2012 Arizona State Preview - Starting New
Arizona State RB Cameron Marshall
Arizona State RB Cameron Marshall
Posted May 4, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State Sun Devils

Preview 2012

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Todd Graham First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 26, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best ASU Players
1. RB Cameron Marshall, Sr.
2. WR Jamal Miles, Sr.
3. LB Brandon Magee, Sr.
4. DT Will Sutton, Jr.
5. CB Osahon Irabor, Jr.
6. S Alden Darby, Jr.
7. OT Evan Finkenberg, Jr.
8. CB Deveron Carr, Sr.
9. OG Andrew Sampson, Sr.
10. DE Davon Coleman, Jr.
2012 Schedule

Sep. 1 No. Arizona
Sep. 8 Illinois
Sep. 15 at Missouri
Sep. 22 Utah
Sep. 29 at California
Oct. 11 at Colorado
Oct. 18 Oregon
Oct. 27 UCLA
Nov. 3 at Oregon State
Nov. 10 at USC
Nov. 17 Washington St
Nov. 23 at Arizona

New coach. New quarterback. New mindset. Same old results in the desert?

Although there's a new sheriff in Tempe, Todd Graham, he'll have his hands full trying to turn around a program that had been mired in mediocrity for the past four seasons under Dennis Erickson. Last year was quintessential Arizona State. The program began the season as everyone's sleeper in the Pac-12, flush with talent and a senior-laden depth chart. It ended it as the league's biggest disappointment, losing the last five games, squandering the South Division in USC's final year on probation and finishing below .500. The administration had reached its breaking point. So long, Erickson. Hello, Graham.

There will be countless challenges associated with the implementation of a completely new staff. For the Sun Devils, there are also the added complications of a hire that wasn't met with universal praise, and the reality of extensive turnover on the roster. The two-deep will need to be rearranged now that so many starters have either used up their eligibility or left for the NFL with a season remaining.

In fact, of the seven Arizona State players who earned at least All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2011, just one, RB Cameron Marshall, is still with the team. QB Brock Osweiler could have helped immensely with the transition, but opted instead to turn pro a year early. The identity of his successor won't be known until sometime in August.

A drifter among college head coaches, Graham swears that Arizona State is his destination job, the place where he'll begin to plant roots for the foreseeable future. It ought to be. A guy can recruit and win big in Tempe even if recent history suggests otherwise. Frank Kush did. So did Dan Devine and John Cooper. Of course, the problem is that none of those men were employed as head coaches of the school in the past quarter-century. And it's been 15 years since the Sun Devils last appeared in the Rose Bowl.

As the Graham era gets set to kick off, patience will be a must for ASU fans this season … at a minimum.

What to watch for on offense: Run Devils. The three competing quarterbacks, Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank and Taylor Kelly, have combined to throw just seven career passes. The receiving corps is being retooled. It should come as no surprise that Arizona State plans to leverage its impressive depth in the backfield. Yeah, 1,000-yarder Cameron Marshall is the headliner, but he could go on strike, and this ground game would still deliver. Assertive James Morrison is coming off a solid spring, and Kyle Middlebrooks and Deantre Lewis bring an element of flash to the attack. Heck, JUCO transfer Marion Grice and true freshman D.J. Foster have enough talent to steal carries right away.

What to watch for on defense: Arizona State to be tougher up the middle than expected. Yeah, there are a number of changes on defense, including the loss of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. However, the Devils feel as if they can regroup on the fly. With Corey Adams at the nose and Will Sutton at tackle, the team boasts a pair of players with the first-step quickness to get consistent penetration. The newcomer at linebacker is former junior-college transfer Kipeli Koniseti. He's not Burfict, but that might not be all bad. He has the size to play the position, and a lot more discipline and want-to than his predecessor.

The team will be far better if … the pass defense rallies back from last season's miserable finish. When Arizona State started 2011 6-2, it had allowed nine touchdown passes while picking off 13 balls. During the season-ending five-game losing streak, it yielded a dozen scoring strikes, and intercepted just two. It's imperative that the Devils tighten the screws in pass defense, or else the results in 2012 will look an awful lot like last November. The secondary hopes to rally around a pair of rising juniors, CB Osahon Irabor and S Alden Darby, who are both preparing for lift-off this fall.

The Schedule: The Sun Devils will be tested early with dangerous non-conference games against Illinois and Missouri, but the focus and attention will all be on the Pac-12 opener against Utah. There will still be a long way to go before the Pac-12 South is decided, but a win over the Utes would me a huge kickoff for the Graham era. And then things get nasty with no help from the interdivision schedule. ASU has to go to Cal and later in October has to deal with Oregon. A trip to Oregon State kicks off a brutal November finishing kick with trips to USC and Arizona still to go, along with a home game against Washington State.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Cameron Marshall. File Marshall under the heading, "Vastly Underrated Backs Entering 2012". For some reason, he's been lost in the shuffle in Tempe, despite rushing for 1,837 yards and 27 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He's a 5-11, 223-pound enforcer between the tackles, yet has enough giddy-up to explode through holes for large chunks of yardage. In short yardage, he's virtually unstoppable, lowering his head before contact, and driving his legs to forge ahead for the sticks or the end zone.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Brandon Magee. The return of Magee, who missed all of 2011 to an Achilles injury, will be a godsend for the remade Sun Devils defense. He'll be a three-tool guy for the new staff. The heady senior has been with the program for five years. He is the undisputed leader of the D, both on the field and in the locker room. And he's a bona fide playmaker from weakside, employing great speed and instincts to track down the man with the ball all over the field.

Key player to a successful season: The new quarterback. Yeah, Todd Graham and his staff are preaching a more physical offensive system that leans a little heavier on the running backs, but that won't absolve Brock Osweiler's heir apparent from having to make plays downfield. Heck, if he doesn't, the ground game is sure to suffer. Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank and Taylor Kelly all showed hints of their potential in the spring. Apparently, no one displayed enough, though, because a starter has yet to be named.

The season will be a success if ... the Sun Devils squeak their way into bowl-eligibility. If Arizona State can match last year's six victories in a campaign marked by so much turnover, it'll qualify as a step forward for rookie head coach Todd Graham. Unlike 2011, when the bar was set at playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, expectations will be far more modest in 2012. ASU is hoping to put down the ground floor, a process that would be aided by 15 additional practices and one more game in December.
Key game: Nov. 23 at Arizona. The annual battle for the Territorial Cup is an underrated rivalry that seems to stage thrilling nail-biters every November. Plus, both teams might need this game just to qualify for the postseason. It'll also be the first meeting between the rookie head coaches, the Sun Devils' Todd Graham and the Wildcats' Rich Rodriguez, who'll both be looking to use this setting as an opportunity to gain favor with the state's fans and top high school recruits.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Touchdown passes: Arizona State 27 – Opponents 21
- Fumbles lost: Arizona State 10 – Opponents 17
- Fourth-quarter scoring: Arizona State 84 - Opponents 109

- 2012 Arizona State Preview | 2012 Arizona State Offense
- 2012 Arizona State Defense | 2012 Arizona State Depth Chart