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The big 2014 Arizona State football guide: The reloading year

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With almost all of last year's defensive difference-makers gone, Arizona State probably won't be a Pac-12 South contender in 2014. But if the Sun Devils hold steady on offense and play well at home, the drop won't be too steep.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. And now, a reset

Nobody ever accused Dennis Erickson of failing to attract athletes. From Washington State to Miami to Oregon State to Arizona State, Erickson fielded teams that more than passed the eyeball test. They had swagger and speed in abundance.

And while a lot of his teams were maddeningly inconsistent -- after going 11-1 at Oregon State in 2000, his Beavers went 13-11 the next two years; and after going 10-3 in 2007, his first season at Arizona State, his Sun Devils went only 21-28 over the next four -- he is one hell of a table-setter.

At OSU, he left Mike Riley with plenty of athletes, and Riley hit the ground running, going 15-10 in his first two years back in Corvallis. And at ASU, he left Todd Graham with a full cupboard, from quarterback Taylor Kelly, to all-conference offensive linemen Evan Finkenberg and Jamil Douglas, to defensive tackle/missile Will Sutton, to ace pass rusher Carl Bradford, to safety Alden Darby, to cornerback Osahon Irabor.

Graham very much knew what to do with what he inherited. He plumped up the depth with some impressive early recruiting, and he went to work. ASU went from 6-7 and 44th in the F/+ rankings to 8-5 and 41st in 2012. The defense swarmed and the offense surged late in the year. And in 2013, everything fell into place. ASU jumped to 13th overall -- 11th on offense, 26th on defense -- and ripped off seven consecutive wins to take the Pac-12 South title and win 10+ games for the first time since 2007 (and only the third time since 1986).

Granted, there was some slippage late in the season. ASU couldn't clear the Stanford hurdle, losing twice to David Shaw's Cardinal by a combined 38 points. And the Sun Devils laid an egg in the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech, throwing haymakers early and getting confused when the Red Raiders didn't fold quickly (a la 2012 Florida in the Sugar Bowl). But Graham's second season was easily ASU's best since Erickson's first. ASU was fast, aggressive, and exciting.

And now Graham starts over. Granted, the offense should be alright; Taylor Kelly returns, as do breakout receiver Jaelen Strong and three starters on the offensive line (including Douglas). But the defense faces a significant rebuild; the top three linemen, four of the top five linebackers, and five of the top seven defensive backs are gone. The combination of Erickson recruits and JUCO transfers gave ASU significant depth of experience in 2013, but experience turns into inexperience.

Graham has recruited pretty well, and he has exciting young players at every level of the defense. Plus, when he chooses to stay in one place for long enough, he is a hell of a coach, an Erickson 2.0 of sorts, molding athletic, confident squads. But it's impossible to assume anything but a defensive dropoff this year, even if it's just temporary. Over the first half of the season, ASU will face UCLA, USC, and Stanford, three of the Pac-12's five best teams. It's conceivable that 2014 will take on a narrative like 2012, when the Sun Devils struggled along the way but finished strong.

This is a "measure the fall" season for Graham and ASU. The Sun Devils almost certainly won't finish 13th overall again, but if they only fall to about 20th or so, they are in for some spectacular success over the coming years. And even if they fall to 30th-40th, they're stocked well for a rebound in 2015. After doing what he did in 2013, Graham has earned a mulligan; we'll see if he has to use it this fall.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 10-4 | Adj. Record: 11-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 13
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
5-Sep Sacramento State N/A 55-0 W 27.1 - 12.7 W
14-Sep Wisconsin 19 32-30 W 38.8 - 24.2 W
21-Sep at Stanford 3 28-42 L 30.2 - 29.2 W
28-Sep USC 11 62-41 W 61.3 - 34.1 W
5-Oct vs. Notre Dame 26 34-37 L 33.0 - 25.2 W 13.0
12-Oct Colorado 95 54-13 W 37.5 - 23.3 W 13.0
19-Oct Washington 18 53-24 W 43.0 - 11.8 W 16.3
31-Oct at Washington State 53 55-21 W 37.8 - 20.3 W 19.5
9-Nov at Utah 31 20-19 W 21.0 - 13.5 W 15.6
16-Nov Oregon State 42 30-17 W 21.2 - 24.0 L 13.5
23-Nov at UCLA 15 38-33 W 36.6 - 28.0 W 12.4
30-Nov Arizona 25 58-21 W 37.2 - 21.4 W 9.3
7-Dec Stanford 3 14-38 L 24.7 - 34.9 L 3.8
30-Dec vs. Texas Tech 43 23-37 L 25.4 - 30.0 L 1.3
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +17.7% 11 +10.4% 26 +0.3% 60
Points Per Game 39.7 10 26.6 64
Adj. Points Per Game 33.9 24 23.8 26

