Insight Bowl Preview

Coming off its best season since 1997, Arizona State was picked third in the Pac-10 preseason poll in a tightly bunched group between 2-5. However, a 6-5 (4-4 Pac 10) record and a three-way tie for fourth place in the Pac-10 did not meet expectations. Here is a look at the disappointing Arizona State Sun Devils. I'll review the two-deep and discuss injuries that have affected the depth chart.


In 2001, Arizona State hired former Boise State Head Coach Dirk Koetter to replace Head Coach Bruce Snyder, whose tenure in Tempe had lasted nine seasons.  Although Arizona State played in bowl games in each of Snyder's last two seasons, Snyder had not posted a winning record since 1997.  Koetter reversed the malaise of the Arizona State program under Snyder, posting winning records in two of his first four seasons and leading Arizona State to two bowl appearances.  Coming off a 9-3 (5-3 Pac-10, tied for third) season capped with a 27-23 win over Purdue in the Sun Bowl, Koetter returned 13 starters – plus both kickers – from the best Sun Devil team since 1997.  Arizona State was picked third in the Pac-10 preseason poll in a tightly bunched group between 2nd and 5th that included California, Oregon, and UCLA.  However, a 6-5 (4-4 Pac 10) record and a three-way tie for fourth place in the Pac-10 did not meet expectations.   Here is a look at the disappointing Arizona State Sun Devils. 


Arizona State had an 11-game schedule with seven home games after Hurricane Katrina forced a favorable relocation of the Louisiana State game from Baton Rouge.  The Sun Devils played once on Thursday night (season opener against Temple) and once on a Friday (season finale against Arizona).  In between, Arizona State had two bye weeks – in mid-October after six consecutive weeks of playing and again in mid-November before the season finale.  Arizona State played only four 2004 bowl teams – Louisiana State (Capital One), Oregon State (Insight), Southern California (Orange Bowl), and UCLA (Las Vegas).  The non-conference schedule was respectable – Temple, Northwestern, and Louisiana State, especially when one considers that Arizona State was supposed to visit Death Valley in Baton Rouge.  The Pac-10 schedule was very favorable with home games against upper division opponents USC and Oregon and road trips only to upper division UCLA.  The Pac-10 plays an eight-game schedule, leaving only one league opponent off the schedule, and the Sun Devils avoided playing fellow upper division contender California.   The road schedule was beneficial with three likely wins – at Oregon State, at Stanford, and at Washington State.  The home schedule featured four tough opponents – Louisiana State, Northwestern, USC, and Oregon – and likely was going to make or break the Sun Devil's season. 

Arizona crushed Temple, 63-13, to open the season in a game that Arizona State controlled from the outset.  The Sun Devils allowed two blocked kicks (both returned for TDs) and blew a 10-point 4th Quarter lead in losing to LSU, 35-31.  Arizona State scored 31 2nd Quarter points on the way to a 52-21 win over Northwestern.  The Sun Devils, in their first road game, scored 28 3rd Quarter points to expand a 14-3 halftime lead in a 42-24 win at Oregon State.  The Sun Devils hosted Southern California in an early showdown for the Pac-10 title in which Arizona State blew an 18-point halftime lead before losing 38-28.  The Sun Devils never really recovered from the USC loss, losing three of their final six games.  Oregon capitalized upon the USC hangover, overcoming an early 10-0 deficit with a 24-point outburst to win 31-17 in a crucial conference matchup.  Two weeks later, Arizona State spotted Stanford a 31-point 4th Quarter lead before falling short in a furious comeback, 45-35.  The Sun Devils then needed a 21-point 4th Quarter to beat Pac-10 cellar dweller Washington, 44-20.  With their season on the brink, the Sun Devils seized a 24-7 2nd Quarter lead and held on to beat Washington State, 27-24 in Pullman.  Arizona State overcame a 21-7 deficit in the 2nd Quarter to forge a 28-28 tie in the 3rd Quarter before fading in the 4th Quarter while losing to UCLA, 45-35, at the Rose Bowl.  Arizona overcame a 15-point 2nd Half deficit to archrival Arizona to clinch bowl eligibility in the season finale, 23-20.  The BCS snubbing of 10-1 Oregon by the Fiesta Bowl enabled the Insight Bowl to select Arizona State to represent the Pac-10 in Phoenix against Big East selection Rutgers (7-4, 4-2 Big East). 


