2013 Arizona State football's 10 things to know: Todd Graham has a home in ASU

Allan Henry-US PRESSWIRE

Tdod Graham has earned his reputation for his off-the-field dalliances with other schools. But on the field, Graham inherited a roster in 2012 almost perfectly suited for his style of play. This year, he has experience in his corner as well. Now ... about that schedule...

For more on Sun Devil football, visit ASU blog House of Sparky.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Todd Graham is home (no, really!) (probably!)

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham is a man in a hurry. His off-the-field caricature tells you that, as does the team he puts on the field. In an effort to find the right job (for the right salary), Graham jumped from Rice (2006) to Tulsa (2007-10) to Pittsburgh (2011) to Arizona State (2012). Including high schools -- Midwest City (OK), Carl Albert and Allen (TX) -- he has been a head coach in six places, and in three of them, he stayed just one season. He earned his opportunistic reputation.

His moves, however, have parallels with his coaching personality. He moves quickly and aggressively, and so does his team. Arizona State played at a fast pace on offense and racked up more than nine tackles for loss per game, most in the country.

Really, it isn't hard to see what he saw when he jumped to ASU, which appears to have survived a year with him still employed. Graham inherited a roster faster than any he had inherited before (and let's face it -- he's inherited a lot of rosters in his career), and he was able to quickly put an entertaining product on the field. He took Dennis Erickson's recruits and added just enough order in the system for them to thrive (and almost thrive quite a bit more). A midseason funk limited both the team's ranking and achievement levels, but Graham's Sun Devils still came within two points of the Pac-12 South crown in his first season. And in 2013, they should have the experience and familiarity they didn't have this time last year. Survive perhaps the most brutal early slate in the country, and ASU could win a lot of games over the final two months of the season.

It's easy to mock Graham for his propensity for lilypad jumping. Hell, I based last year's preview around bad karma. And for all we know, he'll have jumped to another job by this time next year. But everything about the Arizona State program -- the heat, the proximity to fast, angry players, the personnel he inherited -- fit perfectly with Graham's football ideals. This probably won't be Graham's last job, but it's hard to imagine a better fit.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 41
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug Northern Arizona 63-6 W 41.6 - 18.0 W
8-Sep Illinois 45-14 W 46.4 - 24.6 W
15-Sep at Missouri 20-24 L 23.6 - 19.9 W
22-Sep Utah 37-7 W 40.0 - 19.0 W
29-Sep at California 27-17 W 20.3 - 15.8 W
11-Oct at Colorado 51-17 W 32.2 - 18.6 W
18-Oct Oregon 21-43 L 28.7 - 19.6 W
27-Oct UCLA 43-45 L 33.2 - 32.3 W
3-Nov at Oregon State 26-36 L 21.9 - 24.2 L
10-Nov at USC 17-38 L 16.7 - 25.1 L
17-Nov Washington State 46-7 W 33.5 - 12.8 W
23-Nov at Arizona 41-34 W 27.3 - 22.4 W
29-Dec Navy 62-28 W 50.2 - 22.7 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 38.4 15 24.3 41
Adj. Points Per Game 32.0 38 21.2 15

2. A brief slump and a perfect vision

In the end, Arizona State was basically just a top-40 team. The Sun Devils ranked 41st in the F/+ rankings, three spots behind Arizona and one spot ahead of one of Graham's former teams (Tulsa). That's certainly decent for a first year on the job, but it was only a marginal improvement over ASU's No. 44 ranking in 2011, Dennis Erickson's last season in charge. The drag in the rankings came mostly from an early-November slump, however ASU spent much of the season playing at a top-30 level.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 7 games): ASU 33.3, Opponent 19.4 (plus-13.9)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 3 games): Opponent 27.2, ASU 23.9 (minus-3.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 3 games): ASU 37.0, Opponent 19.3 (plus-17.7)

Like UCLA, ASU fell into a funk then surged out of it. But thanks to a two-point home loss to the Bruins in one of the season's most entertaining games, ASU finished 5-4 in conference, one game away from the division crown. Following the loss, the Sun Devils played their only two truly poor games of the season: losses at Oregon State and USC. But they responded in style, destroying Washington State, holding off Arizona in Tucson, and absolutely humbling Navy in a name-your-score game (as in, ASU could have scored 90 if it wanted to). And in the end, they were basically a Missouri goal line stand and a late UCLA field goal away from 11-2.