2. Cracks were forming before Tech

As late as the second week of November, ASU was ranked sixth in the F/+ rankings. With losses to only Stanford and Notre Dame and huge wins over USC and Washington, the Sun Devils were showing high upside on both sides of the ball -- they ranked seventh in Off. F/+ and 12th in Def. F/+.

The wins continued in November, but there were warning signs.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 9 games): ASU 36.6, Opponent 21.8 (plus-14.8)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): ASU 29.0, Opponent 27.7 (plus-1.3)

The offense managed just 4.2 yards per play against Utah, and the Sun Devils were outgained by 51 yards and 0.9 yards per play in a win over Oregon State. Strong performances against UCLA and Arizona gave ASU the South title, but the season ended with two poor performances, first at home against Stanford, then in San Diego against the Fightin' Kingsburys.

So what does that mean for 2014? Hard to say. Leading rusher Marion Grice missed the final three games of the season but was in uniform for the duds against Utah and OSU, and as a whole, ASU was rather lucky when it comes to injuries. Whatever the reason, the Sun Devils faded a bit; that probably can't happen in 2014, when the offense is asked to carry a bit more weight.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.21 36 IsoPPP+ 116.3 7
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 45.7% 36 Succ. Rt. + 115.0 21
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.4 39 Def. FP+ 104.4 15
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 29 Redzone S&P+ 109.7 29
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.6 ACTUAL 18 -0.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 32 12 21 11
RUSHING 40 13 21 11
PASSING 32 14 20 26
Standard Downs 18 30 9
Passing Downs 11 7 16
Q1 Rk 20 1st Down Rk 20
Q2 Rk 9 2nd Down Rk 21
Q3 Rk 69 3rd Down Rk 41
Q4 Rk 16

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Taylor Kelly 6'2, 211 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 302 484 3635 28 12 62.4% 39 7.5% 6.6
Michael Eubank 4 5 70 0 0 80.0% 0 0.0% 14.0
Mike Bercovici 6'1, 203 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 3 4 18 0 0 75.0% 1 20.0% 2.0
Manny Wilkins 6'2, 181 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

3. Your patented diamond-in-the-rough recruit

Mike Norvell found one hell of a muse in Taylor Kelly. Norvell has been a Graham assistant at Tulsa, Pitt, and ASU, and he has crafted a unique offense of pace and hybrids; last year, for instance, D.J. Foster was the Sun Devils' second-leading rusher and second-leading receiver. A scatback for a new generation, if you will. But in Kelly and Norvell, ASU has a perfect marriage between offensive philosophy and QB skill.

Kelly was more or less a recruiting afterthought; a lanky, two-star dual-threat from Eagle, Idaho, Kelly boasted of offers only from ASU and Nevada and chose the Sun Devils relatively late in the 2010 recruiting cycle. He backed up big Brock Osweiler in 2011, then beat out Mike Bercovici and others for the starting job under Graham and Norvell in 2012. His first-year stats were revelatory: a 67 percent completion rate, 29 touchdowns to nine interceptions, 6.7 yards per carry (not including sacks), 3,039 passing yards, 689 pre-sack rushing yards.

Kelly's stats regressed a bit in 2013; without No. 1 receiver Rashad Ross, he completed just 62 percent of his passes, and his per-attempt average (inc. sacks) regressed from 7.3 to 6.6. Opponents were able to adjust to his rushing tendencies, as well, and his per-carry average fell from 6.7 yards to 5.9.