September 1

Temple, 63-16

September 10

Louisiana State, 31-35

September 17

Northwestern, 52-21

September 28

@ Oregon State, 42-24

October 1

Southern California, 28-38

October 8

Oregon, 17-31

October 22

@ Stanford, 35-45

October 29

Washington, 44-20

November 5

@ Washington State, 27-24

November 12

@ UCLA, 35-45

November 25

Arizona, 23-20



Arizona State lost only three starters from a potent offense.  The Sun Devils operate a one back offense with an H-back (HB) as a blocker.  Despite playing two first-year starters at QB, Arizona State possesses one of the nation's most prolific passing game.  The Sun Devils are capable scoring bursts that can quickly bury an opponent or surmount a deficit.  Arizona State's 2005 offensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 140 rushing yards per game (#5 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #67 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 365 passing yards per game (#1 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #3 in Division 1A)
  • 505 total yards per game (#2 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #4 in Division 1A)
  • 36 points per game (#4 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #11 in Division 1A)

Arizona State possesses one of the best receiving corps in the nation.  Three-year starter and two-time All-Pac 10 (First Team this year) Sr WR Derek Hagan (11 GS, 72 receptions for 1,113 yards, and 8 TDs) is the Sun Devils' best player.  Two-year starter RS Jr WR Terry Richardson (7 GS, 10 GP, 35 receptions for 449 yards, and 4 TDs plus 7 rushes for 56 yards) starts opposite of Hagan.  Two-year starter and former Pac-10 Freshman of the Year So TE Zach Miller (9 GS, 34 receptions for 433 yards, and 3 TDs) is the best TE at the self-styled "Tight End University".  Three-year starter RS Sr HB Lee Burghgraef (11 GS, 4 receptions for 30 yards, and one TD) is primarily a blocker.  RS Sr WR Moey Mutz (1 GS, 10 GP, 21 receptions for 331 yards, and one TD), RS Sr WR Matt Miller (2 GS, 10 GP, 19 receptions for 428 yards, and 5 TDs), RS Jr TE Jamaal Lewis (1 GS, 8 GP, 21 receptions for 384 yards, and 5 TDs), and RS So HB Brent Miller (11 GP, 6 receptions for 95, and 2 TDs) constitute a deep and experienced second unit.  Hagan is the big play receiver but the TEs are dangerous in the red zone. 

Jr QB Sam Keller made his first career start in the Sun Bowl last year in place of the injured starter.  Keller (7 GS, 8 GP, 155 of 264 for 2,165 yards, 20 TDs, and 9 INTs) was having a terrific season until suffering a season-ending torn thumb ligament in his throwing hand.  RS Fr Rudy Carpenter (4 GS, 8 GP, 133 of 193 for 1,806 yards, 13 TDs, and 2 INTs) replaced Keller in the 3rd Quarter against Stanford and led a Sun Devil comeback that fell short.  RS Sr QB Chad Christenson, the placekicking holder, is Carpenter's backup but hasn't played QB since his freshman year.  The Sun Devil offense has slowed slightly under Carpenter, despite a better completion percentage and TD-to-INT ratio.  Don't assume that the Sun Devil offense is less potent with a freshman backup at the helm. 

