U mad? Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils speaks at a press conference introducing him as the new head football coach at Sun Devil Stadium on December 14, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A lot has changed since we last saw Arizona State...
In A Nutshell: Think of everything you can remember about Arizona State last year. Now forget it all. New coach, new quarterback, new receiving corps, new offensive line, new linebacking corps. I don't expect big things from ASU this year, but technically there are enough unknowns to make them a team of high variance.
Most Impressive Unit: Running Back.
|Cameron Marshall||TB||5'11, 223||Sr.||*** (5.6)||230||1,050||4.6||1.8||18||+18.3|
|Deantre Lewis (2010^)||TB||5'10, 193||So.||**** (5.8)||92||539||5.9||2.4||4||+1.8|
|Kyle Middlebrooks||TB||5'8, 182||Jr.||*** (5.6)||42||150||3.6||1.1||0||-7.6|
|Jamal Miles||WR-Z||5'10, 180||Sr.||**** (5.8)||29||237||8.2||4.4||0||+2.5|
|Marcus Washington||HB||5'11, 224||So.||*** (5.7)||13||41||3.2||0.5||1||-0.8|
|James Morrison||TB||5'11, 213||Sr.||NR||11||59||5.4||1.4||1||+1.2|
|Marlon Grice||TB||6'0, 215||Jr.||**** (5.9)|
|D.J. Foster||TB||5'11, 190||Fr.||**** (5.9)|
Todd Graham will utilize the spread-to-run as much as he possibly can, and with a really, really deep set of running backs he might be able to do just that. His quarterbacks have combined to throw seven career passes, and he has to replace three of ASU's top four receivers last year (and four of six), but he's got himself some backs, that's for sure.
Least Impressive Unit: Offensive line.
|Garth Gerhart||C||35 career starts, 2011 2nd All-Pac-12|
|Dan Knapp||RT||28 career starts|
|Andrew Sampson||RG||6'3, 300||Sr.||*** (5.6)||22 career starts|
|Mike Marcisz||LG||21 career starts|
|Evan Finkenberg||LT||6'6, 292||Jr.||*** (5.6)||20 career starts|
|Adam Tello||LG||9 career starts|
|Aderious Simmons||RT||9 career starts|
|Tyler Sulka||RT||6'4, 270||So.||** (5.4)||1 career start|
|Jamil Douglas||LG||6'4, 284||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Sil Ajawara||LG||6'3, 297||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Brice Schwab||RT||6'7, 303||Sr.||**** (5.9)|
|Kyle Johnson||LT||6'7, 284||Sr.||*** (5.6)|
|Kody Koebensky||C||6'4, 294||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Mo Latu||C||6'3, 336||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Vi Teofilo||RG||6'3, 306||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|William McGehee||OL||6'5, 310||So.||** (5.3)|
|Evan Goodman||OL||6'4, 290||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
That's right, ASU has the same most/least impressive units as UCF. I went with offensive line instead of one of the other three rebuilt units (QB, WR, LB), simply because a good line can help significantly with the new passing game. But while there are a few former four-star recruits on this list, a) this line wasn't very good to begin with last year, and b) losing 102 of your 145 career starts is a lot. (Of course, Mizzou must replace quite a few career starts, too, and I'm only marginally worried about that, so...)
From a national perspective, most of the words written about Todd Graham in the last six months have been focused on a narrative that has little to do with his actual coaching ability. That's both self-inflicted and a shame, as he has put together a stellar run of offensive, and overall, success. His 12 months in Pittsburgh were not particularly impressive, but despite his background as a former defensive assistant (defensive coordinator at West Virginia in 2002 and Tulsa from 2003-05), he has put mostly strong offenses on the field. In his only year as Rice's head coach, his Owls improved from 92nd to 61st in Off. S&P+, then regressed to 73rd in his absence; and in four years at Tulsa, only one of his offenses ranked worse than 26th in Off. F/+. He found a square-peg-round-hole issue at Pitt, but his offensive philosophy, and that of his young coordinator Mike Norvell, should fit well with the personnel they have found in Tempe.
Though he will still wing the ball around when he has to, Graham's version of the spread has focused more on the run than other versions. Tulsa's 2008 offense was spectacularly weird in this regard: the Golden Hurricane ran the ball 71 percent of the time on standard downs (ninth-most in the country) but ran just 27 percent of the time on passing downs (84th); in 2009, the script flipped -- Tulsa ran 57 percent on standard downs (77th) and 35 percent on passing downs (45th). It seems he and young offensive coordinator Mike Norvell will attempt whatever the personnel allows them to attempt. If so, expect a heavy dose of standard downs rushing from ASU in 2012. Because the Sun Devils might have the best backfield in the Pac-12 (this side of Eugene, at least), and one of the best in ASU history. […]
Setting expectations in the first year of a new coaching regime is always difficult, but the schedule may have set the bar for ASU fans in 2012. ASU is initially favored in just a single game this fall, with one other game a pick 'em and three others with a spread of 2.5 points or fewer. Some of the lines (plus-1.5 at home versus Washington State, plus-2.5 at home versus UCLA, and plus-1.5 at Colorado, to name three) are questionable, however. A bowl game might be a stretch, but I'll set the bar at five wins instead of, you know, one.
Todd Graham is quickly making his mark on the Arizona State program. Almost every Arizona State defender lost weight this offseason, which melds well with the thought of him bringing more speed to the table on the defensive side of the ball; plus, Graham signed eight junior college transfers. He has no interest in taking on a three-year (or more) rebuilding project, and that's good because Arizona State doesn't need that much rebuilding. Despite low 2012 expectations, the Sun Devils should still have a strong run game and a solid pass defense. If karma takes it easy on the Sun Devils, a bowl in 2012 is still a reachable goal, a 2013 squad that returns about 15 starters or so could do very good things.
Not much, as far as I can tell. According to House Of Sparky, it doesn't appear there have been any major injuries of which to speak. Taylor Kelly appears to be the leader in the starting quarterback race, but that's about it.
Like everybody else, I was rather appalled by the way Todd Graham moved from Pittsburgh to Arizona State a) after one year and b) informing his players via text message. His offseason P.R. campaign really did nothing for me either. But people's opinions of him don't really matter. He's a solid coach, and if he gets buy-in from his players, that's all that counts. He has a chance to build something relatively impressive in the desert ... but I don't expect much from the Sun Devils in 2012. Not at all. Too much turnover, too much inexperience in key spots. ASU visits one week after the Georgia game, so there's always a chance for a Mizzou hangover, but I doubt it. I'll call for a pretty comfortable Mizzou win ... and quietly thank the stars that this series doesn't continue in the future.