Category: Football

ASU Head Coach Todd Graham and His Knack for Success

graham KFH

Just two seasons into his tenure at ASU, head football coach Todd Graham has revived a program in dire need of change. In 2012, Graham led the Sun Devils to their first winning season (8-5) in five years. In 2013, his 10-2 regular season record earned him the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Graham instills a quiet confidence in his players and coaches and it trickles down to the fans, alumni and community. There has been a lot said about Graham’s affinity to change positions at a moment’s notice but he has said “this is a destination job” about coming to Arizona State.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

His coaching career began in the spectacle of “Friday Night Lights,” coaching for a dozen years in Texas and Oklahoma before being hired by Rich Rodriguez as linebackers coach at West Virginia University.

He would go on to lead the Tulsa Golden Hurricane defense to two bowl games in three seasons as defensive coordinator before he was offered his first head coaching gig at Rice University.

Graham’s impact was immediate at Rice, he took a one-win Owls team to their first bowl game in 45 years, finishing 7-5 and earning Conference USA Coach of the Year.

Graham accepted a significant pay increase and contract extension to stay on with Rice, but Tulsa came right back into the picture. The Golden Hurricane wanted Graham back, offering him the head coaching position. Graham returned to Tulsa in 2007.

Once again, Graham’s culture of success was nearly instantaneous at the helm of Tulsa’s football program. In his four seasons, Graham’s Golden Hurricane collected three 10-win seasons, three Conference USA West Division titles and three convincing Bowl victories.

Former Tulsa and Arizona State head coach John Cooper, who lead the Sun Devils to a Rose Bowl victory in 1987, is one who has recognized Graham’s knowledge and success.

“I don’t think I can say enough good things about Todd Graham,” Cooper told the Tulsa World. “If I was named the head coach of some school tomorrow, I would send my entire coaching staff down to Tulsa to learn a few things.”

The big payday loomed for the “Coach du jour,” and the University of Pittsburgh called the loudest. A storied program producing the likes of Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett, the Pitt Panthers would be the school where Graham would make his mark…or so he thought.

With only 24 hours to decide on whether to leave Tulsa, Graham now admits that the move was hasty and ultimately a mistake.

graham Tcup“I take responsibility for being at a place for one year and leaving,” he told Lisa Horne of Fox Sports. “I made a mistake. The mistake was I probably should have never gone to Pittsburgh in the first place.”

“I’m from the South, he explained. “[Pittsburgh] was a different cultural change for me. I did not feel comfortable.”

After a successful high school career, Graham received numerous accolades as a defensive back at East Central University even though he entered college at 5’9”, 132 pounds.

Following ECU, Graham made it as far as NFL training camp with the Arizona Cardinals whose 1987 media guide called him a “ferocious hitter,” so he is more than satisfied to call Arizona home and put down roots.

Welcome home, coach.

Arizona State Scores Big With Scottie Graham Hire

Scottie

ASU’s Athletic Director Ray Anderson returned to the National Football League Players’ Association, not because he was unhappy at ASU, but to lure away executive Scottie Graham to the desert.

Scottie Graham has become ASU’s Senior Associate Athletics Director.

Graham brings a “breadth of experience” according to Anderson. He served as the NFL’s Director of Player Engagement for the past three and a half years and as a regional director for a dozen years prior to that.

sparky scottie“He will be an asset to Jean Boyd’s national championship-caliber academic staff,” said Anderson in a university press release. “He will also bring his talents to designated sports in operations and program development.”

Scottie Graham will bring a surge of energy to student athlete development at ASU. DieHard Devil caught up with Graham as he settles into his new position.

“I worked closely with (Ray) Anderson at the NFLPA,” Graham told DHD. “He was definitely a mentor for me, and I let him know if there was ever an opportunity for me to further my career, I was available.”

“The main thing that I will show the student-athletes is persistence,” said Graham. “Doing your best every day, not just in their chosen sport, but in their everyday lives. This will not only make them better players but also make them better people.”

The ultimate finished product should be yet another benefit to ASU and its athletes. “We are going to focus on the student in student-athlete. We are going to strive for academic excellence, increased graduation rate—and above all, integrity.”

About James “Scottie” Graham

  • 45 years oldScottie Head
  • Excelled as a Division I running back at Ohio State and was named a team captain in his senior year
  • Went on to be drafted in the seventh round by the New York Jets in 1992
  • Played for the Minnesota Vikings for four seasons, and became the team’s leading rusher in 1993
  • Earned his Master’s degree in Black Studies from Ohio State in the off-season
  • Played his final season in Cincinnati in 1997

Due to his time at tradition-rich Ohio State University, I asked Graham how he would elevate Arizona State to the level of that of the Buckeyes.

“Tradition is developed by strong leaders,” he said. “The leaders set the standards as good citizens, and the rest will fall in to place.”

