It is well-known the Arizona State Sun Devils face a tough challenge with the big turnover of forces. No need to explain you they have to find a new quarterback, a new offensive line or a new secondary.
But more importantly than bodies to fill up the departures, the lacking presence of seniors happens to be an issue on many regards. Sophomores and juniors will have to step up.
The majority of the ASU football team lacks experience and playing time, on both sides of the ball. This is why a rebuilding team requires seniors to improve. The Sun Devils cannot rely on many seniors, but each one of them will play a decisive role.
Tim White. The wide receiver only arrived in Tempe last year from the JUCO level, but he ended up being one of the best offensive playmaker as the season unfold. He was arguably ASU’s top performing newcomer in 2015 and his return with the Sun Devils is huge.
Indeed, the receiving corps now turns into a strength after years of struggles, and despite a year with Arizona State, Tim White becomes the n°1 target. The senior will also serve the role of mentor for young upcoming stars like sophomore Jalen Harvey and true freshman N’Keal Harry, both on and off the field.
Evan Goodman. The offensive line is basically a construction site, and Evan Goodman has been locked up at the left tackle position throughout the offseason. He performed inconsistently last year and was killed against Texas A&M by Myles Garrett. The past is the past.
His raw status has been removed and should anchor an offensive line in need of structure and continuity. Four newcomers will be aligned by his side, three of them being redshirt freshman or sophomore. Look for improvement (at least at the left tackle spot).
Salamo Fiso. The return of the redshirt senior linebacker might be the brightest news of the offseason. While he has been recently slowed down by injuries, Salamo Fiso still is the leader of a defense that needs immediate renovation.
The Pac 12-leading player in terms of tackles for loss last year (20) comes back with a chip on his shoulder after being snubbed of conference honors. The ASU front-seven is, as usual, the strongest unit of the team and Fiso plays a crucial role at the SAM position, bringing that famous aggressiveness so dear to the heart of Todd Graham.
Laiu Maeokiola. The secondary was literally bombed in 2015 and must replace three of its starters. It might not be a bad idea, in all honestly, and Laiu Maeokiola could be one of the faces that brings the unit back to decency.
The redshirt senior linebacker-turned-safety is switching positions, although they have a lot in common. He will occupy the hybrid position of SPUR in the middle of the field, that will probably fit his qualities better. The Sun Devils need help in the back and Maeokiola provides just that. If he can stay healthy is another discussion, but his alliance with cornerback Kareem Orr could mean good (dare I say, great) things.
Zane Gonzalez & Matt Haack. Nobody complains when the special teams positions are occupied by (great) veterans. Kicker Zane Gonzalez and punter Matt Haack open their last season in Tempe and they just might become the MVPs of the team.
Seriously, they are THAT good.
Gonzalez is arguably one of the best kickers in the nation and could make history in 2016. He needs just 16 more field goals to break the FBS record for career field goals (88 by Dustin Hopkins, Florida State). The kicker has proven to be immensely valuable to ASU when the game is on the line.
His accomplice on the punting side showed on many occasions his booming leg and his impressive accuracy. It was not rare to see him drop the ball within 10 yards of the goal line. Todd Graham puts an emphasis of managing the field position and this happens to be exactly what Haack does best.