WR Derek Hagan
Following a successful 2004 campaign (9-3 and a Sun Bowl win), the Arizona State Sun Devils football team will begin its annual spring practice on Monday. New faces on the field and even on the sidelines will be the staple of this year’s 15-practice session. DevilsDigest breaks down each and every position, reports on injured players, and predicts which players fans should keep their eye on for the next four weeks.
Starters returning in 2005: 9
Key Injuries: TE Zach Miller, RB Randy Hill, WR Terry Richardson, WR Moey Mutz, WR Matt Miller, OL Brandon Rodd.
Player to watch this spring: Rudy Burgess. Burgess isn’t necessarily involved in a major position battle at one spot but will be utilized at several positions (WR, RB, Special Teams) to take advantage of his athleticism. Burgess has also added 10 pounds to his frame that, hopefully, can increase his durability.
Andrew Walter’s departure has left the starting quarterback spot open, however, Sam Keller is penciled in as the starter at this time. Keller nearly led the Devils back from a two-touchdown deficit in the Arizona game and had a spectacular outing in the Sun Bowl. Rudy Carpenter will be looking to make a serious push of his own this spring to at least come away with the back-up role. However, Chad Christensen will be a senior and likely won’t give up the #2 spot without a fight.
The biggest news coming from the line is the move of Grayling Love to the interior at Center, taking over for the departed Drew Hodgdon. Stephen Berg and Zach Krula are anchors at the Guard spots. The right tackle position is manned by Andrew Carnahan. The combination of those 4 seemed to work well toward the end of last season but there is bound to be more reshuffling on the horizon.
Brandon Rodd is still recovering from a torn ACL last September but is bound to be in the mix this fall if recovery goes as planned. Mike Pollak also got some valuable time in 2004 at center so keep an eye on him as to where he lands on the depth chart. Chaz White will be a senior and will be gunning for some time off the bench. Leo Talavou reported last season at 377 pounds and has lost some weight while redshirting. He’s another guy that can move well for a big man and will be pushing for some looks at guard. Bradis McGriff and Julius Orieukwu will get time this spring at the tackle spots to push for minutes this fall, with the former having an excellent chance to make a splash in the spring. Much like Rodd, Ryan Sorensen and Jonathan Lehmann are out due to injury,
Receiver is one of the more injury riddled positions this spring next to Cornerback. The only starter full strength for spring drills is Derek Hagan. Despite Hagan's starting spot being firmly entrenched, it is a significant benefit for him to continue and work on timing routes with Keller and Carpenter at QB.
With Terry Richardson, Moey Mutz, and Matt Miller all out or seeing very limited duty, a golden opportunity awaits a couple of young receivers coming off redshirt seasons. Following rave reviews on the scout team, Nathan Kimbrough will be getting more balls thrown to him from Sam Keller. Michael Jones should not be forgotten about either with a sound size and speed combination that he can add to the depth at this position. Rudy Burgess will also be getting reps with this group. After fans have already seen his moves in the backfield, they’ll be great anticipation as to what he has in-store in this role.
All-American Zach Miller's absence allows for more reps to the younger guys like Andrew Pettes and Tyrice Thompson. Lee Burghgraef remains a starter, while Jamaal Lewis will be looking to make more strides in his pleasant progression here. Brent Miller has also advanced nicely and will be building his repertoire to breakout next spring when Burghgraef and his blocking will no longer be around.
Loren Wade makes his return to the team after a nine-game suspension last season. Wade is allowed to practice but his firm status is still up in the air with the NCAA and will be awaiting word in the future if more games are to be added to the suspension. Rudy Burgess will see some time at tailback again while converted linebacker Antone Saulsberry remains here as well. Randy Hill, Preston Jones, and Cornell Canidate's injuries still beleaguer the backfield, and it seems as though we won't have a true read on the ground game and the depth chart until fall. Price Wilks will finally get a serious look after redshirting last season. Jarrett Sayas will also add depth after sitting out from a transfer.
Starters returning in 2005: 6
Key Injuries: CB R.J. Oliver, CB Josh Golden, CB Chad Green, S Josh Barrett
Player to watch this spring: Kellen Mills. Mills went from a walk-on at the now defunct fullback position to a defensive end. With Ishmael Thrower gone, Mills is a player that the staff is hoping to strike gold with up front, much like they did with Jordan Hill's move to defensive tackle. He played DE on the scout team in the fall and his performance was well received.
Kyle Caldwell at defensive end and Jordan Hill (now at 285 pounds) at defensive tackle are both returning and will be candidates for All-Conference honors this fall. That leaves one spot on the interior open and one at end. DeWayne Hollyfield could really be used at tackle but will be lining up at end this spring. His knowledge of both spots could be useful in the fall when bodies become scarce due to injury or fatigue. Kellen Mills and Mike Talbot will also be vying for time at DE, with Mills having the early inside track. Wes Evans needed some time in the weight room while cutting his teeth on the scout team but will be looking for minutes, as well with DE being a little thin depth-wise. David Smith is another young defensive end who will try and make a name for himself in the spring.
Quency Darley looks to be the leading candidate to fill Jimmy Verdon's spot at tackle right now but things may change with the arrival of JC transfer Shannon Jones in August. JC Transfer Will Kofe is on board this spring and will be vying for the spot as well. Tashaka Merriweather and Brett Palmer will be sophomores this year. Palmer needs to have a decent showing this spring in order to avoid being lost on the depth chart.
Dale Robinson has moved to middle linebacker while Jamar Williams will remain on the outside and Matt Fawley, back from a team rules violation suspension, is penciled in at the Devil backer spot. Fawley was originally slated to be a starter at that same position in the new 4-3 scheme heading into fall camp last year before being suspended.
JC transfer Beau Manutai will be looking to back up Robinson at the middle spot. DeAndre Johnson and Mark Washington will be pushing for time and both come in with some brief experience. Robert James and Adam Vincent round out the rich depth at linebacker.
Converted cornerback Emmanuel Franklin is back for another year after a surprising emergence at Safety in 2004. Riccardo Stewart is gone at the other safety spot, and JC transfer Zach Catanese is looking to entrench himself in that role. He’ll have to fend off Josh Barrett, who saw plenty of time last season, in the fall after. Barrett’s injury will give Catanese and other inexperienced players much-needed exposure.
Maurice London saw limited action last season and will be a senior this fall. London could be considered a dark horse if he makes the Junior-to-Senior year progression many JC guys make in their final year. Angelo Fobbs-Valentino and Daniel Varvel are two talented players that will make cases for themselves as well. Jeremy Payton has moved from wide receiver to safety, and will be eager to prove that this transition was a beneficial one.
Probably the most ailing position of all this spring for ASU. Josh Golden,R.J. Oliver, and Chad Green are all out, leaving the position extremely undermanned and inexperienced. Mike Davis is the lone corner with significant playing time under his belt suiting up this spring. Myrio Davis moved from safety to corner and will be getting quite a bit of reps in the next few weeks at the other corner spot. Talented redshirt freshman Uriah Marshall is the third candidate looking to emerge from the group. With such an understaffed unit, a walk-on like Littrele Jones is bound to get several snaps in the spring.
Kicker Jesse Ainsworth, punter Chris MacDonald, and long snapper Jason Burke are all secure in their positions, and shouldn’t face any serious competition in the spring. Ainsworth will look to regain his confidence in his field goal kicking, while MacDonald will try and improve his directional punting, which should aid a maligned punt unit. Keep an eye on Kimbrough who will join Burgess and Richardson as a returner.