Ray Anderson is proving to be that type of leader in his short time at the helm of Sun Devil athletics. He is quietly filling the athletics department with several experienced, knowledgeable and dynamic leaders.

“You reach a certain point in your life when it’s no longer about you,” Scottie Graham said. “I am excited about the opportunity to give back to the students.”

Arizona State Football: Your Cheat Sheet for the Newest Members of the Defense

041120140452pb PNI asu fb 0420

Much has been made about the Arizona State defense, or lack thereof, since the end of the 2013 season. The team ranked fourth in total defense in the Pac-12, allowing only 372.4 yards per game. They also led the conference with 21 interceptions and an amazing five pick-sixes.

Let’s not forget the two-time Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year in Will Sutton and fourth round NFL pick in linebacker Carl Bradford.

The defense will be replacing a near-devastating nine players. The success of Todd Graham’s third campaign will be predicated on the talent and more importantly, the preparation, of the athletes below.

Many of these newest Devils will be expected to step up and strap on their helmet in just eleven weeks.

Here’s a quick reference for the newest members of ASU’s defense.

Chad Adams

The speedy defensive back from Coach Todd Graham’s old stomping grounds of Allen High School in north Texas comes from a superstar program. The Allen Eagles were ranked as the No. 2 high school team in the country with a perfect 16-0 record. Adams led Allen to back-to-back Texas 5A Division I State Championships. Adams was ranked by Scout.com as the No. 47 cornerback in the country while 24-7 Sports placed him at No. 68.

Kweishi Brown

kweishi

The El Cajon, Calif. native comes to Arizona State played two years at Grossmont Community College and will have three years to play two in Tempe. A four-star recruit according to ESPN, Brown is ranked as the No. 3 junior college cornerback in the country and No. 24 overall junior college prospect. Brown will most likely battle redshirt freshman William Earley for the boundary corner position left vacant by Rashad Wadood.

Darrius Caldwell

Hailing from the southeast corner of the country, Caldwell hails from Atlanta, Ga., and played at the University of Illinois and junior college ball at Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, Miss. The big, bruising linebacker in similar to Carl Bradford in his size, speed and physicality. Caldwell can also play at the defensive end position and was ranked the No. 4 junior college defensive end in the country by ESPN and the No. 26 weak side defensive end prospect in the country.

Connor Humphreys

The monster defensive lineman out of Portland, Ore., had multiple offers including nearly every Pac-12 school, Boise State, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Humphreys led Central Catholic to an undefeated 14-0 record and the Oregon Class 6A State Championship. Ranked as one of the top defensive end prospects in the country, the four-star recruit was rated at No. 8 in his position by Rivals.com. 24-7 Sports also ranks Humphreys as the No. 2 overall prospect in the state of Oregon. The second team All-American from USA Today participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

MIR

Ismael Murphy-Richardson

Ismael Murphy-Richardson

The local boy made good, Murphy-Richardson from Desert Edge High School in Goodyear, Ariz., has it all. He lines up on both sides of the ball at wideout as well as linebacker. The 6-foot-4 linebacker was heavily recruited nationwide with offers from powerhouse programs including Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Murphy-Richardson was ranked as high as No. 21 at his position by Rivals.com while Scout.com rated him as the No. 65 overall prospect in the region.

Armand Perry

Perry comes to the Valley from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev., and can make an immediate impact in the secondary at either the cornerback or safety position. At just under six feet tall, Perry has good size to go along with his blistering speed. Perry received rankings as both a corner (No. 91 by Scout.com) and a safety (No. 101 by 24-7 Sports.) Perry earned All-West Regional honors after his senior season at Bishop Gorman High.

 

Christian Sam

A teammate of Chad Adams at Allen High School, Sam was a defensive leader, earning the Defensive MVP of the 2013 State Championship Game. Everybody knows how big high school football is in Texas and Sam was the defensive star of the best team in the state. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker will mesh nicely with a veteran corps of linebackers looking to make a big noise. Sam was rated the No. 27 linebacker in the country by Rivals.com and Scout.com ranked him at No. 47.

 

DeAndre Scott

The quick and nimble defensive back comes to Arizona State all the way from Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pa. The name might not sound familiar to most, but it is also the same high school that produced wide receiver Jaelen Strong. The three-way athlete excelled in the secondary but also played offense, scoring four touchdowns in his senior season as well as trying his hand at kicking and punting. Scott was ranked the No. 49 defensive back in the nation by Rivals.com while 24-7 Sports ranked him as the No. 57 safety prospect.

