2003 Season Outlook

2003 SpringGuide in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

For most college football coaches in their second year at the helm, an 8-6 season capped by an appearance in a major bowl game is considered a remarkable accomplishment.

But if you know anything about ASU's Dirk Koetter, you know he's not like most head coaches.

Koetter, who serves as his own offensive coordinator, likes to throw deep or run flea flickers when a situation calls for a conservative play. He runs double reverses to wide receivers, giving them rare touches behind the line of scrimmage.

So it comes as no surprise that a year after a trip to the Holiday Bowl, Koetter is envisioning much bigger things.

'A lot of people have said to me, 'Congratulations on a great season,' and my standing is that it was not a great season,' Koetter said. 'It was a successful season, successful in that we exceeded people's expectations. Now, a great season is playing in the Rose Bowl, or in last year's case, playing in the Fiesta Bowl. That's the next step.'

The Sun Devils hope to take that next step this fall when they return the nucleus of a team that finished third in the Pac-10 after being tabbed to finish ninth in the preseason polls. They lost their share of stars in defensive end Terrell Suggs and wide receiver Shaun McDonald, both of whom left early for the NFL, but the Sun Devils return more than enough depth on both sides of the ball to head back to the promised land.

'Our players have high expectations,' Koetter said. 'It's one thing if you are talking about being competitive for a conference championship if you really don't think you can back it up. Our players believe we can back it up, and I believe it too. I believe we can be in the hunt.'

Koetter sets countless goals for his team, many of which are achieved at various stages throughout the season. ASU's primary long-term goal for the upcoming season is to get to the Rose Bowl.

'We haven't arrived at the bus stop yet, but we have definitely turned the corner,' Koetter said. 'Make no mistake that our goal is the Rose Bowl.'

The Offense

Quarterback


Andrew Walter 6-5 221 Jr. Grand Junction, Colo. (Grand Junction)
Chad Christensen 6-3 200 So. Scottsdale, Ariz. (Desert Mountain)
Kellen Bradley 6-3 200 RS-Fr. Scottsdale, Ariz. (Saguaro)
Mike Affleck 6-3 228 Fr. Provo, Utah (Timpview)
Sam Keller 6-4 220 Fr. Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley)

In Koetter's offensive system, the quarterback is the spearhead of the operation. With more than a handful of competent signal-callers, Koetter can rest easily at night.

Coming off a sensational sophomore season in which he established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the Pac-10, junior Andrew Walter is in search of more big things. Walter not only enters the season as the hands-down starter, but he also carries a nice feather in his cap. Several media outlets have him among a group of candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

Walter, who has been selected by his teammates as a team co-captain with safety Riccardo Stewart for 2003, hopes to back up that honor by posting numbers similar to those he put up in 2002. Last year, Walter completed 56.7 percent of his passes for a school-record 3,877 yards. He threw 28 touchdowns, which ranked second on the ASU single-season charts and just one touchdown shy of the school record. He became the first Sun Devil quarterback in school history to reach the 3,000-yard plateau in a single season and almost hit the 4,000-yard mark.

'Andrew was a big reason we were able to be competitive in every game last year, and we will continue as long as he is able to play at that level,' Koetter said. 'Any time you have a quarterback like Andrew Walter in the game, you have a chance to be pretty good.'

After starting four games to open the 2002 season, sophomore Chad Christensen will compete for the No. 2 spot this spring/fall with redshirt freshman Kellen Bradley. Christensen completed 27 of 64 passes in eight games last season. He also threw three touchdowns.

Bradley was listed by SuperPrep Magazine as the state's 16th-best prospect after his senior year at Scottsdale's Saguaro High School. In his final season, he led the state with 3,085 yards passing and 38 touchdowns.

Christensen (knee) and Bradley (left shoulder) have both recovered from minor surgery in the off-season. Koetter says either quarterback could claim the backup role.

'This will be Kellen's first chance to compete and Chad's chance to reinvent himself in a different role than he was in at this time last spring,' Koetter said.

