#23 Arizona State Sun Devils My Very Early Top 25

After an early season flogging at the hands of Stanford, the Arizona State Sun Devils then slaughtered USC costing Lane Kiffin his job. Then, they lost a close game to Notre Dame and went on a tear winning 7 straight games including a drubbing of #20 Washington and wins over UCLA and in state rival, Arizona. At that point, they were 10-2 and one of the more impressive teams in the country.

Then, just when they almost entered elite status, they get hammered again by Stanford in the Pac 12 Championship game. They closed with an ugly beat down by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. They finished the year at a semi impressive 10-4.

Arizona State Head Coach, Todd Graham is a man that’s very familiar with moving van companies. Graham got his first head job at Rice in 2006 where he inherited a 1-10 team and went 7-6 in his one and only season there. He took the vacant job at Tulsa in 2007 where he had just been the DC before he took the Rice job. Graham took Tulsa to a 10-4 season in his first year there and went 36-17 in four years. Graham left Tulsa in 2011 to take the Pitt job and went 6-6. But, left after one year to take his present job at Arizona State. I don’t blame the man at all for wanting to move up the ladder, but I do hope he stays at ASU for a while. Graham has gone 8-5 and 10-4.

This season, we will begin to see if Todd Graham is a good football coach or just another guy moving through the ranks. I believe he will do well this season.

Forgotten with all these brilliant QBs across the country such as Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Nick Marshall, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley is Arizona State Sun Devil QB, Taylor Kelly. There are few guys that are better than Taylor Kelly.

He has a lively arm and runs really well and I am not sure anybody throws better on the run. I would say Manziel does, but Manziel usually takes off with the ball when he gets started. Kelly can make accurate throws on a dead run. He threw for a very impressive 3635 yards and 28 TDs in 2013 and he should leave ASU after this season with well over 10,000 career yards. Last season, he ran for 608 yards and 9 more TDs. He is a smooth operator in the zone read. He’s not on the level of Nick Marshall of Auburn in running, but he is a much better passer.

He was particularly impressive in a 38-33 win over UCLA in Los Angeles where he was 20 of 27 passing for 225 yards and a TD and 22 carries for 99 yards and another TD.

Taylor Kelly is a working man’s QB out of Eagle, Idaho. Yes, I am an admirer of the guy. He’s probably only 3rd team in his own conference behind Mariota and Hundley and a far cry from Superman Jameis Winston, but this kid is a winner and has a huge heart and will fight to the end.

2014 should be a good year for Taylor Kelly (6-2,205) and I am hoping NFL scouts will be watching.

Kelly’s primary back up, Michael Eubank, transferred to Samford. Behind him now is junior Mike Bercovici (6-1,200) who only attempted 4 passes last season but rushed for 46 yards and is a better athlete than Eubank. Eubank is a huge guy standing 6-6 and weighing 245 and was more of a pro style drop back passer. The 4th team QB should be incoming 4 star QB out of California Manny Wilkins (6-2,190). They should have the luxury of redshirting Wilkins. Also coming in is 3 star Californian Coltin Gerhart (6-0,200). If the name sounds familiar, he is the little brother of former Stanford RB and current Minnesota Viking Toby Gerhart.
Toby would be a household name throughout the land if he was not on the same team as the best RB in the NFL, Adrian Peterson. Arizona State missed out on the nation’s #1 QB recruit, Kyle Allen who signed with Texas A&M, but they should be in great shape with Wilkins and Gerhart.

On the negative side, ASU loses top RB Marion Grice. DJ Foster (5-11,200) is a junior that rushed for 501 yards and 6 TDs as Grice’s back up. Amazingly, he also had 63 catches for an additional 653 yards and 4 TDs.

Dante Alexander (5-9,190) or 4 star incoming freshman Demario Richard (5-9,200) or 3 star JC transfer De’Chavon Hayes (5-10,190) will have to make some noise in a hurry. DJ Foster is a good back if none of the others come through, but can he hold up an entire season as a starter is the question.

WR Jaelen Strong (6-4,205) had a super season in 2013 and caught 75 passes for 1122 and 7 TDs. He is an All American candidate.

Richard Smith (5-9,165) had 32 catches as  a sophomore and was dangerous on  reverses. Cameron Smith (6-0,185) and Frederick Gammage (5-10,170) a pair of sophomores had 14 catches among them last season.

