We are officially 17 days away from opening Sun Devil football season, which will mostly consist of smacking Weber St. all the way back to Ogden, Utah. While the defense has gotten less than rave reviews (damn JUCO's and their lack of interest in real college), our baby-Oregon offense has been immensely praised across every corner of the internet, starting with claims of TK10 being a dark horse Heisman candidate to Jaelen Strong developing into the next Brandon Marshall. Adam Kramer of B/R even went as far to say, "... this team is going to score a million points." So without further ado, here's a full breakdown of that potent offense you've heard so much about...
Starting Quarterback: Taylor Kelly #10
6'2" 211 lbs, Redshirt Senior
2013 Passing: 3635 Yards, 28 TD's, 62.4% Comp. Pct.
I mean considering he is the focal point of the ASU Offense and the center of my immense, irrational hatred, I think it's only appropriate we start with our good "friend" Taylor Kelly. Look, Taylor Kelly will go down as one of the best Sun Devil quarterbacks since Jake Plummer, there's no disputing that... but, I've been regularly disappointed by TK10 over the past couple years. Routes over 15 yards (besides his constant back shoulder fade connection with Jaelen) are a coin flip at their absolute best. The running aspect of his dual threat nature I feel leaves a lot to be desired (AKA sometimes "runs like a gazelle" isn't the greatest thing to have on your scouting report). His game managing (maybe the best in the PAC-12) seems to be handicapped by either CTG's lack of trust or controlling nature in our home boy Tay. Specifically during the PAC-12 Championship game, Stanford would load the box with 7+ without so much as a line audible coming from TK10 causing himself to spill out of the pocket in classic Jake "The Snake" fashion.
Despite the short comings in those departments, Taylor has established himself as one of the most productive QB's on the west coast and in Arizona State history. Hopefully with a clear #1 wide receiver/deep threat and another off-season of honing his knowledge/talents, Taylor Kelly can break free from those bad habits that held him back last year. Basically for Taylor to become an elite quarterback, he needs to either a. be allowed to call his own audibles at the line or b. learn how to read a defense. Seriously, the quarterback who's been in your system for 2 full seasons should be calling his own protections Todd. Lay off you quarter-zip, Madonna mic wearing control freak. (Also, learn to throw a post route.)
**2014 Passing Projections: 4,018 yards, 34 TD's**
Starting Halfback: DJ Foster #8
5'11" 203 lbs, Junior
2013 Rushing: 523 yards, 6 TD's
Ah, now to the most underrated member of the Sun Devil offense, Freshman All-American DJ Foster. With Grice gone, it's finally time for DJ to take center stage in a Sun Devil offense that I believe he should have ruled a year ago. Freshman year, DJ Foster looked like a speedster with great hands. Last year, DJ noticeably bulked up and seemed very willing to lower his shoulder to bang with the hog mollies down in the trenches. If you'd like to question his toughness, let me refer you to the Holiday Bowl game tape where DJ seemed to be the hardest working player on the field... on only one leg.
So let's recap; DJ has that 5th gear Marion Grice lacked, the same physical temperament, better hands and a crazy competitive mindset unrivaled by many NCAA players who get paid under the table (looking at you 'Bama). Deantre Lewis will steal some carries, but DJ WILL get his touches.
**2014 Rushing Projections: 1,117 yards, 15 TD's**
Starting #1 Wide Reciever: Jaelen Strong #21
6' 3" 212 lbs, Redshirt Junior
2013 Recieving: 75 rec, 1122 yards, 7 TD's
The "Best Kept Secret" of the PAC-12 returns for his junior year after CTG raised him from the JUCO bottomless pit to dark horse Biletnikoff Award candidate. The Brandon Marshall comparison is easily the most accurate; a big physical wide receiver who knows how to impose his will on much smaller corners to get the ball at its highest point. The only real question is, with the "Best Kept Secret" let out of the bag, does Jaelen hit a Marquise Lee-esquee slump with teams slanting their zones and double teams in his direction? Expect grabs to go up and big plays to fall. Any defensive coordinator that lets Jaelen beat them over the top needs to be fired on the spot and left on a LAX tarmac (Lane Kiffin jokes will never not be funny). Expect a lot of Man Under looks sent Jaelen's way. Buckle your chinstrap kid, those slant routes can be hazardous for your health.
**2014 Receiving Projections: 87 rec, 1014 yards, 8 TD's**
Three men, an offense does not make. Let's just take a quick look at some other members of the ASU offense who will make a cameo or two over the season.
#25 Deantre Lewis (RB) - Deantre is that pretty girl at the dance; every year you get your hopes up and every year you get your heart broken. With only a year's time left, hopefully he can flash that potential from 2010. And if not...
#7 Kyle Middlebrooks (RB/WR) - Enter Kyle Middlebrooks. Total wild card here; the senior running back switched to wide receiver when CTG hit the scene in 2012 and spent 2013 on a redshirt. Considering Lewis' and Middlebrooks' similar skill sets, expect the number two HB spot to be an open battle in camp.
#5 Manny Wilkins (QB) - Manny Wilkins came in and kicked the Tempe Twittosphere in the teeth, exciting Sun Devil fans local and far. While he
could will end up as a freshman redshirt causality (barring some bad luck under center), Manny seems like the heir apparent to the Sun Devil QB throne after TK10 rides off into the sunset.
#3 Coltin Gerhart (QB) - With 'Manny Being Manny' coming in and stealing the freshman quarterback thunder, young Coltin was relatively forgotten, but may be the only freshman QB to enter the season WITHOUT a redshirt. Remember those goal line power packages Michael Eubank ran every other week? Coltin seems to have the size and skill set to take the role by storm. Using a year of eligibility on a seldom run package might seem wasteful, but if Manny Wilkins is in fact the heir apparent, it's a viable option to add some depth in the playbook and at QB.
#12 De'Marieya Nelson (FB/TE) - A more blocking oriented, larger Chris Coyle who surprised me in particular when he was added to the Mackey Award (top tight end) watch list. Come December, maybe I regret not doing a full expose on the relatively unknown end.
#88 Grant Martinez (TE) - The redshirt freshman will have to work for his snaps in practice, but with little proven depth at the end/receiver position and CTG's liberal use of 2 end sets, Grant could factor in for a key block or catch now and again.
#14 Eric Lauderdale (WR) - While fellow wide receiver Gary Chambers has a leg up in years under CTG, the JUCO transfer is a lanky speedster who will thrive with teams focusing their efforts on slowing down Jaelen. He may be stuck doing dirty work over the middle, but don't be surprised if his big play-making ability shows up on the occasional 9 route.