Freshman Mike Affleck heads to Tempe rated as the 11th-best quarterback in the nation by SuperPrep. He threw 22 touchdowns and only nine interceptions during his senior season at Timpview High School in Provo, Utah.

Freshman Sam Keller has a build similar to that of Affleck, and his numbers at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, Calif., were just as impressive. Keller threw for 3,282 yards in his senior campaign with 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

Running Back


Mike Williams 6-0 205 Sr. Lakewood, Calif. (Mayfair)
Cornell Canidate 5-9 197 So. Phoenix, Ariz. (Alhambra)
Jermaine McKinney 5-11 217 Sr. Mission Viejo, Calif. (Capistrano Valley)
Randy Hill 6-2 199 RS-Fr. Tempe, Ariz. (McClintock)
Loren Wade 6-0 211 RS-Fr. Gardena, Calif. (Serra)

ASU's tailback situation includes senior Mike Williams and sophomore Cornell Canidate. The top spot belongs to Williams this fall after neither of the rushers solidified themselves as the primary back last season.







'Tailback might be the most competitive and deepest position on our team right now. Cornell (Canidate) has worked very hard in the off-season, and I am sure he will give Mike (Williams) a run for his money.'
-- Coach Dirk Koetter




'Tailback might be the most competitive and deepest position on our team right now,' Koetter said. 'Cornell has worked very hard in the off-season, and I am sure he will give Mike a run for his money.'

Despite missing some action late in the season due to a series of ankle injuries, Canidate still got the most touches last year. He carried the ball 130 times for 493 yards, scoring seven TDs in 11 games.

Williams also found the end zone seven times. He played in all 14 games, rushing for 482 yards. Williams was ASU's Player of the Game in the 2002 regular-season finale vs. Arizona with 162 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries in the second 100-yard game of his career.

'Mike is the most complete running back we have. He is also a leader who is versatile and he knows our system very well,' Koetter said. 'One of the things the coaching staff has come to appreciate is Mike Williams' style of running. We as a staff need to incorporate that into how we are going to use him.'

Senior Jermaine McKinney appeared in six games last season, rushing 13 times for 24 yards. Redshirt freshmen Randy Hill and Loren Wade are expected to make an immediate impact. Wade was ranked as the sixth-best running back in the West by PrepStar after his senior season at Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., and Hill, a local product from Tempe's McClintock High School, was tabbed at the No. 8 spot by the same publication.

'Both Randy and Loren did a great job on our scout team last year,' Koetter said. 'Randy Hill has a unique style of running, but he was very productive. Loren Wade came into camp last year in horrible condition and he had to play his way into shape, but he was really playing well at the end of the year. We like the future of both of those young men. They are hard workers and very coachable.'

Fullback


Mike Karney 6-0 260 Sr. Kent, Wash. (Kentwood)
Mike Talbot 6-2 234 So. Phoenix, Ariz. (Agua Fria)
Joseph Aboussie 5-9 243 So. Wichita Falls, Texas (Wichita Falls HS)

Although senior Mike Karney didn't touch the ball much last season in Koetter's pass-filled offense, he is still considered by many as one of the nation's best fullbacks. He possesses both the size and speed to protect the quarterback in pass-rushing situations.

Karney appeared in all 14 games last year, carrying the ball eight times for 20 yards. He also had 13 catches for 121 yards.

'We would like to see Mike take more of an active role in coverage teams within the special teams units,' Koetter said. 'That is one of the things we have asked Mike to take more of a personal interest in, in addition to his other duties.'

Sophomore Mike Talbot emerged as a viable backup to Karney, playing in 11 games last season. He had 11 yards on four carries.

'Mike will be in a backup role again this year, but he is a very capable one and he's also an excellent special teams player,' Koetter said. 'He is exactly what we are looking for at fullback. He is just playing a position right now where he has a really good guy in front of him.'

After spending all of last season on the scout team, sophomore Joseph Aboussie hopes to make more of an impact this year.

