Pac-12 Networks preview: Arizona State
This post is the first in a series of 12 as we visit each Pac-12 school on the Pac-12 Networks Football Training Camp tour. Check Pac-12.com the day of each school's Football Training Camp stop for a quick season preview ahead of that night's show.
Arizona State football kicks off year three under Todd Graham on Thursday, Aug. 28, welcoming the Weber State Wildcats to a newly renovated Sun Devil Stadium on the Pac-12 Networks. The #ForkDaddies will embark on a journey to repeat as Pac-12 South champs, and their motto this season is “Unfinished Business.” The Sun Devils are aiming to win their first conference championship since being co-champions with USC in 2007, and hope to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since our guy Jake “The Snake” Plummer led the Sun Devils there in 1996. Here we go Fork’ems!
- Arizona State had one of the most explosive offenses in the country and the second highest scoring offense in the Pac-12 in 2013, averaging 39.7 points per game (10th in the FBS). The offense loses legends in running back Marion Grice and tight end Chris Coyle but returns six starters, including three of the top four rushers (Taylor Kelly, D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis), its top two pass catchers (Jaelen Strong and D.J. Foster) and one of the most accomplished and efficient QBs in program history in third-year starter Taylor Kelly.
- On the defensive side of the ball it will be an “Extreme Makeover: Sun Devil Defense Edition” as ASU loses nine starters and 35 of its 40 sacks from the Pac-12’s fourth best defense in 2013. Nose tackle Jaxon Hood and free safety Damarious Randall are the lone returning starters as well as the only two returners who ranked as the program's top 12 tacklers last season. They will have to lead the way for a defense that loses two-time Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton, linebackers Carl Bradford and Chris Young, and Osahon Irabor, Alden Darby and Robert Nelson, who tied for a Pac-12 best six interceptions in 2013. Todd Graham is a defensive-minded coach who brought over former college roommate Keith Patterson from West Virginia as co-defensive coordinator. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
- I mentioned earlier that Taylor Kelly is good at football. Here are some neat stats about his time spent as the signal caller in Tempe the past two seasons. TK’s 57 touchdown passes in the last two seasons is the most ever for an ASU QB over a two year span. He’s thrown a touchdown in all but four games in his career as a starter. Kelly is one of seven Sun Devil quarterbacks to pass for more than 6,000 yards in his career. He is ASU’s career leader in completion percentage (64.5 percent), 300-yard games (12) and total offense per game (270.8 yards per game). In 2013, he became just the second quarterback to have thrown for over 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons in school history. Not. Too. Shabby.
- If the new cast of characters on the ASU defense can create turnovers like the program's most recent departures, then the Sun Devils will be in great shape in 2014. In 2013, ASU outscored its opponents 146-42 on points off turnovers while posting a Pac-12 best +15 takeaway number. ASU has forced 63 turnovers under Todd Graham in the last two seasons, second most among FBS schools behind only Houston (74). The defense has forced a turnover in 29 consecutive games (second longest active streak in FBS behind Missouri), including every game of the Todd Graham era.
This offseason head coach Todd Graham bought the house of a famous rock star. Can you name the rock star who used to live in Coach Graham’s house?
Tweet me the answer @RyanMcGrady and I’ll congratulate you and we can become Twitter friends.
(Credit: Arizona State Sports Information Department. Shout out to Mark Brand, Thomas Lenneberg and Jeremy Hawkes, who do one heck of a job.)