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Arizona State Football 2012: Best and Worst of the Sun Devils' Offseason

Alex FieldCorrespondent IIJuly 24, 2012

Arizona State Football 2012: Best and Worst of the Sun Devils' Offseason

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    After the Arizona State Sun Devils began last season with a 6-2 record, many believed they would contend for a Pac-12 championship.

    However, ASU stumbled throughout the rest of the season and lost their next five games, including a 56-24 loss at the hands of Boise State in the Maaco Bowl. That skid certainly played a role in the firing of Dennis Erickson.

    Now armed with new head coach Todd Graham, the Sun Devils will look to build on what they accomplished last season.

    ASU will have to move forward without some of their top-tier players from last season, and Graham will certainly have his hands full if he wants his squad to return to prominence.

    Here is both the good and bad from the Sun Devils offseason.

Best: New Head Coach

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    After Dennis Erickson was fired, the Sun Devils were reportedly close to bringing in June Jones but rescinded the offer.

    After they re-opened the search, they brought in Todd Graham, who was fresh off only one season at Pittsburgh where he led the Panthers to a 6-6 record.

    ASU desperately needed a new head man. Erickson had simply worn out his welcome in the desert. His best season came during his first year, when he led the Sun Devils to a 10-3 record and a share of the Pac-10 title.

    Since that point, ASU has not finished above .500 and has not won a single bowl game. Without a competent head coach, the Sun Devils have struggled to perform up to expectations, even with a number of talented players.

    Enter Graham.

    He is a very different style of coach, and Arizona State fans should be excited about the prospect of Graham entering the desert.

    Sure, he was one-and-done at Pitt, but he said the move to Pitt had split up his family and a move to Arizona made sense for the family.

    Perhaps the best aspect of Graham is his eagerness to please the crowd, a trait that Erickson simply did not possess.

    The new head coach has a plan too.

    He told The Arizona Republic, “How am I going to fill up that football stadium out there? I'm going to shake 74,000 hands. I believe it takes that much effort to get people's support."

    With Graham’s vision to fill the stadium and embrace the community the Sun Devils have the right head coach moving forward.

    Graham brought in a talented recruiting class as well, considering how much time he had to assemble it. The 2012 class is lead by 4-star running back D.J. Foster, who scored an Arizona high school state-record 60 touchdowns as a senior.

    Along with Foster, the Sun Devils brought in nine junior college players. It may have only ranked 43rd in the nation, but that still ranked higher than Erickson’s recruiting class in 2011.

    With Graham running the show, he just needs to prove he can produce wins, which may be hard to capture this season.

Worst: Losing Players

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    ASU lost quite a few players to the NFL during the offseason.

    Obviously, quarterback will be a huge area of concern for the Sun Devils without Brock Osweiler. He finished last season with 26 touchdowns and 4,036 passing yards.

    He decided to forgo his senior season in order to enter the NFL draft, where the Denver Broncos selected him in the second round.

    Without Osweiler, the Sun Devils will now look to their fifth starting quarterback in as many years.

    Another area of concern for ASU will be in the receiving corps, as the Sun Devils will be without three of their top four receivers from last season.

    To begin with, Gerell Robinson, who hauled in 77 catches for 1,397 yards last season, will be joining Osweiler in the NFL after the Broncos signed him as a free agent.

    Furthermore, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie have also moved on from the desert, leaving ASU with only one receiver who had more than 300 receiving yards last season.

    Without these key playmakers, the Sun Devil offense is likely to take a serious hit and will need to hope that Cameron Marshall has fully recovered from offseason surgery.

    Along the offensive line, three starters from last season are gone and Graham will be hard pressed to find bodies to replace them.

    He called the line a “pleasant surprise” during spring ball, but experience is key, especially in the trenches.

    As for the defensive side of the ball, Arizona State should be solid up front, but their linebacker depth is extremely thin.

    The Sun Devils will be without both of their leading tacklers from a season ago. Colin Parker, who racked up 75 tackles last season, has moved on and is attempting to make the Arizona Cardinals.

    Along with Parker, ASU also lost troubled middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was a preseason All-American last season but fell out favor towards the end of the year.

    Without those two, the Sun Devils will need to replace 144 total tackles from last season, along with 7.5 sacks.

    However, there is a bright spot among the replacements in Brandon Magee, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles but was second on the team in tackles in 2010.

    The Sun Devils will have both of their starting cornerbacks from last season along with one of their starting safeties.

    Last season's other starting safety, Clint Floyd, has since graduated and they will look to replace him.

    Floyd played mightily during his time at Arizona State, as he finished third on the team in tackles a season ago and also intercepted four passes.

    With the amount of holes throughout the roster, the Sun Devils will certainly have their hands full when trying to replace these playmakers.

    Graham will certainly have his work cut out for him when ASU opens their season on Sept. 1.

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