Pac 12

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 4-8, 2-7
Bowl Game: None
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 9th Pac-10
Offensive rank: 90
Defensive rank: 13

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Dimitri Nance, 795 yards, 6 TD
Passing: Danny Sullivan, 1,939 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT
Receiving: Kyle Williams, 815 yards, 8 TD; Chris McGaha, 690 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Mike Nixon, 73 total tackles
Sacks: Lawrence Guy, 4.5 sacks (4 solo, 1 assisted); Saia Falahola, 4 sacks (4 solo)
Interceptions: Ryan McFoy, Jarrell Holman and Mike Nixon, 3 interceptions (Holman and Nixon, 1 TD each)

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2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 18 @ Wisconsin: Getting the Badgers in Madison will be an excellent test for a defense looking to live up to last year's 13th ranked unit. The rushing defense let up an average of just 108.6 yards per carry in 2009, but will have their hands full dealing with John Clay and the Wisconsin offensive line.

October 30 vs. Washington State: The Sun Devils hope to finish higher than 9th in the conference, but with several Pac-10 teams holding realistic hopes at claiming the conference title, it will be difficult. The matchup with Washington State, while it lacks the appeal of a matchup with Oregon, USC or Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies, is important to grab a conference victory.

December 2 @ Arizona: The annual rivalry game heads to Tucson this year and will be televised on ESPN. This matchup for the Territorial Cup dates back to 1899. Arizona became a state in 1912… The Wildcats lead the all-time series 46-36-1 and have grabbed the last two contests following three straight Sun Devil victories.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)

AP: N/A

Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Dimitri Nance, RB; Kyle Williams, WR; Chris McGaha, WR; Shawn Lauvao, OT; Dexter Davis, DE; Travis Goethel, LB; Mike Nixon, LB

Key Returning Players

James Brooks, DE; Lawrence Guy, DT; Vontaze Burfict, LB; Thomas Weber, K

Offensive Overview

Arizona State struggled offensively last season, finishing 90th in total offense, 91st in scoring offense and 93rd in rushing offense. The passing game, led by senior quarterback Danny Sullivan, was relatively adequate, averaging 215 yards per game in 2009. Sullivan graduated, though, leaving the competition for quarterback open to Michigan transfer Steven Threet, Brock Osweiler and Samson Szakacsy. Threet was the favorite entering spring, but Osweiler finished spring ahead of the pack. Szakacsy sat out the spring due to injury and will compete for the job in the fall. Improvements along the offensive line will be important in allowing whoever ends up under center to run the offense.

Overall, the Sun Devils lose eight starters on offense. Leading wide receivers Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha are gone, as is leading rusher Dimitri Nance. Wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad, an Oregon transfer, had an impressive spring, while the job of replacing Nance and three other scholarship running backs will fall to Cameron Marshall and a host of young players. Finding skill players who can emerge on a beleaguered offense will be a key story to follow in Tempe.

New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has had success at the collegiate level and comes to Tempe after a stint with the New York Jets as the wide receivers coach. According to their own prospectus, the Sun Devils "will feature a quick, fast-paced and versatile passing attack that uses a variety of explosive and dynamic receivers to help facilitate the offensive movement, with well-balanced doses of athletically rounded running backs."

Defensive Overview

The defense was outstanding last season, finishing ranked 13th in the nation in total defense, 26th in scoring defense, 19th in rushing defense and 20th in pass efficiency defense. Maintaining that success is a concern as the team must replace seven starters, but there is a great deal of optimism in Tempe. The defense replaces defensive end Dexter Davis as well as linebackers Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel, who finished first and third in total tackles in 2009.

The defensive line loses just Davis with both defensive tackles returning and James Brooks returning after starting nine games at defensive end. Tackles Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola look to continue the Sun Devils' success in stopping opposing backs. Guy has emerged as a pass rushing threat and is one of the conference's top defensive linemen. Vontaze Burfict was tremendous as a freshman last season and will man the MIKE linebacker position on the Sun Devils defense. Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons were listed atop the outside linebacker spots on the spring depth chart, but face competition for the starting posts.

Cornerback Omar Bolden turned in an impressive spring and looks to lead the secondary in 2010. Cornerback Deveron Carr saw starting time last season after injuries thinned out the depth chart. LeQuan Lewis and Josh Jordan will also compete for starting time. At safety, Clint Floyd and Keelan Johnson are listed atop the spring depth chart.

Special Teams Overview

Jamal Miles handled kickoff returns in 2009, averaging 19.7 yards per return. He's listed as the kickoff return specialist and the punt return specialist on the spring depth chart. Trevor Hankins returns as the punter after a season in which he averaged 44.2 yards per punt, among the highest average in the nation. Kicker Thomas Weber missed a portion of last season due to injury, but still managed to hit 8 of 13 field goals and 19 of his 20 extra point attempts. He is a career 81% field goal kicker and hit a long of 53 as a freshman in 2007.

Head Coach: Dennis Erickson

Dennis Erickson seems excited about his new offense. "It's going to be a huge turning point offensively in our program," Erickson said according to AZCentral.com. "It'll be completely different than what people have seen, and you'll see it in the spring from Day 1." The spring has come and gone and folks in Tempe are excited to see their Sun Devils change things up offensively.

Erickson has been head coach for eight college or NFL teams including two stints as the head coach at Idaho. Erickson led Miami to two national championships and even finished as co-conference champions with USC. Since the fast start at ASU, Erickson has led the Sun Devils to progressively lower win totals and has missed the postseason the past two seasons. He's stocked his roster with young talent to build a solid base in Tempe, however.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Sai Falahola, DT; Thomas Weber, K

Season Prediction

9th Pac-10

Arizona State will likely find themselves competing with Washington State to stay out of the Pac-10 basement. That's not to say there isn't reason to be hopeful for the future, but with no clear-cut leader under center, questions surrounding the skill positions and an already shaky offensive line that lost a starting interior lineman to injury in Jon Hargis and saw their depth depleted when Patrick Jamison jumped ship, the offense could be in for some growing pains. The new offense will be one of the storylines to follow in the Pac-10.

On defense, whether a leader or two emerge to replace the departed veterans will go a long way in whether ASU lives up to last year's 13th ranked defense. The Sun Devils held opponents to less than 300 yards per game last season. Look for that number to creep up a bit, but the defense will once again be the strength of this team. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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