The regression is a bit misleading, however. First, Kelly was asked to do more. Norvell didn't protect him as much, and ASU moved toward more of a pass-first approach on standard downs. Beyond that, however, Kelly's raw stats regressed a bit because of the defenses he was facing: Wisconsin (ninth in Def. F/+), Stanford (fourth), USC (fifth), Notre Dame (33rd), Washington (21st), Utah (30th), UCLA (23rd), Arizona (27th), Stanford again. In 14 games, ASU faced nine defenses ranked better than 35th in Def. F/+, four ranked better than 10th. That's how your quarterback's stats can regress while your offense improves from 51st in Off. F/+ to 11th.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Marion Grice RB 191 996 14 5.2 4.5 42.4%
Taylor Kelly QB 6'2, 211 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 134 784 9 5.9 5.6 41.8%
D.J. Foster RB 5'11, 203 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 93 501 6 5.4 4.5 44.1%
Deantre Lewis RB 5'11, 194 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 58 301 1 5.2 4.6 39.7%
R.J. Robinson RB 29 114 1 3.9 1.6 37.9%
De'Marieya Nelson TE 6'3, 224 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 15 96 2 6.4 10.5 33.3%
Michael Eubank QB 13 20 3 1.5 0.0%
Mike Bercovici QB 6'1, 203 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 9 54 0 6.0 2.6 55.6%
Kyle Middlebrooks RB 5'9, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.6)
De'Chavon Hayes RB 5'11, 192 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Kalen Ballage RB 6'3, 215 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Demario Richard RB 5'10, 203 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jaelen Strong WR-X 6'4, 212 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 120 75 1122 62.5% 25.3% 63.6% 9.4 200 9.3 154.3
D.J. Foster RB 5'11, 203 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 91 63 650 69.2% 19.2% 64.5% 7.1 -86 7.3 89.4
Marion Grice RB 65 50 438 76.9% 13.7% 40.4% 6.7 -118 5.3 60.2
Richard Smith WR-Z 52 32 276 61.5% 11.0% 63.6% 5.3 -121 5.8 38.0
Chris Coyle TE 48 29 423 60.4% 10.1% 70.7% 8.8 60 8.2 58.2
Kevin Ozier WR-Y 32 23 354 71.9% 6.8% 55.2% 11.1 90 12.0 48.7
Cameron Smith WR-Y 6'0, 187 So. 3 stars (5.5) 19 8 129 42.1% 4.0% 61.5% 6.8 6 9.8 17.7
De'Marieya Nelson TE 6'3, 224 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 15 7 107 46.7% 3.2% 61.5% 7.1 6 7.9 14.7
Deantre Lewis RB 5'11, 194 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 9 110 81.8% 2.3% 60.0% 10.0 13 8.9 15.1
Darwin Rogers TE 9 4 66 44.4% 1.9% 100.0% 7.3 7 11.7 9.1
Frederick Gammage WR-Z 5'10, 173 So. NR 6 6 32 100.0% 1.3% 100.0% 5.3 -28 3.8 4.4
Gary Chambers WR-Y 6'3, 209 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Ronald Lewis WR-Z 6'0, 188 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Ellis Jefferson WR-X 6'4, 209 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Grant Martinez TE 6'5, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Eric Lauderdale WR 6'2, 195 Jr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jalen Harvey WR 6'2, 185 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Tyler Whiley WR 6'0, 193 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

4. Strong, Foster, and we'll see

A three-star JUCO transfer from Pierce College, Jaelen Strong emerged to take Rashad Ross' place as Kelly's No. 1 target in 2013. A majority of his damage came earlier in the season -- first six games: 42 catches, 678 yards, four scores; last eight: 33 catches, 444 yards, three scores -- but he still provided more than a newcomer typically should. With a year of Pac-12 experience under his belt, he should be a solid option in 2014. Plus, D.J. Foster returns. Foster and Marion Grice combined for incredibly unique production last fall: 284 carries for 1,497 yards, 156 targets and 113 catches for 1,088 yards. That's 31 intended touches and 185 yards per game, and that's with Grice missing the final three games of the year. Foster is sturdily built, but we'll see how many times he's asked to touch the ball in 2014.

Some of Foster's load might depend on who else steps up. Senior Deantre Lewis did pretty well when given the opportunity (69 intended touches, 411 yards), and sophomore Cameron Smith seems to have some upside. But it's hard to ignore the newcomers: four-star freshman running back Kalen Ballage, JUCO RB De'Chavon Hayes, four-star JUCO receiver Eric Lauderdale, four-star freshman receivers Jalen Harvey and Tyler Whiley.