'Joseph Aboussie is a guy that continues to make progress,' Koetter said. 'It's slow progress at times, but he's a guy who is still only a sophomore. Joseph is a great weight lifter, and I would never count him out.'

Wide Receiver


Skyler Fulton 6-0 200 Sr. Olympia, Wash. (Capital)
Daryl Lightfoot 5-9 171 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Maryvale)
Derek Hagan 6-1 192 So. Palmdale, Calif. (Palmdale)
Matt Miller 6-1 166 So. Mesa, Ariz. (Mountain View)
Terry Richardson 6-0 182 RS-Fr. Corona, Calif. (Centennial)
Moey Mutz 6-1 180 So. Livermore, Calif. (Granada)
Rudy Burgess 5-11 180 Fr. Edwards, Calif. (Desert)

The Sun Devils return several explosive wide receivers, even with the departure of Shaun McDonald, a two-time All-Pac-10 performer who left early for the NFL. They return three of their top four wide-outs from a year ago in junior Daryl Lightfoot, sophomore Derek Hagan and senior Skyler Fulton.

Fulton looks to do more in his final year in Tempe after averaging 26.4 yards receiving per game (on 30 receptions) as a junior. He is capable of playing all of the different wide receiver spots and seems to be a favorite target of Walter's.

'Skyler has a certain chemistry with Andrew Walter that you can't buy and he is a quiet leader on our team,' Koetter said.

Last season, Lightfoot caught 40 passes for 552 yards, an average of 13.8 yards per catch. He also scored two touchdowns, one of which came on an 85-yard reception in ASU's 55-38 home loss to California.

Hagan marked 32 receptions for 405 yards in his first year removed from Palmdale (Calif.) High School. He figures to carry an increased load this fall. His 32 catches broke the ASU freshman record of 30 set by College Football Hall of Famer John Jefferson in 1974.

Koetter is also high on Matt Miller, a sophomore from Mesa Mountain View High School who shined during winter practices in preparation for the Holiday Bowl. Last season, Miller made six catches, two of which went for 68 yards in ASU's dramatic win at Oregon.

'With the departure of Shaun McDonald, I don't think I have seen any player that has had the light come on and recognizes this as an opportunity to step up more so than Matt Miller,' Koetter said.

Perhaps the most underrated player in the Sun Devil receiving corps is redshirt freshman Terry Richardson, last year's offensive scout team player of the year. Coming out of Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., Richardson earned All-America status from PrepStar and was rated as the third-best wide receiver in the West.

'This is his first time to do it where Terry is not working off cards but doing the real thing,' Koetter said. 'He is an explosive player and as good an athlete as you will find at that position.'

Sophomore Moey Mutz and true freshman Rudy Burgess, a versatile player who saw time at both wide receiver and defensive back for four years at Desert High School in Edwards, Calif., will vie for playing time in 2003.

Tight End


Lee Burghgraef 6-5 242 So. Corona, Calif. (Norco)
Aaron Austin 6-5 255 Jr. Dos Palos, Calif. (Fresno CC)
Jamaal Lewis 6-4 239 RS-Fr. Colorado Springs, Colo. (Rampart HS)
Frank Maddox 6-4 256 Sr. Celina, Texas (Celina)
Brent Miller 6-5 225 Fr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Desert Vista)

The Sun Devils have a big gap to fill at tight end due to the graduation of Mike Pinkard.

'Lee Burghgraef was our second tight end this past year and Frank Maddox was our second tight end two years ago,' Koetter said. 'They don't possess the vertical threat of a Mike Pinkard, but they're very solid players who are hard-working, blue-collared guys that have played a fair amount of football in the Pac-10. There is not a harder working guy on our team than Lee Burghgraef.'

Burghgraef saw more playing time than Maddox last year, however, he didn't get involved offensively when stuck behind Pinkard. He caught one pass in 13 games in 2002.

Maddox appeared in 13 games last season, but was rarely used as a target and had only two catches for 37 yards.

