Category: Football

Arizona State Football: 7 Players Who Need to Step Up for the Sun Devils

step up

It’s Homecoming weekend in Tempe, not only for past students of Arizona State University but also for UCLA redshirt freshman signal-caller Brett Hundley, who was born in Arizona. The Chandler High School product returns to the Valley of the Sun fresh off a 21-14 victory against Utah. Hundley has had his ups and downs this season with a four-touchdown game against Nebraska to a four-interception game against Cal a couple of weeks ago.

If the Sun Devils hope to avoid a late season implosion like last year, they need to focus on a good 5-2 UCLA team, and these are the players that I think need to step up to secure the victory and the elusive Pac-12 South crown.

No. 7 Jaxon Hood  

Arizona State v MissouriTrue freshman defensive tackle Jaxon Hood has shown flashes of brilliance this year, and that has defensive coordinator Paul Randolph excited. So much is riding on his 295 lb. shoulders since ASU’s do-it-all defender Will Sutton is still questionable for this week’s matchup. Facing the Pac-12’s leading rusher in Johnathan Franklin, Hood and the rest of the defensive line will need to stop the run and avoid another debacle like last week.

 

No. 6 Evan Finkenberg

Left tackle Evan Finkenberg will be facing a tough opponent in outside linebacker Anthony Barr who is a monster sack machine. Finkenberg will be essential in providing protection for quarterback Taylor Kelly as well as establishing the running game. It’s no question that the entire O-line needs to be on point, but Finkenberg needs to keep Kelly safe.

No. 5 Brandon Magee

After sitting out last year with a ruptured Achilles tendon, linebacker Brandon Magee is back this year with something to prove in his senior year. The two-sport athlete was signed by the Boston Red Sox, but he has been giving his all to Graham and the football team. Magee needs to put his money where his mouth is and be the leader for this defensive squad.

No. 4 Alden Darby

darbyBehold the legacy of Arizona State’s legendary linebacker Pat Tillman. Head coach Todd Graham unveiled the camouflage jersey this week, and safety Alden Darby earned the privilege of wearing said jersey in practice. Darby is well-deserving of this honor, and he needs to show his coach, team and all the members of Sun Devil Nation by continuing to be a leader on and off the field, emulating Pat Tillman.

No. 3 Chris Coyle

Arizona State has produced several tight ends that are currently playing in the NFL, so the onus is on current tight end Chris Coyle to continue in that commitment to excellence. UCLA has a veteran secondary with incredible cornerbacks that will be covering ASU receivers like glue. This should open up things for Coyle, so I feel that an epic game is on the horizon for the 6-3, 230-lb. letterman.

No. 2 Taylor Kelly

TKComing off an abysmal game against Oregon where he completed only 10 passes for 93 yards, it is imperative that quarterback Taylor Kelly bounce back and show the resiliency that is required of a Division I quarterback. With a 67 percent completion rate and 168 QB Rating, Kelly has proven that he deserves to be the starting field general for Graham and the Devils. His 15 touchdowns and four interceptions is a good ratio, but he will need to improve on it to win this key Pac-12 matchup.

No. 1 Jon Mora

Walk-on place-kicker Jon Mora has taken the kicking job away from Alex Garoutte. This isn’t the first time this season that Mora has been tabbed over Garoutte. After Garoutte’s dismal 1-for-4 performance against Cal, Mora was the kicker against Colorado and made his only attempt for 38 yards. Garoutte regained the starting job for the Oregon game and missed a 43-yarder. With this game lining up to be quite a close one, it goes without saying that every point will be needed, and Coach Graham has to feel confident in his kicker.

If the aforementioned players step up tomorrow, there should be no reason why the Devils will not only win this game but also the Pac-12 South crown.

 

Arizona State Football: 7 Reasons the Sun Devils Will Win the Pac-12 South

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With so much riding on the new regime of Arizona State Sun Devil football, coach Todd Graham is well on his way to bringing respectability back to the desert.

In 2011, when the team started 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference, the Sun Devils were nationally ranked at No. 19 in the BCS poll and looked like they had the Pac-12 South crown all but wrapped up since USC was serving a postseason suspension. Then came the implosion—four straight losses to teams with losing records and an embarrassing display in the Las Vegas Bowl getting demolished by Boise State in front of a national audience.

A new dawn has come, and the Devils will claim the Pac-12 South. Here are seven reasons to believe.

7. D.J. Foster

One of the most regarded and heavily recruited players in Arizona high school history, D.J. Foster decided to stay home and play for the Sun Devils. He averages 5.74 yards per rush with two touchdowns and 15.77 yards per reception with three touchdowns.

He is the consummate all-around athlete who will take ASU higher and higher this year and in the future.