Navy's defense was absolutely awful, but rarely will you see a game in which an offense can almost literally do whatever it wants like ASU did in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Sun Devils scored on their first nine possessions of the game with drives of eight plays for 75 yards, eight for 60, nine for 69, four for 55, two for 80, four for 66, nine for 93, three for 64 and one for 33. ASU averaged just 4.1 yards per play over its final three garbage-time drives and still averaged 9.5 for the game. Absurd.

The Navy game took place against an overmatched defense, but it also gave us a perfect hint at what ASU wants to accomplish. The Sun Devils used run-and-catch threats, lined anybody up anywhere, and ran their offense with an interesting, efficient run-pass threat in Taylor Kelly. Meanwhile, they sacked Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds four times in 15 pass attempts and logged 11 tackles for loss in 67 plays. (Two garbage-time TDs and a kick return touchdown prevented what could have easily been a 62-7 final score.)

Most Pac-12 teams are better than Navy, but the game showed us Graham's vision. And in 2013, with such an experienced squad, we could see more of it.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 25 50 49 49
RUSHING 25 61 66 62
PASSING 43 39 40 42
Standard Downs 58 63 60
Passing Downs 34 34 36
Redzone 96 100 96
Q1 Rk 15 1st Down Rk 52
Q2 Rk 75 2nd Down Rk 39
Q3 Rk 57 3rd Down Rk 51
Q4 Rk 62

3. A little bit of passing downs magic

The offensive vision of Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is an interesting one. There were dual threats everywhere in 2012, and we should see more of this in 2013. Marion Grice had 103 carries and 54 pass targets; D.J. Foster had 102 and 51. Jamal Miles had 52 targets and 14 carries. Taylor Kelly attempted 390 passes (including sacks) and 103 carries.

For much of 2012 though, the vision for this offense was more interesting than the product. With an almost perfectly average run-pass split, ASU was also almost perfectly average on standard downs. It was up to Kelly to bail the Sun Devils out on passing downs quite a few times per game, but he usually managed to do just that. Barely a top-60 offense on standard downs, ASU was almost top-30 on passing downs. Kelly either threw longer passes to Rashad Ross, dumped to a running back, or took off running. And it frequently worked.

It's difficult to rely on passing downs success for too long however, so it would certainly behoove ASU to improve on first-and-ten and avoid too many second and third-and-longs.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Taylor Kelly 6'2, 203 Jr. ** (5.4) 241 359 3,039 67.1% 29 9 31 7.9% 7.3
Michael Eubank 6'6, 246 So. **** (5.8) 34 54 330 63.0% 4 3 7 11.5% 4.4
Mike Bercovici 6'1, 202 So. *** (5.7)







Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Cameron Marshall TB 137 578 4.2 3.8 9 -11.6
Marion Grice TB 6'0, 204 Sr. **** (5.9) 103 679 6.6 5.2 11 +19.5
Taylor Kelly QB 6'2, 203 Jr. ** (5.4) 103 689 6.7 4.8 1 +14.9
D.J. Foster RB 5'11, 199 So. **** (5.9) 102 493 4.8 4.0 2 -2.8
Michael Eubank QB 6'6, 246 So. **** (5.8) 56 283 5.1 3.9 4 +0.7
James Morrison DE 15 57 3.8 2.2 0 -1.3
Jamal Miles WR-Z 14 68 4.9 2.3 0 +0.3
Deantre Lewis RB 5'11, 188 Jr. **** (5.8) 11 39 3.5 3.0 0 -1.7
Richard Smith WR 5'9, 165 So. *** (5.7) 5 29 5.8 4.0 0 +0.3

4. The value of a grinder

We hear a lot about the value of a runner who can absorb and inflict contact between the tackles, a guy who can soften up the interior of a defense. In theory, if you can force a defense to pay attention to the middle of the field, you can catch it a little flat-footed and get an extra half-step when you go outside.

