#16 Arizona State Football Preview

Arizona State Sun Devils

Overall Rank: #16
#3 Pac-12 Conference

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2010 Record: (6-6, 4-5)
2010 Bowl: none
Coach: Dennis Erickson (173-89-1)
Offensive Coordinator: Noel Mazzone
Defensive Coordinator: Craig Bray

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Cameron Marshall, RB, 787 yards
Passing: Brock Osweiler, QB, 797 yards
Receiving: Mike Willie, WR, 442 yards
Tackles: Vontaze Burfict, LB, 90
Sacks: Junior Onyeali, DE, 6.5
Interceptions: 5 tied, 1

Other Key Returnees: WR Gerell Robinson, WR Aaron Pflugrad, RB Deantre Lewis, C Garth Gerhart, T Evan Finkenberg, DE Jamaar Jarrett, LB Brandon Magee

Key Losses: QB Steven Threet, WR Kerry Taylor, WR, DE James Brooks, DE Lawrence Guy, S Max Taubach, K Thomas Weber

In a conference with the likes of Stanford and Oregon, it will be a challenge for ASU to compete for the first ever Pac-12 Championship. However, the conference is now split into north and south divisions, in which ASU is in the south, while both aforementioned teams are in the north. This leaves the window open for a possible trip to the championship game. Injuries have plagued the Sun Devils this spring and decimated both sides of the ball. Most notable losses to injury are leading wide receiver T.J. Simpson and cornerback Omar Bolden. Additionally, ASU is dealing with the forced retirement of QB Steven Threet (repeat concussions).     

The Sun Devils’ linebacker corps, consisting of seniors Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons and the 2009 Defensive Freshman of the Year and 2010 All-American junior, Vontaze Berfict, is as good a group as any in the Pac-12. They will need to act as the core of the defense, given the loss of defensive end Lawrence Guy to the NFL, and Bolden to injury. Expect big things from Berfict as many are touting him as a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate. ASU will be building off of a Pac-10-leading rushing defense from 2010, only allowing 120 yards per game.
Arizona State boasted one of the top passing attacks in FBS football last season, ranking 16th. The offensive line returns all five starters from 2010, as well as a young quarterback that shows an accuracy improvement over the interception-prone Threet. Wide receivers Robinson and Pflugrad and Willie should lead the way in a powerful passing attack.
Arizona State had a turnover margin of -.50 last season, ranking 88th in the country. Much of this was due to the accuracy issues of Steven Threet, who threw 16 interceptions in 10.5 games. Defensively, that number didn’t get much help in that only two players had more than one interception, and neither of them will be playing for the Sun Devils in 2011.

Additionally, ASU’s pass defense surrendered nearly 250 yards per game, putting them dangerously close to the bottom of the NCAA ranks. A lack of pass rush, with only 24 sacks for the season, lead to opposing quarterbacks picking apart the secondary, which also suffered a season-ending injury to it’s top representative, Bolden.

The Bottom Line:
It is a tall order to up-end the powerful Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal to take home a Pac-12 Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, but ASU feels primed to give it a shot in 2011. The offensive line will be solidified enough to allow the 6’7” junior quarterback Brock Osweiler time to make throws to a veteran crew of receivers. The linebacker group, which all attended the same high school, should have more than enough familiarity with one another to own the middle of the field. Earning a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game should be the goal for ASU, and then the possible upset of a national powerhouse could lead the Sun Devils to a major bowl game for the first time since their Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State in 1997.

Projected Bowl: Holiday Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 139.25 (78th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 286.42 (15, 2)
Total Offense: 425.67 (29, 5)
Scoring Offense: 32.25 (28, 3)
Rushing Defense: 119.67 (16, 1)
Pass Defense: 245.25 (101, 8)
Total Defense: 364.92 (57, 5)
Scoring Defense: 25.00 (55, 5)
Turnover Margin: -.50 (88, 9)
Sacks: 2.00 (61, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.58 (95, 8)

Madness 2012 NFL Draft Rankings:
#32 Vontaze Burfict
#81 Omar Bolden

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