ASU's most highly-touted incoming tight end is junior Aaron Austin, who signed with the team for the second consecutive year. After completing a productive sophomore season at Fresno (Calif.) Community College in which he scored nine touchdowns in 10 regular-season games, Austin enrolled in classes during the spring semester at ASU while participating in workouts with the Sun Devils.

'Aaron was the No. 1 junior college player in the nation at his position,' Koetter said. 'The key for him is learning and seeing how quickly he can assimilate himself into the system. He is a very talented player and we are just excited about the prospects.'

Having bulked up since entering camp last fall, redshirt freshman Jamaal Lewis wants to have an impact this season. Lewis still isn't as big as some of ASU's other tight ends, but his contributions might be just as meaningful.

'Jamaal Lewis is one of the most improved players on our team,' Koetter said. 'He can really run and he is that vertical threat at tight end that we are looking for. This is his first real chance to shine.'

Of all 21 signees, true freshman Brent Miller is, perhaps, the most versatile in the bunch. During his days at Phoenix's Desert Vista High School, Miller played linebacker, quarterback, fullback, tight end and wide receiver.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle

Chaz White 6-4 291 So. St. Johns, Ariz. (St. Johns)
Andrew Carnahan 6-8 285 RS-Fr. Hereford, Texas (Hereford)

Left Guard

Tim Fa'aita 6-1 305 Sr. Daly City, Calif. (CC of San Francisco)
Tony Aguilar 6-3 288 Sr. Superior, Ariz. (Superior)
Adrian Ayala 6-5 306 Jr. Ventura, Calif. (St. Bonaventure)

Center

Drew Hodgdon 6-3 285 Jr. Palo Alto, Calif. (Palo Alto)
Tony Aguilar 6-3 288 Sr. Superior, Ariz. (Superior)

Right Guard

Regis Crawford 6-3 304 Sr. San Diego, Calif. (Morse)
Zach Krula 6-7 299 RS-Fr. Sacramento, Calif. (Valley)

Right Tackle

Grayling Love 6-3 282 So. Sacramento, Calif. (Valley)
Stephen Berg 6-6 307 RS-Fr. Tucson, Ariz. (Canyon del Oro)
Chad Rosson 6-6 288 So. Moreno Valley, Calif. (Canyon Springs)

Newcomers

Robert Gustavis 6-3 263 Fr. Torrance, Calif. (North Torrance)
Julius Orieukwu 6-7 298 Fr. Houston, Texas (Bellaire)
Mike Pollak 6-4 275 Fr. Tempe, Ariz. (Corona del Sol)
Brandon Rodd 6-5 275 Fr. Aiea, Hawaii (Aiea)

Heading into last season, the Sun Devils had to replace five seniors along the offensive line, four of whom were drafted in the NFL. This year, the Sun Devils won't have to worry about experienced depth being a problem.

ASU returns all five starters up front, including senior right guard Regis Crawford, senior left guard Tim Fa'aita, senior center Tony Aguilar, junior right guard Drew Hodgdon and sophomore left tackle Chaz White.

'We try to find our five best on the field,' Koetter said. 'You end up with about eight guys who are really going to play the bulk of the minutes. Within that eight, you have to have guys who can play various spots, and we have several of those guys.'

A year after moving from center and guard to left tackle, Crawford will head back to his old spot at right guard this season. He is backed up by Hodgdon, who may also see time at center in place of Aguilar and Zach Krula, who is coming off of a redshirt season. Aguilar might also play guard.

Fa'aita remains at left guard, having solidified himself as one of ASU's most consistent forces on the offensive line during the second half of last season. Playing behind him is Adrian Ayala, who started five games at right tackle and is still recovering from a severe ankle injury suffered at Washington State and aggravated during spring workouts.

Koetter decided to move White from right tackle to left tackle, a position he hopes White will occupy for the next three years. White will compete with redshirt freshman Andrew Carnahan at left tackle.

