2007 RECORD: 10-3; PAC-10: 7-2
Lost Holiday Bowl vs. Texas 52-34
LOCATION: Tempe, Arizona
STADIUM: Sun Devil Stadium (71,706)
HEAD COACH: Dennis Erickson
OVERALL: 158-68-1 (19 seasons)
AT ARIZONA ST.: 10-3 (1 season)
Are you a “glass half full” kind of person? The Sun Devils reached double figures in wins for the first time since 1996. They reached No. 6 in late October…the last time ASU was that highly thought of was also in 1996. Their final ranking of No. 16 in the AP Poll was their highest finish since they were ranked No. 14 in 1997’s final poll. And they did all that in Dennis Erickson’s first season! Now, here’s a little something for the “glass half empty” people in the crowd: The Sun Devils allowed 55 sacks last season and they lost to their three toughest opponents—USC, Oregon and Texas. Those were their only opponents that finished the season ranked in the Coaches Poll (Oregon St. did finish No. 25 in the AP Poll).
WHEN THE SUN DEVILS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Rich Olson (2nd Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Mike Polack, Ryan Torain, Rudy Burgess, Brent Miller, Brandon Rodd
Rudy Carpenter isn’t the perfect quarterback—he doesn’t have prototypical size or arm strength, and he tends to hold on to the football too long. However, he gets the job done. A feisty leader in the huddle, Carpenter makes things happen. In Michael Jones, Carpenter has a weapon to stretch the field with, while Chris McGaha is a sure-handed possession receiver. In the backfield they are deep, led by senior Keegan Herring, whose shiftiness and speed make him dangerous in the open field. Junior Dimitri Nance is the power back, while Shaun DeWitty (also a Jr.) provides a little of both. All the pieces are in place for ASU to have one of the top offenses in the country, as long as the offensive line doesn’t allow Carpenter to get beat up again. The offensive line’s struggles are well-documented and they must improve.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) RB Keegan Herring (SR), 2) QB Rudy Carpenter (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Craig Bray (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Justin Tryon, Josh Barrett, Robert James
They are set at defensive end with Pac-10 honorees junior Dexter Davis (Second Team) and senior Luis Vazquez (Honorable Mention)—Davis is the better pass rusher, Vazquez is the stouter of the two. In the middle, sophomore Jonathan English could make a difference if he breaks into the starting lineup. The defensive line could be a stronger and deeper unit overall than it was a year ago. At linebacker, Travis Goethel is their leading returning tackler with Mike Nixon ready to step up and play a bigger role in the middle. They lose cover man Justin Tryon and athletic safety Josh Barrett, but with ball hawking free safety Troy Nolan and sensational sophomore corner Omar Bolden back, their secondary is solid.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) CB Omar Bolden (SO), 2) DE Dexter Davis (JR)
The Sun Devils should start out 3-0, but then they will be put to the test…beginning with their match-up with No. 1 ranked Georgia, who makes the trip to the desert. As if that’s not tough enough, ASU follows that up with a pair of West Coast trips of their own, playing at Cal and at USC. Last season, Dennis Erickson led them to an 8-0 start—this time they’d do well to be 3-2 after five games. They also play host to Oregon and travel to Oregon St. in what could be a defining five-game mid-season stretch.
Offensive Line: The big uglies in the desert are probably tired of hearing the number 55. Until they do a better job of protecting their quarterback, they will continue to hear the comments and questions. Even with the loss of C Mike Pollack, their best lineman, there is reason for hope. The key is sophomore left tackle Jon Hargis—the man charged with protecting Carpenter’s blind side. Hargis is athletic and according to reports is looking more comfortable on the offensive side of the ball after making a couple of starts on the defensive line as a freshman. If they were able to average 32.3 points per game last season, who knows how explosive they can be if the line play improves?
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
The Sun Devils will be better…because their offensive line can’t be worse. Carpenter should excel in his second year playing in the system of Coach Erickson and OC Rich Olson. Defensively, expect a more aggressive unit that should feel more comfortable. It’s not common for a team to start out 8-0 with a new headman and that raises expectations in year two. However, asking ASU to post a better record this season seems a rather tall task. A repeat of 10 wins or even nine seem more realistic, but should not be viewed as a lack of progress.
Photo Credit: Collegiate Images
Monday, August 18, 2008
2007 RECORD: 10-3; PAC-10: 7-2