2012 Sun Devil Football
The Arizona State Sun Devil football team finds themselves searching once again for a leader to take them back to the top of the Pac-12 standings. The Sun Devils have had only three double digit win seasons over the past 26 years. Dennis Erickson looked like the driving force for change and had the team in the right direction after he posted 10 victories during his inaugural year in 2007. However, in the four seasons after, Erickson failed in that task. He posted 5 wins, 4 wins and two 6 win seasons before being let go. Enter new head coach, Todd Graham. Graham previously served as the head football coach at Rice University (2006), the University of Tulsa (2007–2010), and the University of Pittsburgh (2011).
The Sun Devil football team opens up its 2012 football season on Thursday August 30th against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in Tempe. Before its first game the Sun Devils will return to practice at Camp Tontozona from Aug. 14-18 with a scrimmage held on the last day. This will mark the first time ASU has trained at Tontozona since the 2007 preseason.
Here are some players to watch for in Camp.
Offense: Running back Cameron Marshall and receiver Jamal Miles will have to play a big role in Graham’s fast paced offense. Both seniors will headline an offensive unit that is spotty on both talent and experience. Marshall did have over 1,000 yards rushing in 2011 and he collected over 1,200 yards of total offense with 18 rushing touchdowns; which helped him lead ASU in both categories. He has had the three longest rushing plays for the Sun Devils in back-to-back-to-back years. Miles is coming off a 60 reception season for 361 yards. He ran for 237 yards and accounted for 10 touchdowns (six by reception, two by kick return, one by punt return and one passing). The quarterback position has some good news and some bad news. The good news is that all three potential starters have the ability to take charge of the Todd Graham’s passing attack offense. The bad news; none of the quarterbacks Graham has to choose from have much experience. Sophomores Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly were used in mop up duty last year. They both competed in spring ball for the starting QB job along with redshirt freshman Michael Eubanks. The Devils offensive line is projected to have two returning starters in junior tackle Evan Finkenberg and senior guard Andrew Sampson. There will be plenty of pressure on this group of offensive linemen to gel early as the quarterback (whoever it is) will need plenty of time to adjust to the Graham style of the no-huddle offense.
Defense: Coaches Paul Randolf and Ron West will co-coordinate the defensive unit that will attack with a 3-4 scheme. Similar to the offensive side of the ball, experience is in short order for the Sun Devils. Both defense ends are returning starters, Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali. Sutton played in 13 games with 12 starts at defensive tackle. He totaled 33 tackles, five and a half tackles for loss, two and a half sacks, and had one pass breakup for the season. Onyeali is a powerful and physical player who appeared in eight games; starting seven (he missed several games with a meniscus tear). He registered 11 tackles, including three and a half tackles for loss and a sack. He will need to be a relentless pass rusher for the Sun Devils. A lot is expected of senior Brandon Magee who has big shoes to fill as the leader of the Sun Devil defense. He did sit out last season due to an Achilles tear; but will be ready for camp. The bad news on defense is that the four linebacker spots have zero returning starters. A bright spot for ASU is in the defensive secondary, as both cornerbacks Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr return as starters. Irabor, a junior, looked extremely disciplined in spring practice. Safety Alden Darby is the defense’s leading returning tackler in the projected starting unit. Darby can be a game-changing athlete with his tremendous skills.
Schedule: Arizona State did not do themselves any favors by scheduling non-conference games with Illinois and at Missouri. The conference opens with Utah at home on September 22nd, followed by road games at Cal and Colorado. Then the Sun Devils tangle with Oregon in Tempe on October 18th, which will be the toughest draw out of the North Division. After Oregon, UCLA comes to Sun Devil Stadium on October 27th. Then they will travel to Corvallis November 3 to play Oregon State. The following week, November 10th, will be the most difficult challenge of the 2012 season when the Sun Devils play USC. The regular season ends with a home game against Washington State on November 17th and then they close out the season at in-state rival Arizona on November 23rd.
Unfortunately there are more questions than answers for ASU going into 2012; but Coach Graham brings the enthusiasm, so it should be an interesting 2012 season for the Arizona State Sun Devil football team.