Redshirt freshman Stephen Berg and sophomore Grayling Love will compete for the starting right tackle position. Berg doesn't have game experience, but Koetter calls him a 'prototype of what you are looking for at that spot.' Love filled in at right tackle last season, however, he came to ASU as a center and can play any spot on the line. Sophomore Chad Rosson will provide back-up at right tackle.

Four freshman offensive linemen signed with ASU in February, including Robert Gustavis, Julius Orieukwu, Mike Pollak and Brandon Rodd.

The Defense

Defensive Line

Defensive End

Jimmy Verdon 6-3 273 Jr. Pomona, Calif. (Pomona)
Nick Johnson 6-3 259 So. Chandler, Ariz. (Chandler)
Connor Banks 6-3 244 Jr. Richmond, Calif. (St. Mary's HS)
Jared Wolfgramm 6-5 243 Jr. Tempe, Ariz. (Tempe HS)
Kyle Caldwell 6-4 260 Fr. Scottsdale, Ariz. (Saguaro)

Defensive Tackle

Brian Montesanto 6-5 261 Sr. Simi Valley, Calif. (Royal)
Shane Jones 6-2 290 Sr. Antelope, Calif.(Sacramento CC)
Matt Mason 6-4 246 Sr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Glendale CC)
Josh Kirkwood 6-3 266 So. Phoenix, Ariz. (Maryvale)
Gabe Reininger 6-2 279 Jr. Las Vegas, Nev. (Moorpark College)
Rickey Parker 6-4 260 RS-Fr. Los Alamitos, Calif. (Los Alamitos)
Ali Likio 6-3 309 RS-Fr. Euless, Texas (Trinity)
Brett Palmer 6-3 280 Fr. Tempe, Ariz. (Marcos de Niza)

It's impossible for the Sun Devils to replace Suggs, a unanimous All-American and the most decorated player in school history, but they've got a number of players that will try to fill his shoes. Senior tackles Brian Montesanto and Shane Jones and junior end Jimmy Verdon anchor a defensive line that is a key component to ASU's success.

Last year, Verdon, an honorable-mention All-Pac-10 selection, acted as the understudy to Suggs, who recorded an NCAA-record 24 sacks in 14 games. Verdon will line up at either end and can also move inside to defensive tackle during obvious pass (Cobra) situations.

Sophomore defensive end Nick Johnson is penciled in opposite Verdon. He will be used as an every down player this season after playing extensively in the Cobra pass rush unit last year.

Junior Connor Banks, a converted linebacker who has speed off the edge, will be asked to contribute on the line this season. Although he has played primarily as a defensive end, he is also good on special teams.







'Brian Montesanto is one of the strongest, fastest and toughest players on our team.'
-- Coach Dirk Koetter




Montesanto, who has started 29 games over the last three years, made the successful switch from end to tackle and was one of the main reasons ASU improved its overall team speed a year ago.

'Brian Montesanto is one of the strongest, fastest and toughest players on our team,' Koetter said.

After tallying 44 tackles in 14 games last year, Jones will be looked upon to help stop the run again this season.

Sophomore defensive tackle Josh Kirkwood could find himself somewhere on the depth chart, along with junior Gabe Reininger, a transfer from Moorpark (Calif.) College who resembles Jones. Senior Matt Mason figures to continue pushing for playing time at both the tackle and end positions.

Also providing depth along the defensive line is redshirt freshman Rickey Parker, who can play either end or tackle. He excelled on the scout team last season. At 309 pounds, redshirt freshman Ali Likio has few problems stopping the run. Junior Jared Wolfgramm, who appeared in six games last year, could be used as a replacement at defensive end.

True freshman Kyle Caldwell comes to ASU after a star-studded senior season at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale in which he recorded 131 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 30 sacks, 29 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

'Kyle has a chance to contribute at defensive end as a true freshman,' Koetter said.

True freshman Brett Palmer will also compete as a defensive tackle. Another local product from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, he led his team in sacks and tackles for loss during his junior and senior seasons.

