Following consecutive double digit win seasons and an NFL Draft with four players selected (the most taken since Coach Todd Graham's arrival), one would think Arizona State might be in for a rebuilding year. However with 12 returning starters, an impressive amount of young talent and a quarterback who seems ready for the spotlight, things are looking A-OK for ASU. With Strong, Kelly and Randall not coming back through the door, look for the following five gentleman, ASU's best five players, to play an integral role in the maroon and gold's success next season.
5. DJ Calhoun - LB (Sophomore)
The competition to round out our list was steady, but Calhoun just seemed a step above the rest. The sophomore from California struggled to stick in last year's linebacker rotation, yet when he did touch the field, the impact was obvious. Receiving Freshman All-American honors like the other DJ on our list, Calhoun is a natural born leader and playmaker on the field. While the snaps game a little less frequent than he probably liked last season, the explosive, rangy linebacker will steal more and more snaps away from his competition as summer and fall practices go on. Don't be surprised if Calhoun is a featured element on the defensive side in 2015.
4. Demario Richard - RB (Sophomore)
4 touchdowns in a bowl game is one hell of a coming out party. Super Demario was quietly the Sun Devils' second leading rusher last season, well until the Sun Bowl where he earned MVP honors and made one impressive statement. With DJ Foster sliding over to the outside, Richard looks to be the #1 contender to pick up the spare carries left behind. A solid blend of speed and power, with soft hands to boot, Demario might remind long time fans and, most importantly, his coaches of Marion Grice.
3. Mike Bercovici - QB (Redshirt Senior)
The heir to Taylor Kelly's vacated quarterback throne, Berco's unique skill set is already changing ASU's baby-Oregon offense. With a cannon for a right arm versus TK10's dual threat nature, Mike Norvell seems to be steering the team away from the spread option to a more vertical passing game. With the pass happy Devil offense finding significant success last season, a good, consistent year out of Bercovici would mold the future offense of this team; i.e. Brady White taking the reins in 2016, instead of fan favorite Manny Wilkins. Without a larger sample size, there's no way to put Bercovici higher on the list, but make no mistake about it; the Sun Devil bandwagon will only go as far as Berco's arm will take it.
2. Jordan Simone - S (Redshirt Senior)
For those looking for a good underdog story, look no further than senior safety Simone. After Simone transferred from his hometown Washington State Cougars, Simone walked on at Arizona State, his father's alma mater. In August 2014, Jordan was granted a scholarship by CTG and he rewarded his faith handsomely. The second generation Sun Devil was starting by game three and ended the season as ASU's second leading tackler. In 2015, he has big shoes to fill, left behind by his former running mate and first round pick Damarious Randall. Considering the odds he's already beaten to get here, picking up the slack and leading the Arizona State defense should be a walk in the park.
1. DJ Foster - WR/RB (Senior)
Was there ever really any doubt? The Sun Devils' original DJ returns for his senior season as the only active player in the FBS with over 1,500 rushing and 1,500 receiving yards. Despite his immense success between the tackles in his first three years, the loss of Jaelen Strong and the plethora of young running back talent will force CTG to split his star back out wide. Seeing as he was Arizona State's second leading receiver in 2014, the transition should be smoother than one might assume. Think Tavon Austin 2K15.
Last but not least, with the Adidas partnership agreement officially beginning today, check back here for all new uniform and gear news regarding your Sun Devils. Fingers crossed the dump truck of money was the right decision.