2008 CFN Arizona State Preview
Arizona State RB Keegan Herring
Arizona State RB Keegan Herring
Posted Apr 11, 2008

Arizona State made a huge statement in Dennis Erickson's first season, but now it has to show it can beat the big boys and be a true player in the Pac 10 race. Keegan Herring and the offense should be fine, but can the line pass protect? Check out the CFN Arizona State preview.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Preview 2008

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By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN Arizona State Preview | 2008 ASU Offense
- 2008 ASU Defense
| 2008 ASU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Arizona State Preview
| 2006 CFN Arizona State Preview 

After delivering a statement to the nation with 10 wins in 2007, Dennis Erickson is hoping to serve up an equally impressive encore in 2008. 

The nomadic head coach immediately put his stamp on the wayward program and hasn’t let up, trouncing rival Arizona on the recruiting trail in February and setting a tone that ASU is about to enter the glory days. However, the success of his first year did come with little smoke and plenty of mirrors.

Head coach: Dennis Erickson
2nd year at ASU: 10-3
20th year overall: 158-68-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 16, Def. 22, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best ASU Players
QB Rudy Carpenter, Sr.
2. DE Dexter Davis, Jr.
3. FS Troy Nolan, Sr.
4. CB Omar Bolden, Soph.
5. WR Michael Jones, Sr.
6. K/P Thomas Weber, Soph.
7. RB Keegan Herring, Sr.
8. WR Chris McGaha, Jr.
9. G Paul Fanaika, Sr.
10. LB Travis Goethel, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Northern Arizona
Sept. 6 Stanford
Sept. 13 UNLV
Sept. 20 Georgia
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 at California
Oct. 11 at USC
Oct. 25 Oregon
Nov. 1 at Oregon State
Nov. 8 at Washington
Nov. 15 Washington State
Nov. 28 UCLA
Dec. 6 at Arizona

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Results:

Sept. 1 San Jose State W 45-3
Sept. 8 Colorado W 33-13
Sept. 15 San Diego St W 33-14
Sept. 22 Oregon State W 44-32
Sept. 29 at Stanford W 41-3
Oct. 6 at Wash St W 23-20
Oct. 13
Washington W 44-20
Oct. 27 California W 31-20
Nov. 3 at Oregon L 35-23
Nov. 10 at UCLA W 24-20
Nov. 22 USC L 44-24
Dec. 1
Arizona W 20-17
Holiday Bowl
Dec. 27 Texas L 52-34

Even with the big season and for all the good things that happened, the losses to Oregon, USC and Texas showed that there’s still work to be done to be among the elite. However, ASU can’t be faulted for beating all the average teams; you have to beat everyone, and ASU hasn’t been good at doing that.

Past Sun Devil teams folded in tight games, but under Erickson, the 2007 squad came through clutch going 3-0 in games decided by four points or fewer. If those three swing the other way, ASU is 6-6 and nowhere near the Holiday Bowl. And that’s how things have changed. This team will find a way to get it done under Erickson, while past teams found a way to blow it. This year, there are several things to work on to not slide the other way.
The Sun Devils have needs on both lines and in the secondary, which they believe will be addressed in the short term by a handful of junior college transfers. Not one to pull back when things are going well, Erickson plans to put the pedal to the metal in Arizona State’s quest to become a perennial contender for a Pac-10 championship. To get there, he’s banking on resurgent QB Rudy Carpenter having the most prolific season of his turbulent career.

Yeah, Arizona State started 8-0 last year and won double-digit games for the first time since 1996, but when the schedule got salty, it couldn’t meet the challenge. This season, the Sun Devils are determined to build on 2007 by taking a step closer to loosening USC’s stranglehold on the Pac-10 title. Steps one and two will be to revamp the offensive line and solidify the defense, respectively.   

What to watch for on offense: The line, the line, the line, the line, and, uh, the line. Considering the unit yielded 55 sacks, it’s amazing the Sun Devils were able to win 10 games in a competitive conference, and it’s even more amazing that Carpenter can still walk. If the makeshift unit can somehow give Carpenter a little bit of time, it’ll allow a deep pool of skill position players to get more touches and make more plays in the open field. The offense will be more consistent, and Carpenter won’t be a human punching bag again.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush should be better. It wasn’t all that bad last season coming up with 29 sacks, but that was good for ninth in the Pac 10. The ends appear to be on the verge of big things with Jamarr Robinson and James Brooks pushing starters Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez and creating a good rotation that should be camped out in the backfield early and often.      

The team will be far better if … it gets off to a hotter start. ASU was outscored 128 to 50 in the first quarter, and while it made up for it by outscoring teams 370 to 165 the rest of the way, it often had to scramble a bit and rally late to get the momentum back its way. While the offense tended to thrive on this, it’ll make life easier to come out of the gate roaring.     

The Schedule: The Sun Devils have a nice, easy start (Northern Arizona, Stanford and UNLV) before the showdown against Georgia. Beat the Dawgs and the season takes on a whole other meaning. In what might be one of the toughest stretches of games anyone in America has to deal with, ASU plays Georgia, gets a week off, and then has to go on the road to face Cal and USC before getting a week off to prepare for Oregon. Back-to-back road games at Oregon State and Washington come at an awful time in early November, and the rivalry showdown against Arizona comes after a tough battle against UCLA. Meanwhile the Wildcats get a week off to prepare for the Sun Devils.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Rudy Carpenter. Somewhat surprisingly, Carpenter was second in Pac-10 passing efficiency while performing behind one of the worst lines in school history. Despite being sacked more than any quarterback in the country, he rebounded from a rough sophomore year to throw 25 touchdown passes and just 10 picks. A fiery competitor, he’ll own most of the Sun Devil career passing marks with better pass protection and decision-making. 

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Dexter Davis. A relentless pass rusher who works as hard on the field as he does in the training and film rooms, Davis has bagged 16.5 sacks in his first two seasons and is on the verge of superstardom. A member of last year’s All-Pac-10 Second Team, he’s added more muscle to his 6-2 frame and will be far better against the run.             

Key player to a successful season: Junior CB Terell Carr. The graduation of current Washington Redskin Justin Tryon has left the Sun Devils a little skittish about their pass defense.  If, however, Carr can make the jump from junior college to the Pac-10, the ASU secondary quickly goes from a question mark to a strength. Assuming he holds off Travis Smith, Carr will be joining FS Troy Nolan and CB Omar Bolden, two stalwarts for the Devil defensive backfield.

The season will be a success if ... Arizona State wins nine games and gets back to the Holiday Bowl. The four-game stretch of Georgia, Cal, USC, and Oregon will probably keep the program from aspiring to loftier goals. However, there’s enough returning talent in Tempe for the Sun Devils to be the next-best-thing to USC in the Pac-10 for a second straight year. It won’t equal a Rose Bowl, but it will represent another brick in the foundation that Erickson & Co. are laying.

Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Georgia. You want some momentum to take into the three-game gauntlet of Cal, USC, and Oregon? How about beating a Bulldog team that could be ranked No. 1 in the country? When Erickson talks about making Arizona State a national program with national title aspirations, winning this type of game is what he has in mind.     

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Opponents 55 for 382 yards – Arizona State 29 for 214 yards
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 128 – Arizona State 50
- Penalties: Opponents 97 for 800 yards – Arizona State 81 for 739 yards