#17 Arizona State Football 2014 Preview

Arizona State Sun Devils

Overall Rank: #17
#5 Pac-12

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Since Todd Graham arrived in Tempe, Arizona State has been on the rise.  They had their first 10-win season since 2007.  They won the Pac-12 South far and away.  The talent that Graham has accrued since taking the reigns has been phenomenal.  The Sun Devils have truly represented team football.  In a very tough conference, the Sun Devils have taken a back seat to no one.  It is difficult to overcome Oregon and Stanford each season, but Arizona State is in a position to challenge for the Pac-12 title for the next several seasons.  They return the athletic Tommy Kelly at quarterback for his third season as starter.

2013 Record: 10-4, 8-1
2013 Bowl: Holiday Bowl (L 23-37)
Coach: Todd Graham (18-9 at Arizona State, 67-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Norvell
Defensive Coordinator: Keith Patterson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Taylor Kelly, QB, 608 yards
Passing: Taylor Kelly, QB, 3,635 yards
Receiving: Jaelen Strong, WR, 1,122 yards
Tackles: Salamo Fiso/Damarious Randall, 71
Sacks: Salamo Fiso, LB, 3.0
Interceptions: Damarious Randall, DB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB D.J. Foster

Key Losses: RB Marion Grice, DT Will Sutton, LB Chris Young

The ability to flip possession was the Sun Devils calling card in 2013.  In fact, under Todd Graham, the ASU defense has taken the ball away from offenses in every single game.  Their current streak for consecutive games forcing a turnover is 29.  That is second in the FBS.  They were ranked seventh nationally in turnover margin.  As a part of ASU’s identity under Graham, winning the turnover battle is what guides Arizona State to victory after victory.  It is also important to mention that Kelly returning at quarterback is big for Graham’s team.  Kelly is a superior athlete with ability to run and pass.  He was 15th in the nation in passing yards and averaged 43 rushing yards per game.  Jaelen Strong returns as his top target.  Strong was the team’s leading receiver last year as a junior college transfer.  The tandem of Kelly and Strong should lead to quite a few touchdowns in 2014.
One of the concerns entering the 2014 season will be the strength of the offensive line.  Despite Kelly’s athleticism, the pass rush got to him nearly three times per game.  This season, they have made some additions that will hopefully improve the play of that unit.  They are a bit bigger than they were last year, so perhaps it will translate into better protection.  The third phase of the game was a bit of a weakness for the Sun Devils.  Their special teams unit was bad in most areas.  They had poor averages on punts.  They returned punts a mere five yards per game.  But their protection units were awful.  They allowed six blocked punts and kicks combined in a 14 game season.  That is unacceptable for any coach even if you do win 10 games in a season.    

The Bottom Line:
Arizona State will be in prime position to have another shot at the championship in the Pac-12 this year.  With a lot of experience returning on offense, Kelly, Strong, and the rest of the unit should put up some great numbers and bury some teams in the process.  The defense will continue to pursue the ball as they have done so well over the last three seasons, as is standard under Graham.  The road is going to be tougher.  Ten wins and a championship is not out of the realm of possibility.  But USC and UCLA will be better this year.  Can they manage getting through the Pac-12 season with only one loss?

Projected Bowl: Holiday Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 191.4 (40th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 265.9 (32, 5)
Total Offense: 457.3 (32, 5)
Scoring Offense: 39.7 (10, 2)
Rushing Defense: 137.6 (26, 4)
Pass Defense: 126.3 (61, 7)
Total Defense: 372.4 (42, 4)
Scoring Defense: 26.6 (63, 7)
Turnover Margin: 1.07 (7, 1)
Sacks: 2.86 (17, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.93 (108, 11)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#52 Jaelen Strong
#71 Taylor Kelly

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#144 Tyler Whiley
#156 Connor Humphreys
#194 Kalen Ballage


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