Arizona State lost only one starter off an experienced OLine.   However, injuries have left the OLine more closely resembling a M*A*S*H unit.  First-year starter RS Jr Zach Krula (3 GS), who replaced the departed starter, suffered a season-ending foot injury against Northwestern.  Three-year starter and three-time All-Pac 10 (First Team last year) RS Sr C Grayling Love (6 GS), who has played every position on the Sun Devil OLine, suffered a season-ending foot injury against Stanford.  Three-year starter, former freshman All-American, and former Second Team All-Pac 10 RT RS Jr Andrew Carnahan (8 GS) missed three games with a dislocated thumb.  Backup LG RS Fr Leo Talavou (3 GS), who replaced Krula, was knocked from the starting lineup with an elbow injury.  Two-year starter RS Jr RG Stephen Berg (8 GS at LG and 2 GS at RG) missed one game with a knee injury and then returned at RG to ultimately replace Krula.  First-year starter Brandon Rodd (8 GS at LT and 3 GS at LG), who was the only OL to start every game, moved to RG to replace the injured Berg.  Former two-year starter Sr Chaz White (3 GS at RT and 3 GS at LT) initially replaced Carnahan at RT and subsequently replaced Rodd at LT.  Backup C RS So Mike Pollack (1 GS at RG and 4 GS at C) unsuccessfully replaced Krula at RG and later replaced Love at center.  Backup C/RG RS So Robert Gustavis (2 GS at RG) temporarily replaced the injured Talavou at RG before being displaced by Berg.  The starting lineup is currently White (LG), Rodd (LG), Pollak (C), Berg (RG), and Carnahan (RT).  Rodd also serves as the backup LT while White is likely the backup RT.  Talavou and Gustavis complete seven-man OLine rotation.  Injuries forced Koetter to use seven different starting lineups on the OLine.  The current configuration has played two games together.  The Sun Devils' OLine has yielded 35 sacks, #9 in the Pac-10.  The ability of the Arizona State OLine to protect its freshman QB is suspect. 

Koetter entered the season with only one proven TB.  RS So TB Rudy Burgess  (10 GS, 11 GP, 128 carries for 542 yards and 4 TDs plus 55 receptions for 587 yards and 4 TDs) is a dual-purpose threat as a runner or receiver.  Burgess often motions into the slot, leaving an empty backfield.  True Fr TB Keegan Herring (2 GS, 11 GP, 139 carries for 791 yards and 6 TDs plus 3 receptions for 4 yards) displaced Burgess as the starter late in the season.  Herring is not the pass-catching threat that Burgess is. 


Arizona State lost six starters off a middling defense that adequately complemented a dynamic offense.  The Sun Devil defense switched from a 4-2 scheme to a more traditional 4-3 alignment under new Defensive Coordinator Bill Miller.  The DLine is undersized but the LBs are big and fast.  As a result of the old scheme, Miller has the depth in the secondary to liberally deploy nickel and dime packages.  Unfortunately, the defense has regressed in its first year with the new scheme.  The Sun Devils struggle to defend both the run and the pass.  However, this defense has been matched against the potent offense of the Pac-10 (plus Northwestern).  Arizona State's 2005 defensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 182 rushing yards per game (#8 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #91 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 281 passing yards per game (#7 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #109 in Division 1A)
  • 463 total yards per game (#10 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #114 in Division 1A)
  • 29 points per game (#5 in the Pacific 10 Conference and #83 in Division 1A)

The LB corps is the heart of the shaky Sun Devil defense.  Two-year starter and First Team All-Pac 10 Sr MLB Dale Robinson (10 GS, 11 GP, 112 tackles, 15 TFLs, 4 sacks, 2 FR, and 3 FF) is the undisputed leader of the unit and the biggest playmaker on the defense. Three-year starter Sr WLB James Williams (6 GS at SLB, 3 GS at WLB, 10 GP, 63 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 FR, and one FF) began the season as the starting SLB and switched to WLB in November.  RS So SLB Robert James (5 GS at WLB, 1 GS at SLB, 11 GP, 36 tackles, 5 TFLs, one sack, and one INT) started opposite Williams; James was typically lifted when Miller deployed a nickel or dime package.  Backup MLB JUCO Jr Beau Manutai (1 GS, 9 GP, 30 tackles, 3 TFLs, and one FF) was the only other LB to see substantial playing time.  RS Fr SLB Adam Vincent (10 GP and 6 tackles) and true Fr Chad Lindsey (9 GP, 5 tackles, and one sack) complete the inexperienced second unit.  While Robinson is obviously an anchor in the middle, the recent switching of Williams and James indicates that Miller is still looking for a productive combination. 