Joseph Smith (6-4,200) is a tall and talented WR that had foot problems a year ago and hopefully will be back. Jalen Harvey (6-1,180) is a highly recruited WR out of California. Eric Lauderdale (6-1,195) is the #3 rated JUCO WR in the country and should play right away. Redshirt Freshman Ellis Jefferson (6-4,200) is also waiting in the wings.

TE/HB position  lost Chris Coyle and Darwin Rogers. Only guy back with experience is  De’Marieya Nelson (6-3,230) and he had 7 catches for 2 TDs. Grant Martinez (6-5,220) redshirted last season and Kody Kohl (6-3,250) could make a move.

Arizona State Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen once ran over some trees in my front yard in an ice storm but he is a much better football coach than he is a driver.

The Sun Devils return 3 starters. Right Tackle Tylor Sulka (6-5,280) returns for his last year. Both guards return led by Jamil Douglas (6-4,305) who earned some all conference honors. Vi Teofilo (6-3,315) was solid on the other side. They must find a new center and left tackle and have some good candidates for those spots, or they may shuffle the offensive line up. Christian Westerman was a former 5 star OL recruit that committed to Texas but switched last minute to Auburn. He never played at Auburn, but should be a starter for the Sun Devils in 2014. The only question is where. He is better suited for guard, probably. but obviously the guard positions are ably manned. Nick Kelly (6-3,275) was the back up at center last season and could be moving up if nobody gets moved over.

Evan Goodman (6-4,305), William McGehee (6-5,300), Jack Powers (6-6,270), Sil Ajawara (6-4,300) and Stephon McCray (6-3,300) could all be prospects along the front for playing time.

Sun Devil defense was decimated by graduation. 9 out of the top 12 tacklers have moved on and the coaches have a lot of work to do to find replacements.

Jaxon Hood (6-0,285) played a lot last season and should be one starter in the middle and Marcus Hardison (6-5,290) should move into the other position. Tashon Smallwood (6-0,290) is a 4 star spark plug out of Fresno that should be in the mix out of not having any other choice. Dalvon Stuckey (6-3,305) is one of the top JC DTs in the country and he must play immediately as well. Demetrius Cherry (6-6,250) and Mo Latu (6-3,330) will need to provide depth or more.

Defensive End is scary depleted. Sean O’Grady (6-3,245) played very little last season but showed promise. The Devils are going to have to find help from among Connor Humphreys (6-3,270) a4 star true freshman out of Oregon. Or, Edmond Boateng (6-4,275) a top JC guy out of Florida, or Darrius Caldwell (6-5,245) anther good JC product out of Georgia. Renel Wren (6-5,250) is a 3 star recruit from Missouri.

LB Salamo Fiso (6-0,230) was one of the teams best young players a year ago and is back, fortunately. Antonio Longino (6-3,225) played some last season as did Carlos Mendoza (6-1,220). Alani Latu (6-2,230) is the brother of DT Mo Latu and played very sparingly.

4 star incoming freshman DJ Calhoun (6-0,200) is a small LB but will be pressed to play instantly. Homegrown product, Ismael Murphy-Richardson (6-4,215) and Texan Christian Sam (6-1,205) need to bring their sack lunches and put in the work because they may need to play right away.

Damarious Randall (6-0,185) was one of the teams best players finishing 3rd in tackles and hauling in 3 Interceptions.

But, he is the only returner in the secondary. Lloyd Carrington (6-0,190) did play a lot and should be one corner. Rashad Wadood (5-11,185) played enough last season to be the favorite at the other corner. Ezekiel Bishop (5-11,195) should be the other safety.

Tyler Whiley (6-0,190) was ASU’s top recruit this past recruiting class and is a CB which is good news for this secondary. Top JC CB prospect Kweishi Brown (6-0,185) will also be welcomed with open arms.

 

Outstanding kicker Zane Gonzalez was a star as a freshman  and the Sun Devils should be in good shape there.

 

Arizona State has a really good coach and their offense should click, but this defense is scary. Even with this really green defense, I am going out on a limb and predicting an 9-3 season for the Sun Devils. I could be really off on this one if the defense is really, really awful which it very well could be. I am picking ASU to finish 3rd in the Pac 12 south.

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