AZ State 2013 Football Preview Part 1
The Arizona State football team went 8-5 last season and many of the football writers and predictors said they were one of the most improved teams in the nation last year. They won those 8 games against a difficult schedule and they could have won 3 of the 5 contests they lost. From a statistical standpoint, the Sun Devils were a much better team than their record indicated.
A large amount of the credit for last year’s success needs to go towards Head Coach Todd Graham. He came in and immediately applied discipline to a football program that really needed it.
Just take a look at the year before Graham arrived in Tempe; the Sun Devils were ranked 119 out of 124 teams in penalty yards per game. Last season in Graham’s first year, they committed just 34.9 yards per game, ranking 10th in the country.
The 2013 Sun Devil football teams returns fourteen total starters and a host of up-start newcomers joining the program; that is why some writers/predictors are saying it’s not a reach for the Sun Devils to capture the Pac -12 South Division.
The Sun Devils appear to be ready to go with one of their most talented teams in quite some time. There is athletic talent across the depth chart. Out of the 15 players that earned honorable mention All-Pac 12 last fall, 10 of them return for another season.
Let’s take a look at the 2013 Sun Devil Offense.
Taylor Kelly will return as the starting quarterback. He was given a chance last year to control the offense and he performed well. He completed a school record 67.1 percent of his passes for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns and only threw 9 interceptions. On the season, Kelly finished second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency at 159.88 and was 9th in the nation in that category.
This year look for him to be more efficient at both running and throwing. He is the Sun Devils’ best offensive playmaker and will be counted on in every game to put them in situations for big things to happen.
Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank will be in contention for the back-up quarterback spot and it is possible that both of them will see some playing time in game situations. Both have impressed the coaches during training camp by making notable strides in their ability to operate the QB position in offensive coordinator Mike Norvell’s system.
The coaches have been praising this year’s backfield and its depth of options. Look for Marion Grice to be the feature back. Last year he stepped in and showed he has the speed to get past defenders while being a great hands weapon in the passing department. He had 41 receptions for 425 yards to go along with 8 touchdowns.
D.J. Foster, the star of the 2012 recruiting class, will want to make an instant splash; he will get the chance at his share of carries and don’t forget Foster is a talented receiver as well.
Deantre Lewis who was bouncing between defensive back and running back appears to be third on the depth chart to Grice and Foster. He is more than capable to take on some carries this season if Foster or Grice should get injured (knock on wood that does not happen) or need a break. This should be a good comeback year for Lewis.
For the Sun Devils to contend for the Pac-12 South title their receivers will have to step up and be helpful in the production department. The returning wide receivers combined for just 47 receptions in 2012. They struggled with consistency all of last season. They were led in receptions and yards by tight end Chris Coyle. Running back Marion Grice led the team in touchdown receptions. Rashad Ross, who has graduated, was the team’s leading receiver, with 610 yards and six touchdowns. Kevin Ozier returns as the leading receiver, catching 21 passes a year ago for 324 yards. Fans should expect to see a lot of new faces catching passes this year for the Sun Devils.
We already know that Taylor Kelly is one of the better quarterbacks in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils have arguably the best running back duo in the Pac 12 in Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, and a record-setting tight end in Chris Coyle. But the only way that group will be successful is if the Sun Devils O-Line does what they need to do.
The Sun Devils ranked 102nd out of the 124 teams in sacks allowed, giving up an average of 3 per game. Now with 2 new starters on the line, this group must improve in that department. In addition to the stout defenses they will face within conference, ASU will face Notre Dame and Wisconsin, both of whom were in the top 15 in total defense a year ago.
While they did struggle holding back the opposing pass rush last year, they had great success opening holes for the team’s talented running backs. The Sun Devils rushed for 2,670 yards 27 touchdowns and they averaged 4.5 yards-per-carry as a team.
The next article will look at the defense and special teams for the Sun Devils 2013 football team.
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