The defensive backfield returned only two experienced starters.  Two-year starter RS Sr CB Josh Golden (9 GS at CB, 2 GS at S, 43 tackles, one TFL, 2 INTs, 3 FF, and one FR) played most of the season at CB before switching to backup safety late in the year (and starting in nickel/dime schemes).  Former three-year starter RS Sr CB RJ Oliver (2 GS, 8 GP, 21 tackles and one INT), who missed last season with a torn foot ligament, slowly worked his way back into the starting lineup, displacing Golden late in the year.  JUCO Jr S Zach Catanese (11 GS, 99 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, one INT, 2 FF, and one FR) and Sr S Maurice London (10 GS, 50 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 3 FR) are first-year starters.  Sr CB Mike Davis (8 GS, 11 GP, 38 tackles, one sack, one INT, and one FF) displaced the original starter early in the season.  JUCO Jr CB Keno Walter-White  (3 GS, 11 GP, 26 tackles, one TFL, and one FF) initially started at CB but was replaced by Davis.  RS Fr Jeremy Payton (3 GS, 9 GP, 24 tackles, 2 TFLs, one sack, and 2 FF) and RS So Josh Barrett (1 GS, 11 GP, 33 tackles, 3 TFLs, and one sack) provide depth and experience at safety.  RS So CB Chad Green (8 GP and 6 tackles) completes the second team.  Miller has a experienced two-deep secondary. 

Injuries, academic ineligibility, and poor performance have conspired to produce seven different starting combinations on the DLine.  Two-year starter RS Jr Jordan Hill (11 GS, 30 tackles, 6 TFLs, one sack, and 2 FR) is the only DL to start every game this season.  Two-year starter Jr DE Kyle Caldwell (7 GS, 9 GP, 16 tackles, and 3 TFLs) has been hampered by an ankle injury.  Sr DT DeWayne Hollyfield (7 GS, 9 GP, 18 tackles, 10 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and one INT), who missed the first two games while awaiting academic clearance, is the best playmaker on the DLine.  Sr DE Quency Darley (4 GS at DT, 4 GS at DE, 10 GP, 21 tackles, and one FF) started at DT in Hollyfield's absence and then, upon DeWayne's return, moved to DE where he eventually displaced the incumbent.  Original starting DE Jr Will Kofe (7 GS, 11 GP, 21 tackles, and 2 TFLs) was replaced by Darley in the starting lineup.  Sr DE Mike Talbot (4 GS, 11 GP, 22 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, one sack, and one FR) replaced the injured Caldwell in the starting lineup.  RS Fr DT David Smith (10 GP, 4 tackles, 2 TFLs, and 2 FR) and JUCO Jr DT Shannon Jones (8 GP and 2 tackles) have contributed negligibly as backups.  The Arizona State DLine is vulnerable.  It doesn't generate a pass rush, is soft against the run, and lacks interior depth. 


Though Arizona State returned its kick returners, RS Jr WR Terry Richardson assumed punt return (16 yards per return and 2 TDs) kickoff return (28 yards per return) duties.  Three-year PK Jr Jesse Ainsworth (8 of 10 FGAs and 49 of 49 XPAs) retuned as the PK and also assumed punting duties (34 yards per punt) later in the year after starting punter RS So Chris MacDonald had four punts blocked.  The Sun Devils return games is sensational but the kicking game is vulnerable. 

Coming Next:  Arizona State Scouting Report.  I'll break down tape on the Arizona State-Arizona game to get a feel for the Sun Devils.  I'll offensive and defensive tendencies. 

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