The Arizona State Sun Devils
Last season's record: 6-6
Returning starters/letterwinners: 19/51
CB Omar Bolden – it remains to be seen whether the senior can rehab his torn ACL suffered in April in time to make a return later in the fall. Bolden himself is skeptical of his chances which makes the ASU secondary very suspect to say the least coming into the 2011 season. Bolden paced the corners with 52 tackles and three interceptions.
DL Lawrence Guy – led all ASU defensive linemen with 41 tackles and was one of the mainstays of the Sun Devil defense. Was a significant reason why the ASU defense was so adept against the run in 2010.
WR T.J. Simpson – much like Simpson another torn ACL spring victim. Was third among all wide receivers with 481 yards and his versatility to play all four wide receiver roles was probably his biggest asset.
QB Brock Osweiler – even though he started just one contest, the last game of the season, and played significantly in just one more game aside from that, much is expected from the junior signal caller. With last year’s starter Steven Threet retiring due to concussions, Osweiler will need to capitalize on the momentum he enjoyed late in 2010 to lead the offense to even a more productive year.
RB Cameron Marshall - led the Sun Devils with nine rushing touchdowns and 787 rushing yards. After carrying the ball just 150 times in 12 games last year, the junior figures to be even a bigger part of ASU’s offense in 2011.
LB Vontaze Burfict – not only the best linebacker in the conference but one of the best in his position in the nation. Paced the ASU defense with 90 tackles and is the unquestionable leader of this defense. A fast linebacker who is known for his punishing hits, Burfict is naturally the focal point of every offensive coordinator preparing for the Sun Devil defense.
Best game: vs. Missouri September 9th. ASU faces one of its toughest opponents in 2011 in just the second game of the season. A win over a Top 25 team this early in the campaign could prove to the Sun Devils and its foes that this team, unlike last year, may just be ready to turn the corner and learn to win against a formidable opponent. It would be hard to imagine a very successful season without a win versus the Tigers.
Projected finish: 9-3.
Outlook: There is certainly enough talent and experience on this Arizona State team to make a strong statement this season. The first half of the schedule is far more challenging than the last six games, but having seven home games can help negate that challenge. Everyone in Tempe is feeling the pressure to succeed this year and this sense of urgency should ultimately serve this team well.