State Sun Devils
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Arizona State Preview |
2008 ASU Offense
2008 ASU Defense |
2008 ASU Depth
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2006 CFN Arizona
need to know:
QB Rudy Carpenter is adapting nicely to being Dennis Erickson’s
latest pupil, planning to make his fourth season as the starter
the best one yet. He’ll be surrounded by a deep supporting cast
that includes receivers Michael Jones, Chris McGaha, and Kyle
Williams, and backs Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance. However,
all of that skill position talent might not reach top gear if
the offensive line doesn’t get its act together. The Sun Devils
yielded a ridiculous 55 sacks a year ago, robbing Carpenter of
the time needed to make his reads and forcing the staff to
install more simplified blocking schemes. From that leaky unit,
three starters must be replaced, including both tackles and
First Team All-Pac-10 C Mike Pollak. The front wall will be
built around hulking guards Paul Fanaika and Shawn Lauvao, a
pair of returning starters and assets to the running game.
Passing: Rudy Carpenter
246-398, 3,202 yds, 25 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Keegan Herring
154 carries, 815 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Chris McGaha
61 catches, 830 yds, 1 TD
Star of the
Senior QB Rudy Carpenter
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Kerry Taylor
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Michael Jones
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carpenter 2) Jones 3)
Senior G Paul Fanaika
Strength of the offense: Depth at the skill positions,
the passing game
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection, the tackles
Projected Starter: Senior Rudy Carpenter
will be looking to break the cycle of up-and-down seasons with a
strong finale in Tempe. Under the watchful eyes of new coaches
Dennis Erickson and Rich Olson, he rebounded from a sophomore
slump to finish No. 2 in Pac-10 passing efficiency, going
246-of-398 for 3,202 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Noticeably more confident and comfortable (and a little too
cocky at times), he helped lead the Sun Devils to 10 wins,
despite getting pressured relentlessly and sacked more than any
quarterback in the country. Of course, he could help the
situation by moving a little better in the pocket and making
faster reads. At 6-2 and 202 pounds, he may not have a cannon,
but he can make all the throws when there’s time to survey the
field. A fiery competitor who’ll play through pain, his
intensity can be both a blessing and a curse for the offense.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Danny Sullivan
returns for his third season as Carpenter’s caddy. The biggest
of the quarterbacks at 6-5 and 238 pounds, he’s got the big arm
and unmistakable pocket presence that conjure up images of
former Devil hurler Andrew Walter. Sullivan logged seven games
of experience, going 19-of-29 for 212 yards, two touchdowns and
a pick in the Holiday Bowl.
Their redshirt seasons completed, freshmen Samson Szakacsy
and Chasen Stangel are hoping to close the gap on
Sullivan. The 6-3, 195-pound Szakacsy is the most athletic of
the quarterbacks, but needs work on his passing game.
At 6-0 and 209 pounds, Stangel lacks ideal size, but is a
polished passer and a good fit for the offense. Jack Elway,
the son of John Elway, joins the team in the summer.
Watch Out For… Carpenter to go out with a bang. A
second season with Erickson’s coaching staff, a maturing
receiving corps, and a less vanilla offense all point to the
quarterback’s most productive season yet in Tempe.
Strength: Carpenter. USC aside, no Pac-10 program
has a more stable situation at quarterback than Arizona State.
If Carpenter can tighten up the little things in his game and
get an extra tick or two to throw, he’ll challenge for First
Team All-Pac-10 honors.
Weakness: Consistency. Even after three years as
the starter, Carpenter isn’t a finished product. He’s still
prone to forcing passes or putting them up for grabs and needs
to know when to dial down the intensity a notch or two.
Outlook: Bank on a strong finale from Carpenter,
who’ll have a little more zip on his passes after undergoing
surgery in April on his right thumb. The receiving corps has
grown up over the past year, which will also benefit the
quarterback. If the offensive line follows the same trajectory,
a number of ASU passing records are going to fall.