Tashon Smallwood

A big-time get for Coach Graham, Smallwood is anything but small. At 6-foot-1 and 292 pounds, the Fresno, Calif., product was heavily recruited by big-time programs like Alabama, Miami (Fla.) and Wisconsin. Smallwood will be an amazing addition to the defensive line along with Jaxon Hood and Marcus Hardison. The four-star recruit was ranked as high as No. 19 at the defensive tackle position by Scout.com and the No. 38 overall prospect in the West region.

stuckey

Dalvon Stuckey

Dalvon Stuckey

Heading back to the junior college ranks, Stuckey also played at Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, Miss., with Darrius Caldwell. A huge player with amazing size and strength, tipping the scales at 308 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame. Stuckey, out of DeFuniak Springs, Fla., originally signed with Florida State out of high school but instead played at Pearl River. Rivals.com named Stuckey the No. 1 junior college defensive tackle prospect in the country and the eight-best overall prospect. Another hot commodity, Stuckey had myriad offers from SEC and ACC schools including Alabama, Florida, Clemson and Miami (Fla.)

 

Class of 2014 Arrivals: A Quick Reference for the Newest Members of the Sun Devil Offense

ChampLife

Summertime in Arizona means three things—blazing hot temperatures, women in sundresses and football training camp.

“Hell Week” began on Monday and several football players took to twitter voicing their commitments through the hashtag, #SunDevilChampLife.

Eric Lauderdale committed to the grind, Quinn Bailey committed to eating healthy and Jalen Harvey committed to “the opportunity that the Sun Devils put in front of me.”

As Fall camp nears, we decided to put together a quick reference for each new player on the Sun Devil Offense.

 

Quinn Bailey

Offensive lineman Quinn Bailey out of Higley High School was coached by former Arizona State lineman Jon Hargis. The towering lineman comes in at 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 302 pounds. Bailey earned first team All-State honors in division III and placed within the top 90 offensive tackles in the country by the top three ranking services.

 

Kalen Ballage

Kalen Ballage

Kalen Ballage

 

The running back out of Peyton, Colo., had several of the Sun Devil faithful on edge on National Signing Day because he was snowed-in and couldn’t get to a fax machine to send his NLI. Ballage chose Arizona State over offers from Big 10 powerhouses Michigan and Nebraska. 24-7 Sports named the four-star recruit the No. 27 athlete prospect in the nation as he played every position other than offensive line in high school.

Colton Gerhart

Quarterback Colton Gerhart is also a top baseball prospect out of Murietta, Calif. The youngest of three Gerhart boys, Colton is looking to follow in the footsteps of his brothers, Toby and Garth, who are both on NFL rosters. Sun Devil fans will remember Garth from Arizona State and Toby, who excelled in the backfield and on the diamond for the Stanford Cardinal.

 

Jalen Harvey

Jalen Harvey

Jalen Harvey

The 6-foot-2, 185 receiver out of El Cerrito, Calif., comes to Arizona State as a highly-sought after prize. The four-star recruit was heavily recruited by most of the Pac-12 Conference after being ranked the nation’s No, 29 receiver by ESPN and the No. 15 overall recruit in talent-rich California by 24-7 Sports.

De’Chavon Hayes

Hayes comes to the desert from Richmond, Va., via Lackawanna College in Scranton, Penn. The junior will have three years to play two and will mesh nicely in the backfield with D.J. Foster. Hayes was tabbed the No. 2 junior college running back by both ESPN and Rivals.com.

 

Sam Jones

The Highlands Ranch, Colo., native weighs in at 285 pounds and his quickness and agility make him able to play any position on the offensive line. The four-star recruit was ranked as one of the top overall recruits coming out of Colorado and No. 23 in his position nationally by ESPN.

 

Eric Lauderdale

Eric Lauderdale

Eric Lauderdale

 

Another junior college transfer by way of Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., originally hails from the land of peaches in Fayetteville, Ga. The tall, dynamic receiver will make an immediate impact for the Sun Devils as he was unanimously ranked as a four-star recruit by all services and also rated in the top four of all junior college receivers in the country by all.

 

Tyler Whiley

Arizona State’s poster child for the ‘Stay True to ASU’ campaign. The Scottsdale receiver from Chaparral High School was one of the state’s most lucrative national prospects and was heavily recruited by Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The highly athletic Whiley excelled as a two-way player, both at receiver and defensive back.

 

Manny Wilkins

Saving the best for last, the jewel in Coach Graham’s 2014 recruiting crown is quarterback Manny Wilkins. The towering quarterback out of Novato, Calif. is the heir apparent to take over this squad after Taylor Kelly’s final season. Wilkins is the highest-rated quarterback to sign with Arizona State in the past decade and his early commitment fueled the rest of the class. He tirelessly stumped for Arizona State convincing a number of California’s top prospects to visit and sign with the Sun Devils.

