2009 CFN Arizona State Preview
Arizona State DT Lawrence Guy
Arizona State DT Lawrence Guy
Posted May 16, 2009

After a dud of a second year in under head coach Dennis Erickson, can ASU get back on track? The offense will be interesting and Lawrence Guy and the defense will be ultra-athletic, but now it has to translate into more wins. Check out the CFN Arizona State preview.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Preview 2009

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By Richard Cirminiello

- 2009 CFN Arizona State Preview | 2009 ASU Offense
- 2009 ASU Defense
| 2009 ASU Depth Chart
- 2008 ASU Preview | 2007 ASU Preview
| 2006 ASU Preview

Head coach: Dennis Erickson
3rd year at ASU: 15-9
21st year overall: 163-75-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 24, ST 21
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best ASU Players
DE Dexter Davis, Sr.
2. DT Lawrence Guy, Soph.
3. LB Mike Nixon, Sr.
4. OT Shawn Lauvao, Sr.
5. CB Omar Bolden, Jr.
6. P/PK Thomas Weber, Jr.
7. LB Travis Goethel, Sr.
8. WR Chris McGaha, Sr.
9. WR Kyle Williams, Sr.
10. CB Terell Carr, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Idaho State
9/19 UL Monroe
9/26 at Georgia
10/3 Oregon State
10/10  at Washington St
10/17 Washington
10/24 at Stanford
10/31 California
11/7 USC
11/14 at Oregon
11/21 at UCLA
11/28 Arizona

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 5-

8/30 No. Arizona W 30-13
9/6 Stanford W 41-17
9/13 UNLV L 23-20 OT
9/20 Georgia L 27-10
10/4 at California L 24-14
10/11 at USC L 28-0
10/25 Oregon L 54-20
11/1 at Oregon St L 27-25
11/8 at Wash. W 39-19
11/15 Wash St W 31-0
11/28 UCLA W 34-9
12/6 at Arizona

If it’s true that you should always go out on a high note, maybe Dennis Erickson should have resigned after Year 1 in Tempe.

After raising the bar with 10 wins in his first season with the program, Erickson and the Sun Devils plummeted to a disappointing 5-7 campaign that included a six-game losing streak, an inexcusable home loss to UNLV, and a bowl-less postseason for the first time since 2003. Did Arizona State overachieve in 2007 or underachieve in 2008?

While there’s no doubt that Erickson and his staff have had a positive impact on the program, especially in the area of recruiting, the Sun Devils can’t afford another losing season; not after how they played last season, failing to beat an FCS team with a winning record and regressing unexpectedly on offense. To get back to the postseason, however, Erickson will need to pull a few tricks from his sleeve and tap into his extensive background of success as an offensive innovator.

The defense, with Dexter Davis and Lawrence Guy, controlling the line, is underrated and will be better than it’s been in the last few years. The special teams should be solid overall, and they have Thomas Weber, one of the nation’s premier kickers. So with everything solid, ground zero for the fate of the 2009 team rests squarely with an offense that’s breaking in a new quarterback, can’t run the ball, and has been hideous in the trenches. If things don’t improve on that side of the ball, ASU will again be scrambling for bowl eligibility in November.

So where is Arizona State these days? It’s not the team that won 10 games two years ago and looked ready to make USC sweat in the Pac-10. It certainly shouldn’t be the team that won five games and went two months without a victory during a humbling stretch a year ago. There’s too much talent for that kind of a repeat. The Sun Devils are somewhere in between, depending on the strides the offense can make between today and the opener with Idaho State.       

What to watch for on offense: The competition at quarterback. Rudy Carpenter is gone, taking a streak of 43 straight starts with him. Arizona State benefited from No. 12’s toughness and durability…until now. Over the past few years, no one else has gotten meaningful reps, putting the position in somewhat of a precarious situation. Fifth-year senior Danny Sullivan is the front-runner, having been the backup the last two seasons and coming off a sharp spring. However, he still needs to close the deal. Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is a much better athlete and an intriguing option as elements of the zone-read option are installed. And true freshman Brock Osweiler has already exceeded expectations in his first spring with the program.

What to watch for on defense: Omar Bolden. In a season to be excited about the Sun Devil, Bolden was one of the few disappointments. Following a Freshman All-American debut, the corner slumped as a sophomore, lacking consistency and allowing receivers to get behind him. The parts are in place for this to be one of the stingiest Arizona State defenses in well over a decade. However, the pass defense is susceptible to breakdowns, the one pressing weakness on the unit. If, however, Bolden can tap into his old form and lock down the other team’s best receiver, it’s going to be awfully tough navigating this Devil D.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line does an about-face from one of the worst two-year stretches in school history. If Arizona State is going to turn things around from last year, the offense has to do better than 100th nationally in total production. And if the offense is going to improve, the line absolutely, positively must give more time to the quarterbacks and open some holes for the backs. There is talent at running back and wide receiver, but you’ll never know it if it’s constantly being swarmed by opposing tacklers.

The Schedule
The season starts out nice and easy with Idaho State, a week off and UL Monroe, but the layups are forgivable with a trip to Georgia for the last game in September. ASU gets a nice break with four conference road games with only one of them, at Oregon, against a team that went to a bowl. There's only one two-week road trip going to Oregon and UCLA in mid-November. Before the trip to Eugene there are big home games against Cal and USC which will likely make-or-break the Pac 10 season. Getting Oregon State at home in the Pac 10 opener isn't bad.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OL Shawn Lauvao. He’s not just the best offensive player in Tempe, but he’s also one of the most important members of the unit. After starting 21 games at guard, he’s making the move to left tackle in an effort to solidify the program’s weakest link. Nasty at the point of attack and quicker than most assume, he’s headed to a spot on the All-Pac-10 squad in his final season of eligibility.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Dexter Davis. Maybe he has to play outside linebacker on Sundays, but for now, he’s a dynamite defensive end and one of the best pure pass rushers in America. Davis enters the 2009 season with a thick resume that includes 39 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks, and eight forced fumbles. If he’s not accounted for at all times, he has the burst and finishing speed to blow up the other team’s gameplan. 

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Danny Sullivan. Although no one is asking him to be Jake Plummer in his final season of eligibility, he does have to bring some stability to a position that loses four-year starter Rudy Carpenter. The biggest problem in Tempe is the play of the offense, and Sullivan will get his first chance in five years to light the fuse and maximize the potential of a decent set of skill position players.

The season will be a success if ... Arizona State has a winning year and sneaks back into the bowl season. After slipping to 5-7 and enduring a dreadful six-game losing streak in the middle of 2008, anything more than seven wins would have to be labeled a success, especially considering the deep problems facing the offense. If the Sun Devils can play a 13th game, it’ll at least be able to stop the bleeding.

Key game: Nov. 28 vs. Arizona. Plenty will be at stake when the Wildcats visit on the final weekend of the regular season. Of course, it’s a rivalry game, and the Sun Devils will have revenge on their minds after getting swamped in Tucson, 31-10, in a game that kept them out of the postseason. Plus, with ASU likely to hover around the .500 mark all year, this might once again be the swing game for bowl eligibility.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Arizona State 1st quarter score: 22 - Arizona State 2nd quarter score: 110
- Rushing touchdowns: Opponents 12 - Arizona State 7
- 3rd down conversion percentage: Opponents 38% (67-of-176) - Arizona State 29% (47-of-160)