A mid-season injury to Ryan Torain forced the Sun Devils to use
multiple backs, which will benefit the 2008 squad. Senior
Keegan Herring shined in a starting role, dashing for 815
yards and five touchdowns on 154 carries. Even better days may
lie ahead for a player who’s persevered through injuries and
personal tragedy to finally become the program’s every-down
back. At 5-10 and 195 pounds, he’s an exciting and explosive
slasher who’s averaged more than five yards a carry in each of
his three seasons in Tempe. In anticipation of a busier
workload, he’s added 10 pounds of muscle, yet hasn’t lost a step
Projected Top Reserves: Competing with Herring for
playing time is 5-10, 220-pound junior Dmitri Nance, a
compact, powerful runner who cranked out 500 yards and seven
touchdowns on 133 carries. The Sun Devils’ best option in short
yardage, he’s also a solid pass protector and pass catcher, two
can’t-miss ways to get more playing time in this offense.
Battling for the No. 3 slot on the depth chart are juniors
Jarell Woods and Shaun DeWitty. A former junior
college transfer, Woods sat out most of the regular season
recovering from an injury. Now healthy, the 5-10, 212-pounder
was able to turn heads throughout the spring session.
At 6-2 and 227 pounds, DeWitty has a tantalizing combination of
power, quickness, and soft hands, but has had trouble getting on
the field. He redshirted last season, earning Scout Team Player
of the Year honors.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman Ryan Bass.
Even in a deep and veteran backfield, it might be hard to keep
Bass out of the huddle. One of the nation’s most coveted
all-purpose backs, he has breakaway speed and outstanding vision
in the open field.
Strength: Depth. Sure, Torain will be missed, but
in his wake, the Sun Devils have a pair of backs with starting
experience and a couple of juniors capable of giving them
frequent breathers. Torain’s injury forced Herring and Nance to
log more than 100 carries in 2007, an unexpected bonus for the
Weakness: Pass protection. In light of the beating
QB Rudy Carpenter endured a year ago, all of the backs are being
challenged to improve their blocking skills. On obvious
throwing downs, it’s incumbent upon the backs to act as a sixth
linemen and get a hat on one the hard-charging defenders.
Outlook: Provided health problems don’t crop up,
Arizona State is in good shape in the backfield, flashing a good
blend of shifty gamebreakers and 220-pound pile-drivers. Now
that he’s finally the feature back, Herring is poised for an
All-Pac-10 season that captures the attention of NFL scouts.
Projected Starters: The Sun Devils lost little
from a receiving corps that’s in far better shape today than it
was last summer. Led by junior Chris McGaha and senior
Michael Jones, three of last year’s top four pass catchers
McGaha is the team’s Z receiver, a 6-1, 193-pounder who gets the
most looks from Rudy Carpenter on third down. A terrific route
runner with great hands and the wheels to get behind the
secondary, he led the Devils with 61 receptions for 830 yards
and a touchdown.
Jones is the team’s best deep threat, a 6-4, 203-pound rising
star who averaged almost 17 yards a catch in his second season
as a starter. A two-sport athlete who also plays centerfield on
the baseball team, he had 46 catches for 769 catches and 10
touchdowns from the X position, often beating opposing defensive
backs with his blend of size, speed, and leaping ability.
Now that Arizona State has run out of Millers to play tight end,
senior Dane Guthrie is poised to take over the position.
A former Florida transfer who played defensive end a year ago,
he has the 6-3, 275-pound size to contribute as a receiver and
as a drive blocker in the running game.
Projected Top Reserves: The Devils’ top reserve
and most lethal option from the slot is 5-10, 185-pound junior
Kyle Williams. Difficult to contain in the open field, he
broke through as a sophomore with 29 catches for 360 yards and
As valuable as Williams was last season, he’s getting pushed
hard for playing time by sophomore Kerry Taylor, an
emerging talent who was considered too gifted to redshirt in
2007. Polished beyond his years at the little things, such as
getting separation and running routes, he’s prepared to blow
past last year’s eight catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Although he’s struggled with injuries throughout much of his
career, 6-1, 208-pound senior Nate Kimbrough brings a
veteran presence and good speed to the passing game. He caught
just five passes in 10 games last fall, pushing his career
totals to 27 catches for 367 yards and two scores.
Battling for playing time at the X is junior Brandon Smith,
a raw pass-catcher who might have the best combination of size
and speed. At 6-2 and 213 pounds with tremendous wheels, he has
a unique blend that’ll be hard for the coaching staff to ignore.