If one of those five players becomes an immediate, dangerous option, ASU's offense will be fine. If two step up quickly, there's really no reason to think this offense will slip much, if any, from last season. The recruiting profiles suggest that's not too much to ask, but it's an unknown for now.

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 105.6 2.81 3.74 41.5% 65.2% 18.5% 94.3 6.2% 6.6%
Rank 45 80 22 41 79 55 75 102 60
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Evan Finkenberg LT 47 1st All-Pac-12
Jamil Douglas LT 6'4, 300 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 27 2nd All-Pac-12
Kody Koebensky C 27
Vi Teofilo RG 6'3, 303 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 17
Tyler Sulka RT 6'5, 294 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 15
Sil Ajawara LG 0
Christian Westerman LG 6'4, 304 Jr. 4 stars (6.0) 0
Evan Goodman LT 6'4, 311 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Nick Kelly C 6'4, 294 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Devin Goodman RG 6'1, 290 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
William McGehee RT 6'6, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Stephon McCray LG 6'3, 313 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Sam Jones OL 6'5, 285 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

5. The line could stand to improve

Even with a pair of all-conference performers on the left side of the line, and even with basically perfect continuity (five players starting 14 games each), the ASU line was only decent in 2013. I'll pin some of the iffy sack rates on Taylor Kelly, who fulfills the stereotype of a dual-threat quarterback by trusting his legs too much and taking too many sacks; still, the run blocking was only decent, too. When your offense ranks ranks 11th in overall Off. F/+ but you rank 45th in Adj. Line Yards, that can suggest that the line's holding you back a bit from higher heights.

Three of last year's five full-season starters are back, including Jamil Douglas, who moves from left guard to left tackle. And if Christian Westerman and/or Evan Goodman can begin living up to recruiting hype (especially Westerman's), there's no reason to think the line will regress much. But if it doesn't improve, it might again be a bit of an albatross for the offense as a whole. It's not a bad line, but it might still be the least effective unit on the offense.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.33 118 IsoPPP+ 91.2 108
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.5% 13 Succ. Rt. + 122.0 8
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 33.7 4 Off. FP+ 110.6 1
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.4 87 Redzone S&P+ 85.8 99
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.1 ACTUAL 33.0 +7.9
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 42 17 8 30
RUSHING 25 30 10 44
PASSING 72 15 10 32
Standard Downs 12 7 98
Passing Downs 34 14 97
Q1 Rk 10 1st Down Rk 14
Q2 Rk 25 2nd Down Rk 23
Q3 Rk 45 3rd Down Rk 29
Q4 Rk 43

6. 2 starters

Using returning starters as a guide for projections or predictions is a bit rudimentary as a whole. It serves a clear purpose from a 20,000-foot view, and it gives you an adequate view of a unit's experience, but one can dial in a bit further using percentages -- returning percent of a defensive line's tackles, an offense's rushing yards, etc.

No matter how deep you choose to dig, however, you're not going to find many good things about Arizona State's defensive experience in 2014.

  • Two returning starters.
  • Sixteen percent of tackles and 10 percent of tackles for loss returning on the defensive line.
  • Thirty-one percent of tackles, 15 percent of tackles for loss, and eight percent of passes defensed returning in the linebacking corps.
  • Thirty-three percent of tackles and 20 percent of passes defensed returning in the secondary.
  • Six of 17 players with at least 10.0 tackles in 2013.

All bad things.

Keith Patterson joins the ASU coaching staff this year; an old friend and colleague of Graham, he served as Graham's defensive co-coordinator or coordinator at Tulsa (2006-10) and Pitt (2011) before moving on to Arkansas State (2012) and West Virginia (2013). He takes on a unit that was rather unfairly criticized a year ago.

With eight returning starters, including most of the front seven, ASU's defense was supposed to improve last fall. It did improve -- from 31st in Def. F/+ to 26th -- but the improvement wasn't particularly significant, and because of the increase in schedule strength, it was difficult to see at all. ASU went from allowing 4.8 yards per play in 2012 to 5.5 in 2013, and the Sun Devils' fell from averaging 9.1 tackles for loss per game to 7.2.

