AZ State 2013 Football Preview Part 2
In Part 2 of my Arizona State Sun Devil football preview we will look at the Defense and Special Teams.
What to watch for on defense: We all know the leader is Will Sutton. Sutton has the size, quickness, and aggressiveness that fits in ideally with the Sun Devils attacking scheme. He posted 13 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in ASU’s first six games last season, helping the team to a 5-1 start. Sutton then suffered a knee injury and missed the season’s defining game against UCLA. He also was not at full strength for a few games after that, but still played in those games. He did finish the year strong, adding 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks over the final 4 games. Sutton decided not to enter the NFL draft and chose to come back to ASU, to the delight of his coaches and fans. He will once again be the centerpiece of the Sun Devil defense.
Jaxon Hood could be the primary beneficiary of all of the attention and double teaming Sutton will get. He showed last season and again in training camp that he has the talent and quickness to be a “gap-busting” lineman. He won’t get nearly as much notoriety as Sutton, but should get some impressive numbers as an unheralded member of the Arizona State pass rush.
Carl Bradford last year totaled 81 tackles, 20.5 of them for loss, 5 pass blocks and 11.5 sacks. If what he did last year is any indication of what he is capable of, this year he might steal some of the headlines.
Junior Onyeali, who was a former Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the year, has been hampered by injuries. If he is healthy, he can still be dangerous off the edge and opposing teams offenses will have to look at ways to keep him away from the ball.
The trouble area for the Sun Devils could be linebackers; especially at the weak side position. Grandville Taylor is hoping to fill a void left by the graduation of Brandon Magee. He did have a career-high 18 tackles last season. The senior brings value and experience, but can he do it in a full-time role?
The most experienced linebacker off the bench will be senior, Anthony Jones. He is coming off his best season with the program last year. In a “spot-starting” role he made 26 tackles. The linebackers are going to make plays, but there will be mistakes, let’s just hope nothing that will change the outcome of a game.
The defensive backfield looks good on paper, but we will have to see what happens when the season starts. They must replace two starters from a secondary that made big improvements in 2012. Deveron Carr is gone, leaving corner Osahon Irabor to become the leader of the group this year. Last year Irabor, who was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick, has become a fixture in the defensive backfield. He has started 33 consecutive games. He had 37 tackles and an interception. Another notable statistic from last year is that he went the entire year without being called for pass interference. Alden Darby will be counted on even more this year. He was on the All-Pac-12 2nd Team in his first full year as a junior He can be a playmaker and brings enthusiasm and energy to the whole football team. He might turn out to be the most vocal leader on the Sun Devil defense. He had 80 tackles, 5.5 stops for loss, 2 sacks, and three interceptions last year
Robert Nelson could be the other starting corner. He has some game experience after starting at nickel. He had 16 tackles and 3 interceptions.
Alex Garoutte is back for his third season as the Sun Devils placekicker. He has struggled and needs to improve his accuracy when the Sun Devils have to settle for a field goal. He was just 6-of-11 in field goal attempts last year; despite the fact that he has good leg strength. He will handle kickoffs and PATs, Also returning to do some kicking for ASU is Jon Mora. He was 9-of-12 in his field goal attempts last season.
Dom Vizzare will get his shot at the punting job. He is a former walk-on who has had a great training camp, showing excellent hang time and distance on his punts.
The favorites to handle kick returns and punt returns will be D.J. Foster and Richard Smith. The Sun Devils need to improve on the kick/punt returns yardage, as that was not a strong area for last year’s team.
The Sun Devils are as talented as any other team in the Pac-12 and with the loaded non-conference schedule and the always tough Pac-12; this football team has one of the more marquee schedules in the nation.
After starting the season a week later than most teams, in what should be a win against Sacramento State on September 5th; the Sun Devils will be tested on September 14th. They will face the Wisconsin Badgers, in what could be a trend setting showdown on how this year’s team will look. The schedule certainly will not get any easier with the Pac-12 season starting out at Stanford followed up by USC and a non conference battle with Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas. Going to UCLA and finishing up against Arizona could determine the Pac 12 South title.
The Sun Devils should be in good shape if they can figure out how to win the close game(s). They also cannot beat themselves with foolish penalties. Yes, last year was an exceptional turn-around in cutting down on the penalties, but this year the team has a “MARK” on them. Several of the Pac-12 Network analysts as well as other college football predictors have them winning the Pac-12 South. That is going to allow opposing teams to try to get the Sun Devils to make foolish plays or penalties; that could prove to be disastrous on the outcome of the final score.
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