But I still think that quarterback Taylor Kelly made the most difference becasue obviously any team will go as far as their signal caller will take them. No one expected a first-year starter such as Kelly to end the regular season Top 5 in the conference in both passing yards and passing efficiency Furthermore, he was handicapped by a less than average wide receivers group and that makes Kelly's accomplishments that much more impressive.

3. What are the key improvements that need to be made before the bowl game?

The improvement that I believe Arizona State should make for their bowl game, which is most likely against Navy, are the improvements they have to also implement in 2013.

On offense, the receiving group has to improve This unit was inexperienced coming into the season and could never defy the low expectations that were placed on them. This group is going to be pretty green as well next year but depending on the recruiting class could be more talented as well. With such a potent running game, even an average wide receivers group could really turn this ASU offense into an even bigger force.

Run defense has been the Achilles heel on this side of the ball and after being challenged by the various talented Pac-12 running backs, this team aspect is about to face another stiff test in Navy's triple option offense. As a whole ASU's defensive line is very challenged in its depth and while that deficiency hasn't hurt the pass rush it has exposed the run stopping abilities of this unit.

4. What has been the dominant headline of the regular season?

It would probably be the season Will Sutton has enjoyed. Win or loss, Sutton provided many highlights each and every week. He was first in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss and second in sacks and Top 10 nationally in both of those categories. He certainly evoked memories of another great Sun Devil lineman, Baltimore Ravens' Terrell Suggs. The junior has been an absolute nightmare for offensive coordinators to plan for, and many quarterbacks and running backs have felt Sutton's wrath in 2012. Now the dominant headline in the beginning of January is whether Sutton will forgo his senior year to enter the NFL draft.

5. If the recruiting class stays in-tact, what are your expectations for next season?

The current ASU recruiting class could grow by as many as 12 recruits, so it would be hard to gauge expectations right here right now without knowing who some of the additions will be. With only one defenisve line commit, it's certainly not a class that is addressing one of the most pressing needs on teh team, but again I do expect that aspect to change.

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