Wilkins2

Sharp Corners: Sun Devil Damarious Randall vs. Omar Bolden

No. 3

Defensive backs at Arizona State have traditionally taken a back seat to the stellar play of the defensive line or linebackers in the House of Heat. With the NFL chock full of big names like Terrell Suggs, Vontaze Burfict and most recently Will Sutton and Carl Bradford, it is easy to see why the secondary would tend to be overlooked.

Omar Bolden

Omar Bolden

The battle for the no.3 has been passed down from current NFL safety, Omar Bolden who wore the “magic number” for four years in five seasons in Tempe to Damarious Randall, who will play his second and final season for the Sun Devils this fall. Randall is looking to do Bolden proud by bringing more great plays to the number.

In 2007, as a true freshman, Bolden played in all 13 games and was named starting cornerback in the fifth game of the season.

Randall made his first appearance in the second game of the 2013 season and made his first start against Notre Dame—also the fifth game of the season.

Both players made an immediate impact when given the chance to shine. In Bolden’s first start, at Stanford, he intercepted a pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.

In Randall’s first start against Notre Dame, he tallied a game-high 17 tackles along with 1.5 tackles for loss.   

Although Bolden and Randall come from opposite ends of the country with Bolden from the inland empire of California and Randall from the panhandle of Florida, both players found their way to Arizona and have been dominant on the gridiron, with many taking notice.

Accolades for Bolden include first team freshman All-American nods from the Football Writers Association of America and Scout.com while receiving second team recognition from Rivals.com and College Football News.

Damarious Randall

Damarious Randall

While Randall was at nearby Mesa Community College, he was named NJCAA first team All-American, and earned the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award along with first team All-Conference and first team All-Western States Football League.

Bolden was drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos despite missing the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL. In his final season in 2010, he racked up 52 tackles, 37 solo and 3 for a loss of eight yards. He also nabbed three interceptions for 85 yards and a forced fumble.

Randall’s numbers were a step up from Bolden’s in 2013. He recorded 71 tackles, 48 solo and 5.5 for a loss of 19 yards. He also picked off three passes for 90 yards and forced two fumbles.

In a defense that will only be returning a handful of starters, Randall has the chance to shine in his senior season and meet Bolden in the NFL.  

Maricopa High School Scores Big With New Football Coach Chris McDonald

Gold Ball

As we look back and bid a fond farewell to the 2013-14 school year, congratulating the 2014 senior class; school administrators are looking to the future. In the regular meeting in February, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved the hiring of longtime Hamilton High School assistant football coach Chris McDonald to lead the Rams’ varsity squad.

The vacancy left behind by departing head football coach and athletic director Cory Nenaber, also opened up the opportunity to bring in a new athletic director. Mark Cisterna comes to Maricopa after a dozen years as an athletic director with the Gilbert and Apache Junction school districts. Cisterna will head up the athletic programs at all three schools in Maricopa including Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools.

Head football coach McDonald also brings a desire to teach and lead. McDonald received his certification to teach secondary mathematics and taught Algebra and Geometry while at Hamilton receiving the “highly qualified” designation. McDonald also recently received his Master’s degree in Education Leadership.

Head coach Chris McDonald

Head coach Chris McDonald

McDonald, a longtime Tempe resident, a three-sport athlete that excelled in football, basketball and track graduated from Corona Del Sol in 1998, went on to run track and play football at Mesa Community College before graduating from Arizona State University in 2002.

McDonald told InMaricopa that he would not be moving to Maricopa as of now.

“My family and I currently in the Ocotillo/Chandler area so it really only takes 20-25 minutes to get here which really isn’t a big deal at all,” he said. “In fact, I kind of like the drive as it gives me time to reflect on what I need to get done that day.”

McDonald brings a deft football pedigree, during his eight year tenure at Hamilton High School as an assistant coach, the Huskies have advanced to the State Championship at the most competitive level, six times—and walked away with the Championship on five of those trips.

Five Division I State Championship titles in eight years is an amazing feat and Highland head coach Steve Belles is highly revered with a 70-3 record in his eight years at the helm. McDonald was fortunate enough to join the coaching squad with Belles and only knows how to win.

“I am quite honored and excited to be a part of the Maricopa community,” McDonald said. “I look forward to building upon a solid foundation and create another asset to the school and community with our football program here at Maricopa High School.”

McDonald says that the biggest difference between Hamilton and Maricopa is the commitment and culture. “The culture over there has trickled down into the youth level and expectations are kind of built in at an early age,” McDonald told me. “I think over time my goal is to implement that type of attitude and culture here in the Maricopa community.”

Rams LogoMcDonald is selling a new level of commitment and a swift change in the culture while still building on the momentum that Coach Nenaber and his staff had over the past decade. The change in culture will not only come on the football field, but in the classroom and throughout the community as well.

“If we can get ALL players to buy into what we are preaching in terms of giving maximum effort not only on the football field, but in the classroom and community then I think we’re going to be a pretty good football team.”