Linebacker


Jamar Williams 6-1 228 So. Houston, Texas (Langham Creek)
Barton Hammit 6-0 221 So. Dallas, Texas (Plano East)
Ishmael Thrower 6-1 229 Jr. Sacramento, Calif. (Sacramento CC)
Jordan Hill 6-2 244 RS-Fr. Pocatello, Idaho (Highland)
Justin Burks 6-3 236 Jr. Norwalk, Calif. (Cerritos CC)
Tyrone Bowers 5-10 225 Sr. Santa Barbara, Calif. (Santa Barbara CC)
De'Andre Johnson 6-2 232 Fr. Phoenix, Ariz. (South Mountain)
Mark Washington 6-3 240 Fr. Long Beach, Calif. (Long Beach Poly)

With the departure of three talented seniors, sophomore Jamar Williams will undoubtedly assume the leadership role among the linebacking corps. Williams made great strides last season not only on defense but also on special teams.

Sophomore Barton Hammit will be a key component in ASU's 4-2-5 defense, which looked much better last year as players became familiar with it and developed a trust in it. Hammit, who played in seven games as a true freshman in 2001, returned from knee surgery last fall and looked impressive in winter conditioning.

After earning Most Valuable Player honors on ASU's defensive scout team last season, redshirt freshman Jordan Hill hopes to make his impact felt this year. Hill hails from Highland High School in Pocatello, Idaho, the same school Koetter attended.

Junior Justin Burks has taken a liking to life on the Tempe campus in his first year removed from Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, Calif. Koetter calls him 'one of the best junior college linebackers in the country.'

Freshman De'Andre Johnson could redshirt this season, providing opportunities for others to make some noise. Junior Ishmael Thrower, a converted defensive end who redshirted last year due to a hamstring injury, has the versatility to play on special teams and in the Cobra package as a defensive end.

Senior Tyrone Bowers made three tackles in four games last season, while true freshman Mark Washington joins the team in the fall after totaling 165 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, nine sacks and eight forced fumbles in two years at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High School.

Cornerback


R.J. Oliver 5-9 171 Jr. Escondido, Calif. (Escondido)
Emmanuel Franklin 5-11 194 Jr. Houston, Texas (Jones)
Josh Golden 5-10 172 So. Westlake Village, Calif. (Grossmont JC)
Mike Davis Jr. 6-1 176 So. Los Angeles, Calif. (Cathedral)
Chris McKenzie 5-10 185 Jr. New York, N.Y. (Glendale CC)
Chad Green 5-11 170 Fr. Van Nuys, Calif. (Birmingham)

Anything the Sun Devils lack in experience at cornerback, they'll easily make up for in speed. Junior R.J. Oliver, a two-year starter and an honorable-mention All-Pac-10 performer last season, is one of the fastest players on the team, while junior Chris McKenzie has run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds in junior college.

Junior Emmanuel Franklin and sophomores Josh Golden and Mike Davis Jr. will line up on the other side of Oliver. Franklin hopes to return to the team this fall after recovering from brain surgery, while Davis is a taller, physical corner who is vying for more playing time. Golden is looking to build upon a productive freshman campaign in which he had 33 tackles in 14 games. Golden will also return kickoffs.

ASU added depth to the cornerback position with the signing of McKenzie, a transfer from Glendale (Calif.) Community College who was rated as a first-team All-American by JNCAA last year. Freshman Chad Green, who collected 30 tackles and five interceptions as a senior at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, Calif., also caught 48 passes for 1,141 yards and 17 touchdowns in 14 games as a wide receiver.