6. Will Sutton

Will SuttonThe joy of recovering a fumble on Oregon’s first drive last week quickly turned to concern when standout defensive lineman Will Sutton had to be helped from the field.

ASU currently leads the Pac-12 in total defense and ranks first nationally against the pass, but its rushing defense is suspect. With their top run-stopper on the sidelines, things could get ugly fast, and they did. Oregon went on to rush for 406 yards, and that is with Chip Kelly resting his starters.

The good news is that Sutton has been at practice and is progressing and will lead the Devils in the coming year to cement a great defense.

5. Embracing Tradition Builds Character

There is a lot to be said for tradition. In portions of the country where there are no professional sports, children are brought into this world with the sole reason of dressing them in the gear of their school of choice. The schools with long and storied histories as well as rich traditions tend to have more of a commitment to the past, present and future of the team and school.

This is something that had been missing and was brought back by new coach Todd Graham. Graham returned the team to practice at Camp Tontozona and began a new tradition called the “Devil Walk” leading the team from Wells Fargo Arena into the stadium.

 4. Pac-12 South Redemption

After starting the season 6-2 and 4-1 in conference, the Sun Devils were ranked No. 20 in the AP poll, No. 18 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 19 in the all-important BCS standings.

All they needed to do was win one or maybe two games against teams that all had records under .500 and they would represent the South in the Inaugural Pac-12 Championship. They lost four straight and were decimated in the Las Vegas Bowl. With the new regime, culture and attitude, everybody knows that they need to return to the championship game to prove that they are worthy.

3. Revenge on a National Level

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The Oregon Ducks destroyed Arizona State last Thursday in front of 70,000-plus fans and even more as it was broadcast on ESPN. After scoring the initial touchdown of the game, Oregon scored the next 43 points…all before halftime.

If it wasn’t for Oregon coach Chip Kelly replacing his starters, it would have been a lot worse. This game will stick in their craw as a low point in their season, a sheer disaster in front of a sold-out crowd at home, and they cannot wait to return the favor in Autzen for the championship game.

2. USC Has a Tough Remaining Schedule

USC is no longer on suspension, so it seems odd that I am discrediting the No. 9 team in the country in stating that ASU will win the South and not USC—oh well.

With such a daunting schedule, I see the Trojans taking a big hit in the rankings, if the Devils have anything to say about it. With five remaining games, I see them losing three of them and finishing 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference. While looking at ASU’s remaining schedule, I see them winning four of five, finishing 9-3 overall with a 6-3 conference record and holding the tiebreaker.

Arizona State Introduces Todd Graham1. Todd Graham

Discipline, honor, character and integrity are all things that this football program has lacked and are all things that Todd Graham has brought with him and instilled in this team.

Forget about all the offseason hullabaloo about Graham being about as stable as a window on a submarine, Graham is the real deal, and he is here to stay and will take the Devils far and deep into the future.

Arizona State Football: Injured Sun Devils Expected to Play Against Oregon State

Arizona State Football needs all the help that it can get right now. After consecutive home losses to the No. 4 Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins, the Sun Devils need a big bounce-back victory to save their season. Injuries on the defensive side were piling up, but it looks like there is hope on the horizon with two standouts ready to return to action against Oregon State tomorrow night in Corvallis.

Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said Thursday that defensive star Will Sutton will most likely play on Saturday against No. 13 Oregon State after injuring himself in the first defensive series against Oregon on October 18th.

Sutton, the all-everything player for Arizona State, was on a tear through the season and was arguably one of the best defensive tackles not only in the conference but also in the country. Even after missing two straight games, he has 40 tackles, and his 8.5 sacks rank him tied for third in the nation; his 14 tackles-for-loss are fifth.He was also recently added to the Maxwell Award Watch List, an honor that is given out annually to the nation’s most outstanding college player.

Graham said that he feels Sutton will be able to play about 75 percent of the game while rebuilding his strength. He has been limited in practice since the injury but having Sutton at 75 percent is likely better than most DT’s in the country at 100 percent, so this is more than good news; this is incredible news for Arizona State Football.

Defensive end Junior Onyeali is also expected to return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him in the Oregon game as well. Onyeali, the 2010 Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year, is looking to redeem himself after an abysmal sophomore year. After a knee injury sidelined him for four weeks last year, Onyeali was involved in a shouting match with then-coach Dennis Erickson and was suspended indefinitely.
With the arrival of new coach Todd Graham, Onyeali’s suspension was upheld until he proved that he belonged on the team and respected the authority of the coach. Onyeali was reinstated prior to the season and has showed that he is a fighter and will do whatever is necessary for coach Graham and his teammates.

Also expected to play is linebacker Steffon Martin, who injured his elbow, and starting guard Andrew Sampson, who missed last week with an ankle injury, will be a game-time decision.