McDonald knows what it takes to get there and will strive to make this team the best that it can be.

“I think my experiences at Hamilton have allowed me to see first-hand the level of commitment and organization needed to be at the top of the mountain when the season ends,” McDonald said. “Everything takes time and we have a long ways to go but I think the potential to reach the pinnacle is attainable here.”

After a 2013 season that saw the Rams go undefeated at home but winless on the road, I would say that Coach McDonald has his work cut out for him. Thankfully, he has the right attitude, level of commitment and desire to make this Rams’ football program better than anybody ever realized.

“These kids need to understand what it truly takes to hold up a gold ball at the end of a season.”

NFL Draft Holds Promise or Heartbreak for Former Sun Devils

sutton_vazThe NFL Draft is finally here and the first round is set to take place Thursday night at 5 p.m. PT from New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall. The three-day, seven-round bonanza is the culmination of a player’s lifetime of hard work and dedication, but as was shown after the 2013 Draft, nothing is guaranteed.

Arizona State had five players that had hopes on being drafted last season and a grand total of zero received the call, that’s right a big, fat goose egg. Team captains, linebacker Brandon Magee and safety Keelan Johnson were signed on as free agents after the draft was completed. Both are currently listed on team rosters, Magee with Cleveland and Johnson with Philadelphia, but nobody knows what effect this weekend’s draft will have on their roster spots.

Running back Cameron Marshall and wide receiver Jamal Miles were invited to training camps yet both were waived in pre-season by the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively. Miles signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League but no word on Marshall’s status. Lindy’s and Sports Illustrated All-America punter Josh Hubner received nary an invite but is reportedly working and training in hopes for an invitation this year.

The Sun Devils’ outgoing senior class this year is hoping for a less tumultuous journey to fulfilling their dreams—let’s take a closer look at the players and if this weekend will bring promise or heartbreak.

Will Sutton

  • Will SuttonPosition: Defensive Tackle
  • Height: 6′ 1″
  • Weight: 300 lbs.

The two-time defending Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year saw a dropoff in production in his redshirt senior season and was battling reports of being sluggish and putting on “bad weight.” The consensus All-American and Morris Trophy winner in 2012 dominated the trenches and anchored the top-ranked Sun Devil defense.

It’s no question that Sutton will be drafted, the question is will he make an impact?

If he were to drop five to 10 pounds, I believe that Sutton could return to the form that he showed in 2012 when he could blow past offensive lineman without a second thought. Sutton set career highs that year with 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 63 total tackles—he weighed 270-275 at the time.

Prediction: Late third round or early fourth round

Carl Bradford

  • BradfordPosition: Linebacker
  • Height: 6′ 1″
  • Weight: 250 lbs.

Sutton’s partner in crime, brother in destruction and close friend will be battling for the honor of first Sun Devil drafted this weekend. The duo’s 44 tackles for loss in 2012 were the most in school history and they were also the first pair to post double-digit sacks in the same season since 1994.

In  his senior season, Bradford was named first team All-Pac-12, following an honorable mention nod the year before. Bradford led the team with 8.5 sacks and managed 61 tackles, 19 for a loss—another team best.

Bradford started every game of his final two seasons and made an immediate impact at the Devilbacker position anchoring the linebackers. His reckless abandon and aggressive play make him desirable but his hybrid play in college may have NFL scouts wondering how that will translate to play at the next level.

Prediction: Late third round or early fourth round

Marion Grice

  • gricePosition: Running Back
  • Height: 6′ 0″
  • Weight: 207 lbs.

The two-year running back from Houston, Texas dominated out of the Arizona State backfield and his name litters the school’s record books. The two-time All-Pac-12 back is fifth all-time with 39 career touchdowns, although he only played in 24 games. His 234 points scored is the most in school history over a two-year span with his 2013 total of 120 points tied with Terry Battle for second place in school history. Grice’s 20 touchdowns in 2013 is only the third time in school history the plateau has been reached and the 15th time in conference history.

Grice was sidelined in the Nov. 23 victory over UCLA with a broken fibula and thus missed the NFL Scouting Combine and ASU’s Pro Day. Grice held a personal Pro Day last month with scouts from 10 NFL teams in attendance. The threat that makes Grice most desirable is his duality as a running back as well as a receiver. Grice led all Division I running backs with 14 receiving touchdowns in his two years in Tempe.

Prediction: Late fourth round or early fifth round

Other possible draftees:

  • darbyAlden Darby – Safety
  • Chris Coyle – Tight End
  • Evan Finkenberg – Offensive Line

Free Agent Signees:

  • Osahon Irabor – Cornerback
  • Robert Nelson – Cornerback
  • Chris Young – Linebacker

 

 

 

ASU Football: Updated Depth Chart, Spring Game and Fan Fest

ASU TheaterTEMPE, Ariz. — The 2014 Arizona State football team will kick off in earnest on Saturday, April 19 with the annual Fan Fest taking place at Sun Devil Stadium from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT with the Maroon and Gold spring game at 11 a.m. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks and will also be available online via the Pac-12 Now app.

