2007 Arizona State Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 24, 2007

Preview 2007 Arizona State Sun Devil Offense

Arizona State Sun Devils

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Arizona State Preview | 2007 ASU Defense Preview
2007 ASU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Arizona State Preview 

What you need to know: Arizona State really wasn’t Arizona State in 2006, but with ten starters returning, there’s reason to believe the offense will rebound and score in bunches.  Dennis Erickson brings a balanced and unpredictable system that’ll use multiple formations and plenty of shotgun, yet still lean heavily on the running game.  The success of the unit hinges on the play of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who looked destined for stardom as a freshman before suffering through a humbling sophomore season marked by turnovers and lapses in confidence.  His supporting cast is headed by Ryan Torain, one of the nation’s best backs that no one outside the Pac-10 has seen.  With six seasoned linemen back, he’s destined to become the first Sun Devil in over 30 years to go for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.  Although Carpenter’s receivers did nothing to help him out of his slump in 2006, they’re now awash with the kind of speed and playmaking potential that’s customary in Tempe.                    

Returning Leaders
Passing: Rudy Carpenter
156-228, 2,273 yds, 17 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Keegan Herring
158 carries, 870 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Rudy Burgess
59 catches, 655 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Ryan Torain
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Rudy Carpenter
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WRs Brandon Smith and Kyle Williams
Best pro prospect: Torain
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Torain  2) C Mike Pollak  3) LT Brandon Rodd
Strength of the offense: The running backs, line experience
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection, turnovers


Projected Starter: In 2005, junior Rudy Carpenter led the country in passing efficiency.  In 2006, he was among the nation’s leaders in unfulfilled expectations.  To the untrained eye, Carpenter’s 23 touchdown passes and 2,523 passing yards were respectable by most standards, but told only part of the story.  Compared to two years ago, his completion percentage and passing efficiency plummeted, his interceptions soared and his confidence nosedived.  Carpenter was a completely different quarterback, yet it wasn’t entirely his fault.  He broke bones in both of his hands at points during the season and was saddled with one of the Pac-10’s most anemic collections of receivers.  Although both situations will be improved in 2007, will it be enough to get Carpenter back to those days when he was an overnight freshman sensation? He’ll have to if the Sun Devils are going to shake the perennial “underachiever” label.                                                   

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Danny Sullivan was supposed to redshirt in 2006 before all hell broke loose and Sam Keller transferred out of Tempe.  The good news is that last year’s baptism under fire means he’s far better prepared to be the No. 2 guy this year.  At 6-4 and 236 pounds, he’s got the strong arm and pocket presence to be the second coming of Andrew Walter once he gets on the field. 

True freshmen Samson Szakacsy and Chasen Stangel are a couple of gems that’ll compete for the No. 3 job and a real early lead to replace Carpenter after he graduates.                   

Watch Out For… Carpenter to rebound swiftly from last season’s sophomore slump.  A gifted passer that throws a sweet long ball, he’ll benefit from Dennis Erickson’s presence, the absence of a quarterback controversy and a more mature receiving corps.   
Strength: Carpenter.  It’s an odd choice after he was so wildly inconsistent in 2006, but Carpenter still has the potential to be one of the league’s most dangerous and prolific passers.  Erickson and his staff are going to make darn sure he realizes that potential this fall.                            
Weakness: Consistency.  Few quarterbacks did a more pronounced about-face last year than Carpenter, who played timid at times, made a ton of bad reads, and went six consecutive games with less than 200 yards passing.  While he’s probable to bounce back, it’s still hard to suggest that with complete conviction.       
Outlook: Much like Dennis Dixon up in Eugene, just how far Arizona State goes in 2007 will hinge heavily on Carpenter playing like he did two years ago.  From the new staff to the improved play of the receivers in the spring, all signs point to more big plays and fewer turnovers for the junior.        
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starter: Arizona State struck gold last year with senior Ryan Torain, a modestly recruited back out of Butler (Kan.) Community College.  Despite not starting the first five games of 2006, he ran for 1,229 yards, eighth-best in school history, caught 18 passes and scored ten touchdowns.  In a disappointing season for the offense, the 6-1, 213-pound Torain was the one shining light, running with power and determination inside and a good burst once he got outside the tackles.  Suddenly, one of the afterthoughts from the Sun Devil class of 2006 is the focal point of the offense and one of the nation’s premier runners entering the upcoming season.                     