But what if that grinder is only decent at grinding? Cam Marshall led ASU in carries despite the fact that he was easily the least productive runner carrying the ball. A stout dude at 5'11, 215, Marshall was indeed decent between the tackles, but his value is dependent on your view of symbolism versus production.

On paper, Marshall was only decent, but did the threat of Marshall between the tackles positively affect ASU's production elsewhere? Did his ability to draw contact help to wear down a defense late? (Since ASU's most productive quarter was by far the first, and since ASU was barely top-60 in the final 45 minutes, I lean toward "no.")

This is a relevant topic, simply because Marshall is now gone. Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, far more explosive backs, will get more carries in Marshall's absence, and on a pure per-carry, on-paper basis, this is a good thing. Plus, at 205, Grice isn't demonstrably smaller than Marshall. Throw in running back-turned shooting victim-turned cornerback-turned running back Deantre Lewis, and you have a backfield that could rather easily be as good or better than last year's. Unless there is extra value in a grinder.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Rashad Ross WR-X 73 37 610 50.7% 8.4 18.6% 58.9% 8.4 74.7
Chris Coyle WR-H 6'3, 240 Sr. *** (5.5) 72 57 696 79.2% 9.7 18.4% 70.8% 9.7 85.2
Marion Grice TB 6'0, 204 Sr. **** (5.9) 54 41 425 75.9% 7.9 13.8% 48.1% 7.8 52.0
Jamal Miles WR-Z 52 37 373 71.2% 7.2 13.3% 71.2% 7.5 45.7
D.J. Foster RB 5'11, 199 So. **** (5.9) 51 38 533 74.5% 10.5 13.0% 58.8% 10.5 65.3
Kevin Ozier WR-Y 6'2, 200 Sr. NR 33 21 324 63.6% 9.8 8.4% 69.7% 9.5 39.7
Richard Smith WR-Z 5'9, 165 So. *** (5.7) 19 14 141 73.7% 7.4 4.8% 73.7% 8.3 17.3
Cameron Marshall TB 16 13 100 81.3% 6.3 4.1% 62.5% 6.3 12.2
Alonzo Agwuenu WR-X 6'4, 212 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 11 115 84.6% 8.8 3.3% 53.8% 9.0 14.1
Kyle Middlebrooks WR-Z 5'9, 186 Sr. *** (5.6) 4 1 6 25.0% 1.5 1.0% 75.0% 1.2 0.7
Darwin Rogers TE 6'4, 244 Sr. ** (5.4) 3 3 31 100.0% 10.3 0.8% 100.0% 6.2 3.8
Gary Chambers WR-Y 6'3, 200 So. ** (5.2)








Marcus Washington WR-H 6'0, 208 Jr. *** (5.7)








Blake Covey WR-Y 6'0, 177 So. NR








Billy Davis WR-H 6'4, 215 So. NR








Frederick Gammage WR-Z 5'10, 168 RSFr. NR








Kody Kohl TE 6'3, 251 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Joseph Morris WR 6'4, 200 Jr. *** (5.5)








De'Marieya Nelson TE 6'3, 240 Jr. ** (5.4)








Jaelen Strong WR 6'4, 205 So. *** (5.6)








Ronald Lewis WR 6'0, 180 Fr. *** (5.7)








Jordan Gaston WR-X 6'1, 185 Fr. NR








5. The value of a field stretcher

We hear a lot about the value of a receiver who can stretch the field, a guy who can test the perimeter of a defense. In theory, if you can force a defense to pay attention to the long ball, you can open up the middle of the field for easier passes.

But what if a deep threat is only decent at being a deep threat? Rashad Ross led ASU in targets despite the fact that he managed only a 51 percent catch rate. His per-target average of 8.4 yards was decent for a No. 1 receiver, but take out two games (he caught 9-for-11 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns versus Utah and Navy), and his production drops to an unacceptable 6.2 yards per target with a 45 percent catch rate.

On paper, Ross was only decent, at best. But did the threat of Ross over the top positively affect ASU's production elsewhere? Did his ability to draw attention from the safeties help to open up opponents to bigger gains with other players? (Since ASU's passing downs production was decent, I lean toward "yes." Or at least maybe.)