The Pac-12 South champion Sun Devils led by senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Todd Graham return to the gridiron with unfinished business after ending the 2013 season in disappointing fashion. The goals for the 2014 season, and every season moving forward, are Pac-12 Champions, Rose Bowl Champions and National Champions.

The walls of the football theater are emblazoned with these tenets.

New Athletic Director Ray Anderson has sparked interest in the football program and is spear-heading the North End Zone renovation project in a campaign entitled Momentum.

Rendering of new Sun Devil Stadium

Rendering of new Sun Devil Stadium

The proposed plan will completely renovate Sun Devil Stadium, while preserving Tillman Tunnel and retaining the stadium in its iconic setting between the Tempe and Hayden Buttes. Construction on the stadium is scheduled to begin in 2015, with the football team competing in Sun Devil Stadium throughout the renovation.

The scheduled removal of the north end zone began on Monday and is not part of the renovation project. The removal of the north end zone upper deck will reduce the seating capacity at Sun Devil Stadium by approximately 5,700 seats.

FAN FEST 2014

 

The pre-game festivities will begin at 9 a.m. at the southern end of the stadium and parking lots. Activities include an interactive Sun Devil Way Fan Fest where younger Sun Devil fans can enjoy the Kids Zone presented by the Junior Sun Devil Club and Shamrock Foods, a Social Media Command Center where fans can get their photos taken, pose with the Territorial Cup and win Sun Devil apparel, and an autograph session for fans 18 and under.

2014 FanFestFor those looking to show off their master tailgating skills, there is The Great Sun Devil Tailgate Competition which will pit the best and brightest tailgaters competing for prizes, trophies and all-important bragging rights.

All attendees of Fan Fest will have a chance to win a trip for two to the ASU vs. Washington game Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014 at Husky Stadium. The giveaway includes hotel, airfare and tickets for two to the game.

BRING ON THE FOOTBALL

 

The Sun Devils return six All-Pac-12 performers, including the aforementioned Kelly, running back DJ Foster, wide receiver Jaelen Strong, tight end De’Marieya Nelson, left tackle Jamil Douglas and Lou Groza Award Semifinalist kicker Zane Gonzalez.

Along with Douglas, the starting offensive line is packed with veterans including junior center Nick Kelly, redshirt juniors Christian Westerman and Vi Teofilo at the guard slots and redshirt senior Tyler Sulka at right tackle. The veteran line will be heavily relied upon with Foster and a pair of redshirt seniors in Deantre Lewis and Kyle Middlebrooks out of the backfield.

ASU leading receiver Jaelen Strong

ASU leading receiver Jaelen Strong

The receiving corps will be quite different with Strong leading the way at the X slot. Redshirt junior Cameron Smith, who had only eight receptions for 129 yards in 2013 is the favorite at the Y position while redshirt sophomore Frederick Gammage will likely get the start at the Z. Gammage saw time in 13 games in 2013 yet only nabbed six receptions for 32 yards.

The defense is markedly changed with the departure of nine starters including two-time All Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and Carl Bradford to graduation. The defensive line will be anchored by junior Jaxon Hood at the Tiger position with redshirt junior Mo Latu at the Nose and senior Marcus Hardison coming off the end.

Redshirt junior Eriquel Florence will be filling the Devil backer spot while redshirt sophomores Viliami Moeakiola and Salamo Fiso will most likely start at the Spur and Sam linebacker spots. Freshman DJ Calhoun and redshirt junior Antonio Longino are battling for the start at the Will position.

Marcus Hardison with big shoes to fill

Marcus Hardison with big shoes to fill

The secondary will be anchored by returning senior Damarious Randall at field safety. Redshirt sophomores Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood will fill the field corner and boundary corners respectively. Battling for the the boundary safety position will be redshirt freshman Marcus Ball and redshirt junior Jordan Simone.

Special teams will be relatively unchanged with sophomore punter Matt Haack coming into his own after losing punting responsibilities last season to kickoff specialist Alex Garoutte. New assistant coach Keith Patterson, a former punter has worked with not only Haack, but also with junior long snappers Donnie Shields and Easton Wahlstrom.

The pressure of punting took Garoutte’s focus of being a true kickoff specialist and this season he will be send more footballs into the end zone, nullifying any possible returns. Sophomore kicker Zane Gonzalez is facing a concerning sophomore slump with a couple misses in practice, yet he is 7-of-10 inside Sun Devil Stadium this spring.