Watch Out For… more use of four-wide receiver
sets. The Sun Devils are looking to open things up on offense,
and now have the depth at receiver to unlock a few new areas of
the playbook. The spread will be making its way to Tempe, with
Jones, McGaha, Williams, and Taylor getting on the field at the
Strength: Athleticism. The corps is comprised of a
bunch of terrific athletes who can stretch a secondary with its
speed and can get elevation to make acrobatic grabs. Purely in
terms of athletic ability, they receivers are among the most
gifted in the Pac-10.
Weakness: Lack of a physical presence. The Sun
Devils are brimming with finesse, but don’t have any physical
receivers capable of bullying opposing secondaries. That could
change, however, with the arrival of Gerell Robinson, the
6-4, 210-pound recruit who fielded offers from major schools
Outlook: Carpenter will have no shortage of
reliable targets to work with. Jones and McGaha both have
All-Pac-10 potential, while Taylor is an emerging talent who’ll
demand more looks as he matures. If Robinson proves to be a
quick learn, the Sun Devils will go three-deep with playmaking
receivers who can pick up big chunks of yards after the catch.
Projected Starters: No unit on Arizona State needs
to step it up more than the offensive line, which allowed more
sacks than all but one team in the country and will be replacing
three senior starters. The most experienced starter is massive
senior Paul Fanaika, who’ll be back at right guard for a
third straight year. A former walk-on, the 6-6, 336-pounder is a
devastating run blocker who has earned All-Pac-10 honorable
mention the last two seasons.
At left guard will be 6-4, 300-pound junior Shawn Lauvao,
who fought his way into the lineup and started nine games a year
ago. A solid run blocker with great upper body strength, he also
brings a lot of emotion and intensity to the Sun Devil interior.
The biggest loss will be felt at center, where the program needs
to replace current Indianapolis Colt Mike Pollak. Heading into
the summer, 6-2, 300-pound junior Thomas Altieri holds a
slight edge over 6-0, 305-pound redshirt freshman Garth
Gerhart. Highly regarded coming out of high school, he’s a
no-nonsense lineman who took the majority of the snaps with the
first team in the spring. Gerhart, however, has not folded,
staying within range of the top spot with a great work ethic and
a willingness to learn the position.
After 19 games of experience as a reserve, junior Richard
Tuitu’u is preparing to take over the starting job at right
tackle. A 6-4, 353-pound behemoth, he’ll hold his own at the
point of attack, but needs to prove he has the footwork and the
mechanics to seal off rushers trying to get their mitts on the
At left tackle, all eyes will be on Jon Hargis, who’s
attempting to make the transition from defensive tackle to one
of the most important spots on the offense. While there’ll be a
natural learning curve for the 6-4, 310-pound sophomore, he
showed the strength and whistle-to-whistle intensity that bodes
well for his future.
Projected Top Reserves: Trying to keep Hargis out
of the starting lineup will be junior Tom Njunge, a 6-5,
280-pound transfer from Pasadena City College. Coveted for his
ability to prevent sacks, he’s a good fit for a program that’s
desperate for quality pass protectors.
Redshirt freshman Matt Hustad spent much of April
solidifying his spot as the Sun Devils’ best option off the
bench at guard. At 6-4 and 275, he needs to add more weight, but
is considered one of the most fluid athletes among the offensive
Watch Out For… Arizona State to use more screens
and simplified schemes to keep Carpenter on his feet. The
offense will have to get creative to compensate for the rebuilt
line, which will also mean quicker drops and forcing Carpenter
to release the ball with a greater sense of urgency.
Strength: The guards. Fanaika and Lauvao are a
couple of formidable building blocks who are experienced and
capable of creating for running room for the Sun Devils’ stable
Weakness: The tackles. Potentially the weakest
link on the team, Arizona State has had problems protecting the
passer over the past few seasons. Now, it’ll try to improve with
two new starters, one who played on the other side of the ball
as a freshman. Watch your back, Rudy.
Outlook: The Sun Devils have tinkered with their
offense in the offseason in an effort to reduce the number of
hits Carpenter takes. That’s a sign the coaching staff has no
confidence putting the offensive line in a conventional setting.
The guards will be fine, but Pollak’s departure from the pivot
will be felt, and the tackles will be liabilities against the
league’s better pass rushers.