This is a relevant topic, simply because Ross is now gone. And unlike the running back position, there is not a wealth of obvious replacement options. Drops (both by Ross and others) hurt this unit a decent amount, and of the returning wideouts, only one (Kevin Ozier) averaged better than even 12.2 yards per catch last year. They have efficiency options in tight end (and standard downs favorite) Chris Coyle and the running backs. And if at least one of the three incoming junior college receivers is quickly ready to fit into the rotation, they have a receiving corps that at least has the potential to be as good or better than last year's. Unless there is extra value in a field stretcher.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 103.2 3.17 3.01 43.4% 60.9% 17.3% 75.8 6.7% 9.1%
Rank 59 25 79 18 96 34 97 97 98
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Evan Finkenberg LT 6'4, 293 Sr. *** (5.6) 33 career starts
Andrew Simpson RG 32 career starts
Jamil Douglas RT 6'4, 303 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 career starts
Kody Koebensky C 6'3, 290 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 career starts
Brice Schwab RT 13 career starts
Vi Teofilo RG 6'3, 314 So. *** (5.5) 3 career starts
Tyler Sulka RT 6'5, 277 Jr. ** (5.4) 1 career start
Kyle Johnson LT
Sil Ajawara LG 6'4, 297 Jr. *** (5.7)
Evan Goodman LT 6'4, 306 So. **** (5.8)
Devin Goodman LG 6'1, 279 So. *** (5.5)
Christian Westerman RG 6'4, 298 So. **** (6.0)
Stephon McCray C 6'3, 299 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Nick Kelly C 6'3, 274 So. *** (5.5)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 27 23 19 30
RUSHING 83 54 40 67
PASSING 3 15 10 18
Standard Downs 24 20 29
Passing Downs 35 30 40
Redzone 89 93 82
Q1 Rk 8 1st Down Rk 13
Q2 Rk 33 2nd Down Rk 21
Q3 Rk 45 3rd Down Rk 29
Q4 Rk 18

6. A drastic change

In 2011, ASU opponents were more than happy to throw on a Sun Devils defense that ranked 63rd in Adj. Sack Rate and 40th in Passing S&P+. In 2012, opponents found the going much, much more difficult in that regard. With a reasonably undersized front line, ASU was still only decent against the run (66th in Rushing S&P+ in 2011, 54th in 2012), but the pass defense improved dramatically, primarily because of extreme disruption up front. ASU improved to ninth in Adj. Sack Rate and recorded a sack about once for every seven passing downs pass attempts. With flexibility in their approximate 3-4/3-3-5 system (the Devilbacker position will line up as a fourth lineman sometimes, and the SPUR linebacker is often a fifth defensive back), the Sun Devils were able to attack from anywhere, but they were also able to generate significant pressure with just their front three. All but one starter in the front seven returns, as does the entire second string. There are some losses to account for in the secondary, but this defense's personality isn't going to change at all. It was fast, aggressive and fun last year, and it will be again this year.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 104.7 2.91 3.07 40.2% 62.2% 19.5% 141.2 5.5% 14.3%
Rank 42 59 45 75 28 61 9 35 1
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Davon Coleman DE 6'2, 276 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 54.0 7.2% 11 5 0 0 0 1
Will Sutton NT 6'1, 288 Sr. *** (5.7) 12 52.0 7.0% 23.5 13 0 5 3 0
Jaxon Hood DT 6'0, 287 So. *** (5.5) 13 19.5 2.6% 4 3 0 0 0 0
Junior Onyeali DE 6'0, 241 Sr. **** (5.8) 13 13.5 1.8% 8 6 0 2 1 1
Gannon Conway DE 6'4, 261 Sr. NR 10 7.5 1.0% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Jake Sheffield NT 6'3, 272 Sr. *** (5.5) 9 7.5 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mo Latu DT 6'3, 338 So. **** (5.8)
Sean O'Grady DT 6'3, 244 So. ** (5.4)
Brayden Gazlay DT 6'1, 280 So. NR