There were certainly more glitches, more breakdowns for a defense that is willing to allow a few big plays to make a lot of big plays. But this was still a sturdy D, one of the most efficient units in the country and one that set its offense with impeccable field position time and again. And now it starts over. A Todd Graham defense wants to attack; can it 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 118.5 2.33 3.28 35.7% 58.7% 24.3% 170.5 6.7% 10.1%
Rank 12 7 63 30 20 14 2 21 12
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Davon Coleman DE 13 46.5 6.3% 15.0 8.5 0 1 0 0
Will Sutton DT 14 38.5 5.2% 13.5 4.0 1 3 0 0
Gannon Conway DE 14 31.0 4.2% 7.0 3.5 0 2 0 0
Jaxon Hood DT 6'0, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 14.5 2.0% 3.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Marcus Hardison DE 6'5, 298 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 13 5.0 0.7% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Mo Latu NT 6'3, 384 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Demetrius Cherry DT 6'6, 298 Sr. 3 stars (5.5)
Corey Smith DT 6'7, 282 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Zach Abdorrahimzadeh NT 6'2, 280 Jr. NR








Edmond Boateng DE 6'4, 267 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Connor Humphreys DE 6'4, 275 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Tashon Smallwood DT 6'1, 292 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Chris Young WILL 14 95.5 12.9% 17.5 7.5 0 1 2 0
Salamo Fiso SAM 6'0, 236 So. 3 stars (5.7) 14 59.5 8.0% 5.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Carl Bradford DEVIL 14 53.0 7.2% 19.0 8.5 1 4 3 0
Anthony Jones WILL 14 31.0 4.2% 2.5 1.0 1 2 1 0
Steffon Martin SAM 14 27.5 3.7% 1.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Laiu Moeakiola SPUR 6'0, 211 So. 3 stars (5.6) 10 16.5 2.2% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
De'Marieya Nelson DEVIL 6'3, 230 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 14 14.0 1.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 2 0
Grandville Taylor WILL 14 10.0 1.3% 0.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Antonio Longino WILL 6'3, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 8 4.5 0.6% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Mendoza WILL 6'1, 234 So. 3 stars (5.6) 6 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Marcus Washington SPUR 6'0, 223 Sr. 3 stars (5.7)
Eriquel Florence DEVIL 6'1, 253 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Viliami Latu DEVIl 6'2, 265 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Chans Cox DEVIL 6'3, 245 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9)
Alani Latu SAM 6'2, 236 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
DJ Calhoun WILL 6'0, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Ishmael Murphy-Richardson LB 6'4, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Christian Sam LB 6'1, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

7. A brand new pass rush

The run defense might not necessarily suffer much. The Sun Devils return plenty of size -- the three most experienced returnees on the line (last year's backups) average 6'3, 327. Size alone doesn't equal run stopping, but there's hope here, especially considering four of the returnees' 21.5 tackles in 2013 came behind the line.

That said, a lack of experience could lead to more breakdowns. And more tangibly, the pass rush has been decimated. Six players had at least 3.0 sacks a year ago; five are gone. Salamo Fiso had exactly 3.0 and is now the team's returning leader in that regard. There are plenty of former star recruits in the mix at linebacker -- sophomore Viliamu Latu, redshirt freshman Chans Cox, freshman DJ Calhoun, and lots of high three-star guys -- but one has to wonder if Graham and Patterson will feel quite as comfortable sending the house at the opposing quarterback as they did last year.

ASU was second in the country in Adj. Sack Rate; harassment was a huge part of their game, and now they'll go about attempting it with an almost completely new cast.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Alden Darby BS 14 63.0 8.5% 2 0 4 9 2 0
Damarious Randall FS 6'0, 189 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 59.5 8.0% 5.5 0 3 3 2 0
Robert Nelson CB 14 50.5 6.8% 0 0 6 6 0 0
Osahon Irabor CB 14 47.5 6.4% 5.5 1 3 5 0 0
Lloyd Carrington CB 5'11, 189 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 14 22.5 3.0% 0 0 1 1 1 0
Shane McCullen S 14 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rashad Wadood CB 10 7.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ezekiel Bishop BS 5'11, 191 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 7 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Solomon Means CB 6'1, 174 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jordan Simone BS 6'0, 190 Jr. NR
Marcus Ball BS 6'3, 216 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
James Johnson FS 6'2, 198 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jayme Otomewo S 6'2, 186 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
William Earley CB 6'1, 206 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Kweishi Brown DB 6'0, 198 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Marcus Mehlhaf-Brown CB 6'2, 167 Jr. NR