On the return side of the coin, speedy running back Kyle Middlebrooks and defensive leader Damarious Randall are listed as the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on both punt and kick coverage.

MOVING FORWARD

 

The spring game will bring to spring practice season to a close but there are still many other events on the horizon.

  • Early bird season ticket pricing ends April 30.
  • Spring Coaching Clinic April 4-5
  • Camp Tontozona August 12-16
  • Season Opener August 28 vs. Weber State

Arizona State Football: Sun Devils’ National Signing Day Hopefuls

Graham NSDArizona State University and head coach Todd Graham have a quality recruiting class of 25 commitments with the four major recruiting networks ranking the Sun Devils in the Top 25 nationally.

Scout ranks them the highest at No. 12 while ESPN and Rivals ranks them at No. 17. 247 Sports has them ranked at No. 4 in the conference and No. 22 overall.

What’s left for the Sun Devils moving into the National Signing Day on Wednesday? Here is a list of hopefuls still on Coach Graham’s radar.

Kalen BallageKalen Ballage

  • Position: Athlete
  • Height 6′ 2″
  • Weight: 215
  • Hometown: Peyton, Colo.
  • Rankings247Sports – 4-star, Scout – 4-star

The running back out of Falcon High School gave a “soft” commit to Arizona State’s Chip Long back in December but has since made official visits to Nebraska and Washington. Ballage also made his official visit to Arizona State on January 17 and Washington on January 24.

Ballage will blend perfectly in Arizona State’s backfield as he scored 25 rushing touchdowns as well as six receiving. Past running backs Marion Grice and D. J. Foster both excel in both rushing and receiving touchdowns so it looks as if Ballage will fit in nicely—if he signs on Wednesday.

Kenyon Frison

  • Kenyon FrisonPosition: Offensive Tackle
  • Height 6′ 5 1/2″
  • Weight: 290
  • Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Rankings247Sports – 4-star, Scout – 4-star

The big lineman out of Granger High School visited Arizona State on January 17 but also visited Nebraska on January 24. Frison has warm or medium interest level in ASU, Nebraska and Oklahoma whom he visited last November. The Sooners are pushing hard for Frison and have visited him five times since his official visit.

The hope that Arizona State has for Frison is that he officially de-committed from Utah after his visit to Arizona State.

Kweishi Brown 1Kweishi Brown

  • Position: Cornerback
  • Height 6′ 1″
  • Weight: 185
  • Hometown: El Cajon, Calif.
  • Rankings247Sports – 3-star, Scout – 3-star

The Grossmont Junior College standout who committed to Arkansas last summer and de-commited in November has been busy. Brown has 10 offers on the table but he has only made official visits to Nebraska and Arizona State.

Charlton Warren from Nebraska visited with Brown the day before his official visit but it may have been for naught as Brown raved about his official visit to Arizona State.

It’s no secret that the Sun Devils are looking to replace nearly the entire defense, losing nine starters to graduation and the NFL, so Brown will get a big chance to make his mark with three years to play two.

Deondre Clark

  • Deondre ClarkPosition: Defensive End
  • Height 6′ 3″
  • Weight: 235
  • Hometown: Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • Rankings247Sports – 4-star, Scout – 4-star

The soft commit for the LSU Tigers out of Douglass High School would be an incredible get for Arizona State following the departure of nine defensive starters.

Clark used the last three weeks of January to make official visits to Oklahoma, LSU and saved his final visit for Arizona State on January 31.

Depending on which recruiting site you follow, you will get varied reports on Clark. Scout has Clark down to four schools including Ole Miss, Rivals has ASU and OU listed as low interest and 24/7 Sports has OU listed as “warm” and Oklahoma State as “cool.”

Dalvon Stuckey & Darrius Caldwell

Dalvon StuckeyDalvon Stuckey

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Height 6′ 3″
  • Weight: 300
  • Hometown: DeFuniak Springs, Fla.
  • Rankings247Sports – 3-star, Scout – 3-star

Darrius Caldwell

  • Position: Defensive End
  • Height 6′ 5″
  • Weight: 255
  • Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
  • Rankings247Sports – 4-star, Scout – 3-star

The Pearl River Community College teammates visited Arizona State on January 31 and both would be huge commitments for a depleted line with Stuckey having the same size and stature of departed 2-time Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, Will Sutton.

Stuckey has been hugely indecisive in deciding his college football career. He originally signed with Florida State in 2012 prior to attending Pearl River in Poplarville, Mississippi. Stuckey committed to Miami last April but took an unofficial visit to Auburn and switched his commitment to Auburn. Prior to Stuckey’s official visit to Tempe, he de-committed from Auburn, so Stuckey’s future as a Sun Devil is questionable at best.

Caldwell, like Stuckey signed with a Division I school (Illinois) prior to attending Pearl River. Caldwell is a soft commit to South Carolina but could follow teammate Stuckey to Arizona State.