If this Arizona State team can get healthy and stay healthy, they can win in Corvallis. The Beavers struggled mightily against Washington last week with quarterback Sean Mannion returning from injury to throw four interceptions.

Their run game 111th in the country so I don’t see them establishing anything against ASU. However, Sun Devils stud running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice are experiencing breakout seasons and I see another upset ready to shake the foundations of the Top 25.

Conference Uprising

For many years, the West Coast bias has run rampant…and with good reason. After adding two teams to the Pacific 10 Conference with Utah and Colorado and finally adding a Championship Game, 2011 was supposed to be the Year of the Pac. NOPE. With Southern Cal serving a post season suspension and Arizona State taking a huge nosedive to end their season, UCLA ended up backing into the Championship Game after being humiliated 50-0 at home by cross town rival USC and unceremoniously lost to the North contender and eventual Conference champion, Oregon. The Bowl season was an utter disaster with the Conference finishing 2-5 with the only bright spots being Oregon beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Utah beating Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Washington came out on the losing side of one of the most exciting bowl games 67-56 to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl and Stanford missed a crucial field goal at the end of regulation to Oklahoma State and then lost in overtime. Those games were at least close…UCLA lost to Illinois in the all important Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and Arizona State was decimated and downright humiliated by Boise St. in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Hope Springs eternal on the left coast and with the launch of the Pac-12 Network and the big money contract behind it, four Pac schools went out to hire a new coach to remedy their current standing. Mike Leach went to Washington State, Jim Mora, Jr. to UCLA, Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham hit the desert at Arizona and Arizona State respectively. But will that change the dynamic of the conference? After the first month of 2012, seven teams have received votes and six are in the TOP 25, I offer up the new power conference.

Can the Ducks Keep it up?


Oregon is undefeated and ranked #2 in the country in both the AP & USA Today/Coaches poll. They survived 1st half scares by Arizona and Washington State but turned on the gas in the 2nd half of both games and handily won those match-ups. Their schedule looks to get a little tougher with Washington & Arizona State in the upcoming weeks and going on the road to USC and the “Civil War” will be played this year in Corvallis.

Will Their Soft Schedule Affect Their Ranking in the BCS?


Speaking of USC, they were ranked as high as #2 but went on to lose to Stanford in week 3. They have had a rather weak schedule and are currently ranked 12/13 and their upcoming schedule seems to be a cakewalk playing at Utah and Arizona and hosting Colorado. But it will get tougher visiting Washington and UCLA and hosting Oregon and Notre Dame – all ranked teams. Their National Title hopes were put out to dry by Stanford and they must win out to impress the voters as well as the computers.

In-N-Out Powered?


There is a new energy in Corvallis… always looked on as the little brother of powerhouse Oregon an hour southeast, Oregon State is also undefeated with big wins over Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona. Their upcoming schedule looks to be quite friendly only having to go on the road for three more games and they are all in the near vicinty; Provo, Seattle and Palo Alto. They host upstart Arizona State and the aforementioned Oregon, but everybody knows just how hard it is to go in to Reser Stadium and walk out with the W. The Beavers are a force to be reckoned and although only 3-0 due to an opening game postponement against Nicholls St., I believe they should be ranked a lot higher than 14/17, or maybe that is just the #beaverjuice talking.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde?


Stanford has taken its fan on a roller coaster ride this year…and October just started! They opened up the season with a squeaker win against the cross-town team from San Jose State, they went on to destroy Duke and beat then #2 USC. Their first road game of the year had them travelling to Seattle and having the undefeated #8 ranking shoved down their throats by the Huskies. The roller coaster ride looks to continue for the Cardinal faithful as they host Arizona and Washington State but still have to travel to Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA. They are currently ranked at #18 on both polls and should remain in the Top 20 after Arizona visits this weekend.

Are They Lost Amidst the Oregon Schools?


What a brutal stretch for the Huskies! They traveled to Baton Rouge in Week 2 and only managed a field goal against the Bayou Bengals, but then beat up Stanford at home. The next two weekends will not be any easier when they travel to Autzen Stadium to take on the #2 Ducks and then host #13 USC – the top two pre-season ranked teams in the conference. If they can manage a win against either of those teams, they will be ranked for the rest of the season as the month of November will be considerably easier hosting Cal, Colorado and Washington State while only having to travel to Salt Lake City to face the Utes. They are currently ranked at #23 in the AP and #26 in the USA Today but I don’t expect them to get past Oregon or USC and will have some to work to do.

Will The New Look Bruins Prevail?

