Arizona State Sun Devils
2006 Record: (7-6, 4-5)
Coach: Dennis Erickson (1st year at Arizona State, 148-65-1 overall)
Starters Returning: 17 (10 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist)
Offensive Starters Lost: TE Zach Miller
Offensive Starters Returning: QB Rudy Carpenter, RB Ryan Torain, WR Mike Jones, WR Chris McGaha, TE Brent Miller, OL Paul Fanaika, OL Robert Gustavis, OL Julius Orieukwu, OL Mike Pollak, OL Brandon Rodd
Defensive Starters Lost: DT Jordan Hill, DE Kyle Caldwell, LB Beau Manutai, CB Keno Walter-White, S Zach Catanese
Defensive Starters Returning: DT Michael Marquardt, DE Dexter Davis, LB Travis Goethel, LB Mike Nixon, CB Justin Tryon, S Josh Barrett
Starting Specialists Lost: K Jesse Ainsworth
Starting Specialists Returning: P Jonathan Johnson
For starters: A 7-6 season just was not good enough for Coach Dirk Koetter to keep his job at Arizona State. Dennis Erickson will take over the reins and the veteran coach has plenty of talent on the offensive end to work with. The defense, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. The ASU season will be an eternal struggle between the explosive offense and the implosive defense.
Offense: Rudy Carpenter returns for his second year starting at the quarterback position. After throwing for 2,523 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2006, the junior is ready for an even bigger season. Carpenter has lost his favorite target in tight end Zach Miller, who caught 50 passes during his senior campaign, but at least he has little brother Brent Miller ready to take over that role. Yet, ASU should not have to depend on the tight end to rack up as many catches this year.
The wide receivers were a young group in 2006 and should now be ready to make
a much bigger impact. Michael Jones, Chris McGaha and Rudy Burgess,
who was limited in 2006 with an injury, have proven to be quality targets and
Kyle Williams and Brandon Smith are big play receivers who will be
asked to do much more as sophomores.
Even with the nice passing attack, it is the ground game that makes the Arizona State offense so dangerous. Ryan Torain rushed for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns and backup Keegan Herring added 549 yards and six trips to the end zone. The dynamic duo may be proven runners, but Dimitri Nance and junior college transfer Jarrell Woods are deserving of some carries. With five starters returning to the offensive line, led by left tackle Brandon Rodd, the running game should be better this year.
Defense: With the good, comes the bad. The depth up front is a
huge concern and that has led to a little off-season position changing. Tackle
Michael Marquardt is a stud and junior David Smith has some
experience, but the team needed some more depth so redshirt freshman Saia Falahola made the switch from guard to defensive tackle. Dexter Davis
and Kellen Mills are expected to earn the starting spots on the ends and
it is Davis who will put the pressure on the quarterback.
More changes were made in the secondary due to the return Troy Nolan from an injury that kept him sidelined all of last season. Yet, even with Nolan, the secondary has some problems. Justin Tryon is a solid corner, but finding a starter opposite the 5-10 senior, not to mention some depth, will not be easy. Free safety Josh Barrett, who led the team with 82 tackles in 2006, is one of the best safeties in the Pac-10, but it will be up to him and Tryon to try and keep the unit intact.
Starting linebackers Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon return and junior college transfer Morris Wooten is expected to increase the production of the unit, but there are some underclassmen that are more talented and could steal any of the starting jobs.
The Bottom Line: If Coach Erickson injects some vigor into the defense, Arizona State could be in for a big season. There is enough talent around on the defensive side of the ball to be good, but it is the lack of depth that will keep the Sun Devils away from really big things. Still, thanks to the excellent offense, this is a bowl team who will be in the Pac-10 title mix into November.
RB Ryan Torian rushed for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns last year.