Ka’Deem Carey and Carl Bradford Bid Farewell To Arizona

Bradford

The opening to A Tale of Cities, Charles Dickens’ epic novel novel written about London and Paris, might very well describe the college football landscape of Arizona:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

Rarely does one compare Dickens to college football, but in this case, it holds true. Both of the state’s college football programs, on the brink of reaching their highest level, will wake up tomorrow with the knowledge that a high-profile and highly productive player will be gone—a blow that could send both programs “back to whence they came.”

The University of Arizona’s running back Ka’Deem Carey and Arizona State University’s linebacker Carl Bradford both had a year of eligibility remaining at their respective schools and both declared for the NFL draft on Monday.

Ka’Deem the Dream

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State

Ka’Deem Carey spent only two years at the University of Arizona and is the school’s all-time career rushing leader with 4,232 yards. He ranks seventh all time in Pac-12 history and holds the conference record for most rushing yards in a game with 366 yards against Colorado in 2012.

Carey’s 16-game streak of 100-yard rushing games also tops the Pac-12 record books and is the longest such streak in all of college football over the past decade. He led the FBS in 2012 with 148.4 rushing yards per game, finishing with 1,929 total yards.

As reported by ESPN, Carey noted his appreciation of his tenure at Arizona:

“I’m excited for the next phase of my career and to enter the NFL Draft,” Carey said. “I want to thank God, my family, Coach Rodriguez, Coach Magee and all of my coaches for everything they’ve done for me. My time playing football for Arizona will always be very special to me and I want to thank the fans and the Tucson community for supporting me throughout my career. ”

Carey was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection and the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year for 2013. He was considered a finalist for the Heisman Trophy by many experts but was left off the list of invitees to the annual event in New York City. He was, however, named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award but finished behind Boston College’s Andre Williams in the voting on December 12.

“Ka’Deem Carey was a great player for us,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We wish him all the best as he pursues his professional career.”

Carey is projected to be drafted late in the first round but could still be on the board come the second round.

 A “Devil” of a Linebacker

Arizona v Arizona StateArizona State’s hybrid linebacker position called the “Devil” backer seemed custom-made for Carl Bradford.

The redshirt junior out of Norco, Calif. decided to forego his senior season and sign with NFL agents Dave Dunn and Justin Schulman of Athletes First according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal hours before the school had given an official statement.

Bradford had a stellar season in 2012 with 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. His 2013 resume sported 61 total tackles, including a team-high 19 for a loss of 107 yards. His 8.5 sacks were tied for the team lead with Davon Coleman. Bradford also led the team with five quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

Bradford issued this statement on Monday:

After four great years on the campus of Arizona State University, I have decided to pursue my dream of playing in the National Football League. I have many wonderful memories of my time here, and I will miss playing in front of the terrific Sun Devil fans. Although I will not be on the field in maroon and gold next season, I am excited to cheer on the Sun Devils with all of you. I am honored to be a graduate of ASU and I look forward to supporting the university as a proud alumnus.

Bradford was an integral part of an Arizona State defense that ranked near the top in many FBS statistical categories including most interceptions returned for touchdowns (tied with three others), No. 3 for most interceptions and sixth in interception yards and sacks.

With the graduation of defensive standouts Will Sutton, Chris Young, Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor, Bradford made the right choice by declaring this year as the defense will have plenty of growing pains in the 2014 season.

“It was an honor and a privilege to coach Carl Bradford at Arizona State University. Carl leaves ASU with his degree and that is what we are most proud of,” Coach Todd Graham said in a statement on Monday. “We appreciate Carl for being a great Sun Devil and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

According to Ryan Bafaloukos of House of Sparky:

“Bradford is projected to go as high as the second round by some draft analysts who believe the Arizona State product has tremendous upside as an edge pass rusher at the next level.”

What Lies Ahead?

NCAA Football: Oregon at ArizonaAnd so it begins. Which team will have a tougher time rebuilding? Arizona without Carey or Arizona State without nine defensive starters including Bradford?

The future is yet to be seen but judging from Rivals.com‘s ranking of 2014 draft classes, Arizona State ranks second in the conference and Arizona ranks fourth. The teams rank No. 19 and 23 respectively nationally. Scout.com tells another story altogether ranking the Sun Devils and Wildcats as the top two teams in the conference and No. 11 and 15 nationally.

It’s no secret that both teams will be rebuilding in 2014, but with veteran coaches in Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham, the down time will minimal.

One thing that will always remain the same is that each team circles one date on the calendar every year, the annual meeting for the Territorial Cup. This year it returns to its traditional day after Thanksgiving slot and the University of Arizona will host.

It will be interesting to see where Carey, Bradford and Sutton end up, hopefully not on the same team, that would truly be Dickensian.