Marcus Hardison DE 6'5, 290 Jr. **** (5.8)
Demetrius Cherry DE 6'6, 275 Jr. *** (5.5)
Corey Smith DE 6'7, 260 Fr. *** (5.7)
Kisima Jagne DE 6'5, 251 Fr. *** (5.7)






7. Swarm, swarm, swarm

Tackle Will Sutton was an outright revelation in his first season under defensive coordinator Paul Randolph. In his first two seasons, he had recorded 8.5 tackles for loss. In 2012, he had seven against Colorado and California alone. Instead of occupying blockers like a nose tackle in a three-man line is usually expected to do, Sutton was too busy blowing by them. He had more tackles for loss (23.5) than BYU's Kyle Van Noy (22.0), more than UCLA's Anthony Barr (21.0), more than Texas A&M's Damontre Moore (21.0). He had the same number as Jadeveon Clowney. Again, he's a nose tackle.

But what made ASU so intriguing last year was that the shop-wrecking went beyond Sutton. Remove Sutton's 23.5 tackles for loss from the mix, and ASU still had more TFLs than 100 of 124 FBS programs. Devilbacker Carl Bradford had 20.5, SPUR linebacker Chris Young had 14.0, weakside linebacker Brandon Magee had 12.5, end Davon Coleman had 11.0, and rush end Junior Onyeali had 8.0. ASU was in the backfield at will last year.

Now, if you got out of your own backfield, then you could find some room to run against ASU, especially on the ground. The Sun Devils ranked just 67th in Rushing PPP+, after all. And like the offense, they struggled mightily in the red zone. There is a downside to trading size for speed. But the upside was worth it for ASU in 2012.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brandon Magee WILL 12 97.0 13.0% 12.5 6.5 2 1 1 1
Carl Bradford DEVIL 6'1, 241 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 69.5 9.3% 20.5 11.5 1 4 3 2
Chris Young SPUR 6'0, 233 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 67.5 9.0% 14 2 1 4 1 0
Steffon Martin SAM 6'1, 236 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 21.5 2.9% 6.5 1 0 0 0 1
Anthony Jones SPUR 6'1, 212 Sr. *** (5.7) 11 20.5 2.7% 1 0 1 1 0 0
Grandville Taylor WILL 6'0, 221 Sr. NR 13 15.5 2.1% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Mendoza WILL 6'1, 219 RSFr. *** (5.6) 3 6.0 0.8% 1 0 2 0 1 0
Kipeli Koniseti DEVIL 6'2, 235 Sr. ** (5.1) 12 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Deantre Lewis SPUR 5'11, 188 Jr. **** (5.8) 9 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lucas Revelle SAM 6'2, 222 So. NR

Salamo Fiso SAM 6'0, 228 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Matthew Rowe WILL 6'1, 219 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Eriquel Florence LB 6'1, 235 Jr. *** (5.5)
Antonio Longino LB 6'3, 225 So. *** (5.7)
Chans Cox DEVIL 6'3, 225 Fr. **** (5.9)
Viliami Latu LB 6'2, 225 Fr. **** (5.8)



Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Keelan Johnson FS 13 76.5 10.3% 1 0 5 8 1 0
Alden Darby BS 5'11, 192 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 66.5 8.9% 5.5 2 3 4 1 1
Marlon Pollard
(E. Michigan 2011)
CB 6'0, 169 Sr. **** (5.9) 11 45.5 7.3% 2 0 1 7 0 0
Osahon Irabor CB 5'11, 181 Sr. **** (5.8) 13 33.5 4.5% 0 0 1 13 1 0
Deveron Carr CB 13 20.0 2.7% 1 0 1 8 0 2
Robert Nelson CB 5'11, 169 Sr. ** (4.9) 13 14.5 1.9% 1 0 3 3 0 0
Kevin Ayers BS 12 11.0 1.5% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Ezekiel Bishop FS 5'11, 194 So. *** (5.6) 9 8.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shane McCullen BS 6'2, 200 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 7.0 0.9% 1 0 0 0 1 0
Viliami Moeakiola FS 6'0, 209 RSFr. *** (5.6) 4 3.5 0.5% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Lloyd Carrington CB 6'0, 188 Jr. *** (5.5)