8. Youth = breakdowns

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

A lesser pass rush will put more pressure on the secondary to hold its coverage and make plays. The return of senior safety Damarious Randall will help, and Lloyd Carrington held his own at times as a third corner.

But they're basically the only 2013 contributors still on the roster. Star safety Alden Darby is gone, as are active corners Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor (combined: 5.5 tackles for loss, 23 passes defensed). Projected starting corner Rashad Wadood transferred to Eastern Washington.

It's conceivable that ASU will be starting two redshirt freshmen in the secondary: Marcus Ball finished the spring tied atop the depth chart with Jordan Simone at boundary safety, and in Wadood's absence, either William Earley, Solomon Means, or JUCO transfer Marcus Melhof-Brown could start at the other corner spot. It's also possible that Randall moves to cornerback full-time, but that would plug one hole and open up another one.

Again, they might be athletic enough to make some plays, and they should improve as the year progresses. But ASU already had a bit of a big-play-breakdowns problem last year, and that could metastasize with youth.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Alex Garoutte 6'1, 207 Sr. 35 38.8 8 14 5 54.3%
Matt Haack 6'1, 195 So. 16 38.3 1 6 3 56.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Alex Garoutte 6'1, 207 Sr. 106 62.2 39 3 36.8%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Zane Gonzalez 6'1, 184 So. 63-65 21-24 87.5% 4-6 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Marion Grice KR 21 24.1 0
Robert Nelson KR 12 20.4 0
Robert Nelson PR 31 6.4 0
Alden Darby PR 2 1.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 60
Field Goal Efficiency 46
Punt Return Efficiency 92
Kick Return Efficiency 84
Punt Efficiency 38
Kickoff Efficiency 41
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 54

9. Help in special teams

Your defense was a field poition gem, and now you have to replace almost every difference maker. You might need to get more help from a field position unit that was decent if unspectacular last year, but at least you've got kicker Alex Garoutte back. And new return men might not be a bad thing, since nobody was incredibly successful in that position last year.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug Weber State NR
6-Sep at New Mexico 115
13-Sep at Colorado 99
25-Sep UCLA 20
4-Oct at USC 9
18-Oct Stanford 6
25-Oct at Washington 28
1-Nov Utah 45
8-Nov Notre Dame 25
15-Nov at Oregon State 43
22-Nov Washington State 68
28-Nov at Arizona 36
Five-Year F/+ Rk 10.1% (33)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 23
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 15 / 6.5
TO Luck/Game +3.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 8 (6, 2)

10. How much noise can Sun Devil Stadium make?

I really like what Todd Graham is building in Tempe. He's recruiting well, he has coordinators who are both familiar and effective, he's recruited four-star guys at almost every position, he has maintained the level of athleticism that Erickson left for him, and he has won 18 games in two years in an improving conference. Long-term, there's a lot to like about ASU, even if the tie between "Todd Graham" and "long-term" will forever feel tenuous.

That said, it's obviously going to be difficult for ASU to avoid regression in 2014. I'm not worried about the offense, but I envision a defense that makes quite a few plays but suffers far more breakdowns and glitches.

In today's Pac-12, if you're holding steady, you're losing ground. And ASU will be lucky to even hold steady this year. But the Sun Devils do have a rather home-friendly schedule. UCLA, Stanford, Utah, Notre Dame and Washington State -- all teams that might be predicted to beat ASU at their own home stadiums -- visit Tempe this fall. Granted, ASU still has to play at USC, Washington, Oregon State, and Arizona (good god, the Pac-12 is difficult), but the home slate and what should be an easy pair of season-opening non-conference games should assure that, at worst, ASU approaches its eight-win total from Graham's first year.

Take your licks with your young, high-upside guys, and get ready to make another run at a South title in 2015 (depending on the QB situation) or 2016.