Projected Top Reserves: The presence of junior Keegan Herring gives the Sun Devils one of the best one-two punches in the Pac-10, if not the entire country.  While Torain is big and physical, Herring gives the offense a change-of-pace and a long ball threat whenever he gets a hint of daylight.  The 5-10, 186-pounder ran for 549 yards in 2006, and has averaged at least 5.5 yards a carry in each of his two seasons in Tempe. 

Not far behind Herring is sophomore Dmitri Nance, a compact, powerful runner that debuted with 229 yards and three scores on 56 carries in his true freshman season.  At 5-10 and 204 pounds, he’s always moving forward and surging for more yards, making him a natural around the goal line and in short yardage.   

Watch Out For… junior Shaun DeWitty.  He missed all of spring with back problems, but a healthy DeWitty would make a deep backfield even more crowded in 2007.  The star of spring last year, he’s a 6-2, 217-pounder with soft hands and the best pass blocking skills among the backs.
: Depth.  The emergence of Nance, who ran like a young Emmitt Smith in April, gives the Sun Devils three quality backs capable of carrying the load on a given Saturday.  If DeWitty is 100% by September, Dennis Erickson will struggle to keep all of his backs well fed this fall.           
Weakness: Pass catching.  It’s not as if the Sun Devil backs can’t catch, but rather they don’t get used quite enough in the passing game.  That should change under Dennis Erickson, particularly if quarterback Rudy Carpenter hits a rough patch with his accuracy again this season.      
Outlook: With Torain resembling a longshot Heisman contender and three quality backs behind him, the potential exists for this 2007 group of runners to be one of the best ever assembled at pass-happy Arizona State.
Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters: The receivers were uncharacteristically feeble last season, but this is Arizona State, so don’t expect the lack of production to last.  All of last year’s freshmen and sophomores are now sophomores and juniors, which will make for more reliable targets for quarterback Rudy Carpenter.  One of the Sun Devils’ most versatile athletes, senior Rudy Burgess, is returning to the slot after moonlighting at cornerback in 2006.  A 5-10, 188-pound jackrabbit in the open field, he’s the only player in the Pac-10 with 1,000 career yards rushing and receiving.  Burgess can fly, and is the team’s one receiver that makes people miss, which will prompt the new staff to concoct ways to get him the ball. 

After scratching the surface of his potential with 20 catches and three touchdowns in 2006, junior Michael Jones is ready to explode from the outside X spot.  An imposing target at 6-4 and 208 pounds, he has good speed and the athletic ability to make acrobatic grabs above overmatched defensive backs. 

At the Z spot will be sophomore Chris McGaha, who parlayed 16 catches for 238 yards and three touchdowns into a spot on the Pac-10 All-Freshman team in 2006.  A reliable receiver on the short and intermediate routes, he also has the straight line speed to get behind unsuspecting secondaries.

Following in the huge footsteps of All-American tight end Zach Miller will be his older brother Brent Miller.  The senior and three-time letterwinner doesn’t lack for experience, being the only Sun Devil to play all 37 games over the last three years.  Although he doesn’t have his brother’s skill set, at 6-5 and 237 pounds, he’s an improving run blocker and a sure-handed downfield receiver that should surpass his career total of 21 catches in 2007.         

Projected Top Reserves: If the spring is a fair indicator, the second unit will be loaded with young playmakers this fall.  Sophomore Kyle Williams will back up Burgess in the slot, where he can use his quickness and good wheels to create big yards after the catch.  While only 5-10 and 185 pounds, he’s really hit the weights in the off-season in anticipation of increased playing time. 

Behind Jones at the X will be another sophomore, Brandon Smith, who also turned the corner in April.  A 6-2, 200-pound sprinter, he gives the offense another vertical option that can stretch defenses and soften them up for the underneath route runners.  Purely in terms of measurables and athletic ability, Smith is one of the bar-setters on the squad. 

Junior Nate Kimbrough was beginning to heat up as a playmaker last season before an injury curtailed his season in week nine.  Long and lean at 6-1 and 189 pounds, he caught 15 balls for 235 yards and a score in 2006, and figures to push McGaha all season for the starting flanker job.   