Rashad Wadood CB 5'11, 186 So. *** (5.5)


Luke Williams FS 6'3, 198 So. NR


Damarious Randall DB 6'0, 185 Jr. *** (5.5)


Solomon Means DB 6'1, 170 So. ** (5.4)







8. Seniors everywhere

Graham signed ten junior college transfers -- including six defenders -- in his 25-man recruiting class. That might be a little forward-thinking on his part, because while ASU might not need much help in 2013, it might need quite a bit in 2014. The Sun Devils could start as many as eight to nine seniors on defense this fall, with seniors playing key backup roles as well. Senior corners Robert Nelson and UCLA-by-way-of-EMU transfer Marlon Pollard should help to replace Deveron Carr (Rashad Wadood, who missed last season with injury, could play a larger role in that regard), senior pass rush specialist Junior Onyeali will feature in the rotation (as long as off-the-field issues don't prevent him from doing so), senior linebacker Kipeli Koniseti had a lovely spring, etc. Junior college transfers are usually quick-fix guys, but in this case, there might be a one-year delay on that quick fix.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Josh Hubner 52 47.1 7 19 20 75.0%
Taylor Kelly 6'2, 203 Jr. 8 37.9 2 0 7 87.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Alex Garoutte 6'1, 195 Sr. 90 61.2 35 38.9%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Alex Garoutte 6'1, 195 Sr. 59-60 5-8 62.5% 1-3 33.3%
Jon Mora 6'1, 192 Jr. 1-2 9-11 81.8% 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jamal Miles KR 16 21.8 0
Rashad Ross KR 15 25.6 1
Jamal Miles PR 26 8.8 0
Richard Smith PR 5'9, 165 So. 3 3.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 66
Net Punting 7
Net Kickoffs 53
Touchback Pct 49
Field Goal Pct 82
Kick Returns Avg 50
Punt Returns Avg 71

9. The king of the short-yardage punt

Technically, Taylor Kelly is ASU's returning punter, and at 37.9 yards per punt, I feel comfortable in saying he was the best quarterback-punter in the country last year. (There should be an award for that.) But primary punter Josh Hubner's absence could be felt on a special teams unit that relied heavily on net punting. For that matter, Rashad Ross' absence could hurt in the kick return game more than the passing game. And the place-kicking could certainly stand to improve a bit.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
7-Sep Sacramento State NR
14-Sep Wisconsin 14
21-Sep at Stanford 5
28-Sep USC 17
5-Oct vs. Notre Dame 8
12-Oct Colorado 115
19-Oct Washington 45
31-Oct at Washington State 97
9-Nov at Utah 52
16-Nov Oregon State 25
23-Nov at UCLA 43
30-Nov Arizona 30
Five-Year F/+ Rk 48
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 32
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +6 / +3.2
TO Luck/Game 1.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (6, 8)
Yds/Pt Margin** -2.3

10. I'm buying

Obviously both the run offense (a little) and run defense (a lot) could stand to improve in 2013. And I want to be careful about heaping too many platitudes on a team that ranked 41st last year, even if it was tremendously fun to watch. But if you couldn't tell, I'm buying ASU stock right now, at least for 2013. Taylor Kelly is efficient and fun, the running backs are strong, Chris Coyle is efficient, and the defense is ridiculously aggressive and entertaining. Plus, there is an overall level of experience this year that ASU simply didn't have 12 months ago.

But wow, that schedule.

In a four-week span early in the year, Arizona State will play both of last year's Rose Bowl participants, host USC, then head to Texas to face defending BCS runner-up Notre Dame on a neutral field. That's ridiculous. ASU could be a legitimate top-25 or top-30 team and start the season either 1-4 or 2-3.

Survive that stretch, and there are wins aplenty available: Colorado, the Washington schools (the better one at home), Utah, Arizona at home, Oregon State at home ... wins aplenty. Start 2-3, and we could eventually see ASU's first nine-win or better season since 2007. And with the bloodbath that could be the South division race, a 6-3 conference record could be enough to win the South for ASU this time around.

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