UCLA beat Nebraska with a redshirt freshman quarterback…let that sink in a little bit. Chandler, Arizona’s own Brett Hundley passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in his Rose Bowl debut. They have since beat Houston and Colorado. They weren’t ready for the power of Sean Mannion and the Oregon State Beavers and lost their opening game of the Pac-12 season. After throttling Colorado in Boulder, the Bruins are looking to power beyond the #25 and #28 rankings in the AP & USA Today polls. The middle of their schedule looks a little lean with games at Cal and Washington State while hosting Utah and Arizona. Their last two games will define their season against cross-town rival USC and Stanford. I predict that they will finish with 8 wins and qualify for a mid-tier bowl game.

Can ASU Win the South?


As a proud alum and season ticket holder of Arizona State for the past decade, I have seen it all before. The heartbreaking end zone interception in Missouri, the absolute domination of Illinois and Utah, the ability to win on the road in Berkeley, but I am not sold, not just yet. The Sun Devils always start off strong, but always tank down the stretch. Last year they started 6-2 and were assured a spot in the Pac-12 Championship had they not lost their last four games. The icing on the cake was getting demolished in the Las Vegas Bowl by Boise State. There is reason to be somewhat optimistic, the addition of new head coach Todd Graham. If they win in 10 days at Colorado, they will need to hunker down for a difficult stretch against four ranked teams; at home vs. Oregon and UCLA then going on the road against Oregon State and USC. The tail end of their schedule lightens up as they host Washington State and travel to enemy territory and take on the University of Arizona in Tucson for the Territorial Cup.

“Arizona Foot League Championship 1899 Normal”


One of the nation’s oldest and most heated rivalry, this post -Thanksgiving Day game is always a tough fought battle and ironically most often won by the team with the worse record. Playing the spoiler is what rivalry games are all about…no?

Tales of a Tailgate Hero

In the dusty borderlands of Tucson, Arizona there lies a basketball school many regard as Point Guard U. After 25 straight trips to the NCAA Basketball tournament, the University has tried in vain to exhibit success in the mother of all collegiate sports. They have everything in place to make a great program, great weather, an exuberant student body and a huge grassy area known as the mall that welcomes thousands of co-eds and locals alike partaking in the age-old tradition of drinking fermented beverages as “punishment” for losing in any number of games including red solo cups, ping pong balls and bean bags. You thought I was talking about their football program??? I’m sorry, Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has a long way to go but their pre-game tailgate is top-notch.

Getting the Party Started at U of A Tailgate

The Mall at the University of Arizona is a multi-use facility that is available to rent by students, clubs or its most important use – tailgating. The area has become overwhelmingly popular over the past decade that the University sells season passes for the mall depending on the size of your vehicle and party. Since its inception, the school has sold out passes well before football season begins and has a waiting list for those hoping to get in on the action. You may be asking how do thousands of people show up with limited passes distributed and the answer is that the passes are only to bring your vehicle onto the mall, anybody (and seemingly everybody) can park and walk and party on the mall.

Tailgating Paradise in Tucson


Last Saturday was Opening Day for the football team and eager tailgaters were all waiting for the mall gates to open six hours prior to kickoff since there is a first come, first choice policy for all those holding the “golden ticket” or tailgate pass. After talking to friends that have passes, the best spot depends on what mood they are in or how they feel about their chances of winning the game. If they feel like they are going to get blown out, it is best to park right by the front gate for an early exit, if it is going to be a packed rivalry game than they prefer to be in the middle of the action to check out the best “scenery.”

Tents for miles

Expectations going into Saturday’s game were high as they had a new coach, a new regime and were going up a lesser opponent in the Toledo Rockets out of the MAC. We arrived around 2pm and fought our way through the maze of young, nubile bodies all decked out in their red Zona Zoo shirts and began drinking. A game of beer pong was progressing slowly at our area so we meandered to a neighboring spot that had the roar of flip cup and although we didn’t know them from Adam, we asked if we could join in the next game. Although my friend and I graduated college many, many years earlier, we were gladly welcomed because we knew how to impress the kids… a lot of free beer. We definitely held our own against the youthful group and headed back to our area for some of the best food in the region – carne asada. For 24 hours prior to each game, my friend would buy a couple hundred dollars worth of the Southwestern specialty and marinate in what I call “magic juice,” it makes the meat, so sweet yet with a spicy kick, so tender that you don’t need any utensils other than a tortilla, incredible with beans and rice or by itself.

Is it Game time yet?


After chowing down, my buddy and I went for a stroll throughout the vast landscape “to see what there was to see” and we were by no means disappointed. As the day grew hotter and the coeds became drunker, we were privy to several displays of flashing females as well as our fair share of drunken douchebags, the god outweighed the bad and we even had a chance to meet up with some cheerleaders. The next day, I saw that my buddy had posted his picture with the cheerleaders as his profile picture on Facebook and the running theme in the comments was that he was their tailgate hero. All in all, I would say it was definitely one of the best ways to spend a hot Arizona afternoon on the campus at the University of Arizona, now to work on that football team.