Safety


Jason Shivers 6-1 193 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (South Mountain)
Riccardo Stewart 5-10 203 Jr. La Verne, Calif. (Bonita)
Brett Hudson 6-2 216 Sr. San Diego, Calif. (Grossmont JC)
Joey Smith 5-11 211 So. Phoenix, Ariz. (South Mountain)
Matt Fawley 6-1 211 So. Richardson, Texas (Pearce)
Lamar Baker 5-10 196 So. Avondale, Ariz. (Agua Fria)
J.W. Lucas 6-3 207 RS-Fr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Cactus)
Josh Barrett 6-1 195 Fr. Reno, Nev. (Reno)
Darnel Henderson 5-11 185 Fr. Oakland, Calif. (McClymonds)
Daniel Varvel 6-3 190 Fr. Bakersfield, Calif. (Bakersfield)

Despite the loss of Alfred Williams to graduation, the Sun Devils are well-stocked at safety with more than enough depth to last through the 12-game season. Juniors Jason Shivers and Riccardo Stewart, both honorable-mention All-Pac-10 selections a year ago, combined for 204 tackles last year despite Stewart missing four games with a shoulder injury. Stewart will also serve as a team co-captain in 2003 along with quarterback Andrew Walter.







'Jason and Riccardo are two of the best safeties in the Pac-10. They can run and hit with anybody.'
-- Coach Dirk Koetter




'Jason and Riccardo are two of the best safeties in the Pac-10,' Koetter said. 'They can run and hit with anybody.'

Originally recruited as a safety out of Grossmont Junior College in El Cajon, Calif., senior Brett Hudson played cornerback last season after injuries depleted ASU's secondary. He will compete for one of the starting strong safety positions this fall after a successful junior campaign in which he made 52 tackles in 12 games and had the game-saving interception in ASU's upset at then sixth-ranked Oregon.

'Brett had a great off-season in which he ran 4.45 for the pro scouts,' Koetter said. 'We expect big things from him no matter what position he plays.'

ASU also has plenty of depth in sophomores Joey Smith and Matt Fawley. Smith played well at the end of last season, while Fawley appeared in eight games as a true freshman, earning four starts before going down with a broken arm.

Koetter likes the versatility of sophomore Lamar Baker, who added muscle in the off-season to help ease his switch from cornerback to safety. Baker played in only two games last year before being sidelined with a season-ending injury and receiving a medical redshirt.

J.W. Lucas redshirted last season. He played quarterback at Cactus High School in Phoenix, but he worked out as a safety on the scout team last fall.

Daniel Varvel is one of ASU's three true freshman safeties. He comes to Tempe from Bakersfield (Calif.) High School with a reputation for being able to deliver big hits.

'When I saw Daniel Varvel's tape, he was sitting back there seven yards deep at tailback,' Koetter said. 'They were running between the tackles, and he was hitting it in there, really running hard with no fear. Then I meet him and I see his frame and his demeanor. This is the type of guy you have to project.'

True freshmen Josh Barrett and Darnel Henderson aren't as highly billed as Varvel but have the potential to be just as good. Last season, Barrett made five interceptions as Reno (Nev.) High School amassed an unblemished 11-0 record before being defeated in the Northern 4A championship game. As a senior at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Henderson also collected five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

Special Teams

Don't think of the word 'special' as meaning unimportant. Koetter regards his special teams units as being just as valuable as his offense and his defense. Without the special teams units, the offense wouldn't have good field position to start its drives and the defense would nearly always be on its heels. The next time you think of ASU's special teams, remember that Assistant Head Coach Tom Osborne mentors the units.

Punt Returns


Daryl Lightfoot 5-9 171 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Maryvale)
Josh Golden 5-10 172 So. Westlake Village, Calif. (Grossmont JC)
Terry Richardson 6-0 182 RS-Fr. Corona, Calif. (Centennial)

Junior Daryl Lightfoot and sophomore Josh Golden will again handle the majority of ASU's punt returns this season. Lightfoot returned 22 punts for 158 yards last year (7.2 yards per return). Golden returned 11 kickoffs for 238 yards and an average of 21.6 yards per return, including a 42-yarder, and will also try his hand at punt returns this year. Freshman Terry Richardson will also be in the mix.