Miller’s caddy at tight end will be Dane Guthrie, a former transfer from Florida who earned his first Sun Devil letter last season.  At 6-3 and 267 pounds, he’s an outstanding drive blocker and the player the staff will turn to on short yardage.

Watch Out For… redshirt freshman Rodney Glass.  In this deep group, Glass may only catch ten passes in 2007, but don’t be shocked if they go for 350 yards and a couple of scores.  A converted tailback and member of the ASU track team, he’s got world class speed and an exciting upside once he becomes a more polished receiver.         
Strength: Depth.  Contrary to last season, the Sun Devil receivers are quickly becoming a talented bunch that goes two-deep with athletic gazelles that can break a game open with their speed.
Weakness: Lack of a proven No. 1.  The one thing missing from this year’s pass catchers is a Shaun McDonald or Derek Hagan, that true go-to receiver that quarterbacks can count on and opposing defenses must always respect.                        
Outlook: After hitting bottom by Sun Devil standards in 2006, the receivers will be on the rebound this season.  While Burgess will have a big season from the slot, it’s incumbent on Jones or Smith to emerge as a bona fide homerun hitter on the outside.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: With six starters returning, the veteran Sun Devils have no excuses for not being one of the Pac-10’s more effective lines in 2007.  The leader of the group will once again be senior center Mike Pollak, a second team All-Pac-10 selection last fall.  One of the team captains for the upcoming season, he’s a tough, physical competitor, especially on running downs, and one of the heady leaders of the offense. 

With senior Zach Krula earning another year of eligibility, Arizona State boasts a terrific tandem of experienced tackles for the season ahead.  On his way to becoming a dominant lineman, he suffered a devastating ankle injury that cost him most of 2005 and all of 2006.  When healthy, Krula’s an athletic 6-7, 320-pounder that’s making the switch this year from guard to right tackle. 

On the other side will be senior Brandon Rodd, a third-year starter who has earned honorable mention all-league honors in each of his first two years.  One of the most versatile and flexible members of the front wall, he needs to become a rock at protecting Rudy Carpenter’s blindside in 2007.

For the second straight year, the Sun Devil guards will be senior Robert Gustavis and junior Paul Fanaika on the left and right side, respectively.  The 6-3, 303-pound Gustavis has played in 25 games during his career, starting 15 and earning a letter in each of his three seasons in Tempe.  Fanaika has worked his way into the lineup after arriving as a walk-on.  A mountain of a man at 6-6 and 360 pounds, he helped clear a path for the resurgent running game in 2006, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors for his efforts.                  

Projected Top Reserves: The offense’s most experienced reserve tackle is Julius Orieuwku, a seven-game starter in 2006 after injuries struck the position.  At 6-7 and 317 pounds, he has the long arms to wall off pass rushers and the heft to create holes in the running game. 

Sophomore Richard Tuit’u was forced into action unexpectedly last season, earning a letter and a start as a freshman.  Another behemoth at 6-4 and 350 pounds, he’s literally a big part of the future along the line at Arizona State. 

Providing depth at guard will be sophomore Shaun Lauvao, who also saw substantial playing time as a freshman and enjoyed a terrific spring session.  One of the group’s emotional leaders, he could challenge for a starting spot in August.

Watch Out For… the line to excel in run blocking once again this season.  The Hell Hogs are a nasty, physical group that revels in dominating at the point of attack and opening holes for the offense’s stable of quality backs.                       
Strength: Experience.  With Krula’s return, Arizona State’s top six linemen are all upperclassmen with 16 letters and a ton of starts between them.  Although the staff is new, there’s nothing this unit hasn’t seen or experienced over the last five years.              
Weakness: Pass protection.  Yeah, the offense typically throws lots of passes and the Sun Devil quarterbacks aren’t fleet of foot, but there’s no excuse for allowing 73 sacks over the last two seasons.  For the offense to click in 2007, the line has to do a much better job in this area.    
Outlook: Assuming it doesn’t have to dig too deep into the depth chart, Arizona State has all of the pieces of a line that’ll dominate on running downs.  Whether the Sun Devils can be mentioned as the next best thing to USC in the Pac-10 depends on their ability to keep Carpenter upright.  
Rating: 8


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2007 Arizona State Preview
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2007 Arizona State Preview - Defense
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2007 Arizona State Preview - Depth Chart
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