Arizona State Football: 5 Players Who Must Step Up in 2012
After a disappointing 6-7 2011 season that ended in five straight losses, Arizona State may face even more struggles in 2012.
The loss of starting quarterback Brock Osweiler and the scarcity of experienced offensive skill players and linebackers are concerning issues that the Sun Devils must address.
However, head coach Todd Graham does have reason to be optimistic. He has two promising young quarterbacks battling for the starting job, several versatile running backs and some under-the-radar defenders with a lot of upside.
If these five players can step up and become stars in 2012, the Sun Devils may make some serious noise in the Pac-12 South.
Senior linebacker Brandon Magee should be ready to go after missing the entire frustrating 2011 season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon.
After losing four linebackers who each recorded at least 50 tackles last season, the Sun Devils will be depending on Magee to lead their defense.
Magee has great speed and range for a linebacker, and possesses intangible assets such as leadership, work ethic and instincts that will be extremely valuable in a rebuilding defense.
Last time we saw Magee he looked very strong, finishing second on the team with 73 tackles in 2010.
The senior linebacker must step up and lead Arizona State's linebacker corps in 2012.
Mike Bercovici/Michael Eubank
The departure of Brock Osweiler to the NFL leaves a big hole in the center of the Arizona State offense.
While the starting quarterback job is currently up for grabs, the Sun Devils will depend on their new quarterback to step up and lead the offense.
The top candidates to take over for Osweiler are sophomore Mike Bercovici and redshirt freshman Michael Eubank.
Bercovici is a great pocket passer with a strong arm who played in a couple of games a season ago. Eubank is a very big, athletic passer with a lot of upside. The former 4-star recruit stands in at 6'5" and 242 pounds and has great mobility.
Head coach Todd Graham told the Sporting News that "one of them needs to separate themselves in a hurry" in fall camp, but hinted that Eubank will get the nod.
"I would tell you the big boy is gonna be hard not to play," Graham said. "He's pretty impressive."
The young passer who wins this battle will need to step up and lead a young Arizona State offense in 2012.
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Much like its linebacker corps, the Arizona State receiving corps is seriously depleted heading into the 2012 season.
Aside from losing quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Sun Devils lose their top four receivers from a season ago.
Senior wide receiver Jamal Miles will therefore need to step up to take some pressure off Cameron Marshall and the running game in 2012.
Miles is an extremely versatile offensive weapon. In 2011, he caught 60 passes, rushed 29 times and was an all-conference punt returner.
It is imperative that Miles improve on that production in 2012 to help ease in his new quarterback and add a vertical threat to Arizona State's offense.
After spring practice, it looks like junior Davon Coleman is one of Arizona State's most naturally impressive pass-rushers.
The 6'3" 263-pound defensive end has a great combination of size and speed coming off the edge, and he should give quarterbacks fits in 2012.
Coleman started only three games in 2011, but still tallied 42 tackles, five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
The junior needs to prove himself as a pass-rushing force and put some pressure on opposing offenses in order help out the Sun Devils' shaky secondary in 2012.
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Like Jamal Miles, junior running back Kyle Middlebrooks needs to add some explosiveness to the Sun Devils' offense in 2012.
While he lacks great size at 5'8" and 182 pounds, Middlebrooks has excellent speed, quickness and acceleration.
He will add some key depth in the backfield, as he is able to give Cameron Marshall a breather in most passing situations.
Middlebrooks is also versatile enough to catch passes out of the slot, supplying some valuable athleticism on the outside.
The junior running back must emerge as one of the Pac-12's most versatile and dangerous offensive weapons in order to help out his young offense in 2012.