Kickoff Returns


Josh Golden 5-10 172 So. Westlake Village, Calif. (Grossmont JC)
Daryl Lightfoot 5-9 171 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Maryvale)
Cornell Canidate 5-9 197 So. Phoenix, Ariz. (Alhambra)
Jason Shivers 6-1 193 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (South Mountain)

On the kickoff return unit, Arizona State has the luxury of returning three players who got experience at the duty last year. Golden marked an average of 21.6 yards on 11 kick returns last year, while Lightfoot totaled an average of 19.8 yards on 10 returns, including a long of 41 yards. Sophomore Cornell Canidate returned five kicks for 66 yards, an average of 13.2 yards per return with a long of 33 yards, while Shivers had one for 21 yards in 2002.

Punter


Tim Parker 6-0 192 Sr. Chula Vista, Calif. (Southwestern CC)

Senior Tim Parker established himself as the Pac-10's most consistent punter last year, leading the conference with an average of 42.7 yards per punt. A second-team All-Pac-10 honoree last year, he stuck 27 balls inside the 20-yard line and had only 10 touchbacks in 79 punts.

Placekicker


Jessie Ainsworth 6-3 200 Fr. Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Thousand Oaks)
Tim Parker 6-0 192 Sr. Chula Vista, Calif. (Southwestern CC)

Freshman Jessie Ainsworth will handle the placekicking duties in place of the graduated Mike Barth. As a senior at Thousand Oaks (Calif.) High School, Ainsworth made 9 of 15 field goals and 17 of 19 extra points. Three of his six missed field goals were blocked, and two of his other misses were from 56 and 62 yards out. His two missed extra points were both blocked. Senior Tim Parker will be the placekicker in spring football and can handle the job if needed.

Long Snapper


Jason Burke 6-1 237 RS-Fr. Glendale, Ariz. (Mountain Ridge)
Mike Talbot 6-2 234 So. Phoenix, Ariz. (Agua Fria)

Redshirt freshman Jason Burke is the team's leading candidate at snapper after the graduation of Jay Breckenridge. The Glendale Mountain Ridge High School product redshirted last year. Sophomore Mike Talbot is improving rapidly.

The Schedule

There are 12 games jammed into 13 weekends from early September through late November. ASU's only bye of the season is the traditional one before the game against rival Arizona. That means the Sun Devils won't get a single week off and will play on 12 consecutive Saturdays.

ASU will host Northern Arizona (Sept. 6) and Utah State (Sept. 13) at Sun Devil Stadium to begin its 2003 campaign. After winning four of their first five games out of the gates in 2002, the Division I-AA Lumberjacks dropped four of their final six to finish the season 6-5 overall. Utah State turned in a 4-7 mark last year.

The Sun Devils are scheduled to play their first road game Sept. 20 at Iowa, a Hawkeye team that fell to USC last season in the Orange Bowl. The Hawkeyes finished tied for first place in the Big 10 with national champion Ohio State.

ASU will open its Pac-10 season Sept. 27 at Oregon State before returning home to face USC (Oct. 4) and Oregon (Oct. 11). Dating back to 1994, the Sun Devils have won seven in a row against the Beavers, but they have lost four of their last five to both the Trojans and the Ducks.

ASU will wrap up the non-conference portion of its schedule Oct. 18 at North Carolina, looking to avenge a loss at Sun Devil Stadium last year.

The Sun Devils are slated to make their lone trip to Los Angeles on Oct. 25 when they play UCLA. ASU hasn't won at the Rose Bowl since 1996 when Jake Plummer guided a frenzied second-half comeback to preserve his team's perfect season.

On Nov. 1, the Sun Devils will return home to face California on Homecoming Weekend. They'll then hit the road again the following weeks for games at Stanford (Nov. 8) and Washington State (Nov. 15).

The annual rivalry game against Arizona is scheduled for Nov. 28 at Sun Devil Stadium. ASU has gotten the best of the series in recent years, winning three of the last four games between the intrastate schools.

ASU's Pac-10 'miss' in 2003 is Washington.

'I think we have a very favorable schedule,' Koetter said. 'I like the way our schedule lays out for us, but there are no weeks off in the Pac-10.'

Written by Brian Gomez
www.thesundevils.com

Categories:
Now on Pac-12 Network
8:00 AM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder
Close