Arizona State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Arizona State Sundevils
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Arizona State Sun Devils Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity, part deux – Late in the 2004 season, former ASU gunslinger Andrew Walter was in the process of leading the Sun Devils into another bowl game when he was knocked out for the rest of the season with an injury.  Into the fray stepped backup QB Sam Keller, who promptly put on a show in a heartbreaking loss to Arizona and a win over Purdue in the Sun Bowl.  With Keller firmly entrenched as the starting QB in 2005, the Sun Devil offense was a yardage making machine.  Keller himself was on fire, then, reminiscent of the year before, was knocked out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury.  Into the fray stepped backup QB Rudy Carpenter.  Whoa, didn’t that just happen?  So, what does Carpenter do with the opportunity – oh, nothing but throw for nearly 2,300 yards, 20 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.  Carpenter followed Keller’s lead and led the Sun Devils to a bowl win over Rutgers in a shootout 45 – 40, a game in which Carpenter threw for 467 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Okay, what makes this year different than 2005?  Well, both the ‘injured’ (Keller) and the ‘backup’ (Carpenter) return in 2006.  Keller is more of a physical specimen at 6’4” and 240 pounds, but Carpenter showed how tough and productive he could be, when given the opportunity.  Having two QBs is both a blessing and a curse, and the rich history of coaches’ QB indecision has felled many a team (just ask Phil Fulmer how the two headed QB monster worked out for Tennessee in 2005).  Consequently, the dichotomy in these two QBs can’t divide the team or quell its production.  But, given the recent history, the Sun Devils are going to need two QBs at some point. 

2nd and Seven – And, you are? – If any position on defense is highly susceptible this year, it’s got to be at linebacker.  Pac-10 co-defensive player of the year Dale Robinson wrecked havoc for his two years in Tempe, but exhausted his eligibility.  Same goes for multi-year starter Jamar Williams.  The other position was a hodge-podge mixture of guys, including Robert James, who is projected to start at Will linebacker, but even he only started half the season.  The Pac-10 won’t feature as many stud running backs this year, but then again, with no Robinson or Williams to help stop opposing running games, it may not matter.  Keep an eye on how well this group matures together as they could be a major key to this 2006 season.

3rd and Three – Mr. Versatile – With only 85 schollys these days, a coach loves to have versatility.  Music to a coach’s ears is “Hey, this guy could play just about anywhere.”  On the flip side, though, there are some coaches who will sometimes pigeonhole a player, not giving him the opportunity to branch out and attempt to play other spots.  Well, that wasn’t Dirk Koetter’s take on Rudy Burgess this spring.  Burgess has gone from being one of a pair of solid running backs (along with Keegan Herring) to being the ultimate X factor on offense, special teams and even on defense.  With Herring ready to star as the number one back this year, Burgess was shifted to wide receiver to help replace former All-Pac-10 WR Derek Hagan.  But, Burgess wasn’t done – Koetter threw him over into the cornerback mix and he showed he could play there as well.  So, there’s no telling where we’ll see Burgess this year, but in some manner or form, he’ll do something each game to change the course of that game.  You just don’t know now whether it’ll be at RB/WR/KR/CB.  That’s taking versatility to completely different ‘slash’ level.

4th and One – Can the next step be taken? – ‘Surviving’ in a conference that had been dominated the last few years by USC was probably more realistic for the Sun Devils than winning the conference.  But, perhaps a bit more was expected out of Dirk’s crew than a Sun Bowl and an Insight Bowl, but then again, no other Pac-10 team played on New Year’s Day the last three years (as Cal and Oregon, arguably, were shafted in 2004 and 2005, respectively).  But, the landscape has changed greatly with the ‘changes’ at USC and 10 Sun Devil offensive starters coming back in 2006.  So, does that imply that the Sun Devils have a real shot at taking the next step into Pac-10 championship stardom?  Sure, beat USC in LA and it’s a real possibility.  As tough as that may be, if Koetter and his defense round into shape, maybe a January 2007 bowl date is a real possibility.  That would be one heck of a ‘next step’.

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