UW Opponent Preview - Arizona State

With the start of the season just five days away, we continue our look at Washington's 2016 opponents with a preview of the team they face in week 11 -- Arizona State...

2015 Record: 6-7 (4-5)

Head Coach: Todd Graham (34-19, fifth year)

Returning Starters: 4 Offense/6 Defense

Key Losses: QB Mike Bercovici; WR Devin Lucien; WR D.J. Foster; OL Christian Westerman; CB Lloyd Carrington; S Jordan Simone; LB Antonio Longino

Key Returners: DL Joseph Wicker; LB Salamo Fiso; RB Demario Richard; WR Jalen Harvey; CB Kareem Orr; OL Evan Goodman; K Zane Gonzalez

2015 Offense: 477 ypg (178 rush/299 pass); 34.6 ppg

2015 Defense: 464 ypg (126 rush/338 pass); 33.5 ppg

Offense:  Heading into last season, most thought the Sun Devils would take a step back with the loss of quarterback Taylor Kelly, but Mike Bercovici proved to be a very capable replacement and the offense didn't miss a beat. This season, with Bercovici now graduated, things are basically where they were last season at this point in time as people question whether Brady White or Manny Wilkins can take over the offense. Whomever wind up taking the starting snaps, many think there could be some sort of rotation between the two at least during the non-conference schedule. ASU loses it's top playmaker from the past couple of seasons in D.J. Foster, but they did pick up one of the top wideouts in the West in N'Keal Harry who is a big, physically gifted athlete who can be a difference-maker for the Sun Devils from the get-go. Besides figuring out the quarterback situation, the biggest headache for the coaching staff is an offensive line that loses four of five starters. Luckily, Evan Goodman returns at left tackle and he'll be the player they wind up building around. The passing game may take a hit this season with the young quarterbacks, but the running game should be able to pick up the slack with the top two rushers from last season -- Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.

Defense: Graham is a defensive coach, so you know it had to burn him that his defense allowed 464 yards per game while surrendering a conference worst 338 yards per game through the air. Losing players like corners Kweishi Brown and Lloyd Carrington and S Jordan Simone won't help matters, but they do return Kareem Orr who is a solid player. Last season the Sun Devils led the conference with 46 sacks, but they lose their top pass-rusher in linebacker Antonio Longino, so it will be up to sophomore phenom Joseph Wicker who posted 6.5 sacks last season to pick up the slack. Linebackers Salamo Fiso and Christian Sam are tackling machines and each should garner All-Conference recognition this fall. 

The Bottom Line: With offensive question marks, especially at quarterback and along the offensive line, the Sun Devils could have trouble scoring this season and their defense should be better than they were last season, but it might take some time before they really hit their stride. ASU has a relatively light out-of-conference schedule with home games vs. Northern Arizona and Texas Tech and a road game at UTSA, but their conference schedule includes games at USC, at Washington, at Oregon while they host Washington State and UCLA and they very likely could wind up underdogs in all of those games. At this point, it looks like it could be a struggle for them to make a bowl game and if that is how things transpire, then Graham will start to feel the heat, but he's a solid coach and he'll have the Sun Devils playing better and better as the season moves along.


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