Arizona State Football: Sun Devils' Biggest Concern Is Defense, Not QB Battle
While the ongoing quarterback battle between Michael Eubank, Michael Bercovicci and Taylor Kelly is stealing all the spring headlines, Arizona State's biggest concern in the 2012 season is actually its defense.
In 2011, ASU's defense allowed 422 yards per game, ranking 91st in the FBS out of 120. The Sun Devils were especially poor against the pass, allowing 273 yards per game, ranking 108th.
The five-game losing streak to close the season occurred in large part because ASU couldn't tackle, cover or stay disciplined.
On the most critical play last season, ASU allowed UCLA to convert a pivotal 3rd-and-29 through the air. If ASU won that game, the Pac-12 South crown would have been theirs.
ASU also gave up 503 passing yards to Washington State in the snow while facing a quarterback making his first career start.
After dropping both of those games, ASU still had its in-state rivalry to take care of. The Sun Devils were upset by Arizona at home, allowing Nick Foles to torch their defense.
The missed tackles on Juron Criner's game-winning touchdown were a microcosm of the entire season.
The Pac-12 South Division was in ASU's hands, but the Sun Devils couldn't clench the crown, losing five of their last six Pac-12 games.
ASU was devastated with injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Brandon Magee and corner Omar Bolden didn't play a snap all year.
The players responsible for the horrid defensive output in 2011 largely return in 2012.
The secondary, one of the worst in the country last season, all returns. While the group should improve somewhat due to actually having on-field experience, their level of play in 2011 leaves me skeptical.
ASU committed the second-most penalties in the country (104) with the most yardage (80) per game. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict self-destructed on the field, piling up 16 personal foul penalties in his career.
Burfict does not return, and neither does his high school teammate, Shelly Lyons.
ASU's offense should be fine next year no matter who plays the quarterback, because whoever wins the job will have significant weapons with tailbacks Cameron Marshall and DJ Foster.
In addition, Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks can stretch the field, adding more options. Receiver Rashad Ross is one of the fastest players in the country.
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