Arizona State Football: 5 Biggest Holes in the Roster the Sun Devils Must Fill
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Arizona State Football celebrated the 2012 regular season with the return of the traditional Awards Banquet and Ring of Honor Dinner.
Head coach Todd Graham and Vice President of University Athletics Steve Patterson welcomed donors and members of the Arizona State football community. The voice of the Sun Devils, Tim Healey, awarded 13 postseason awards and bid a fond farewell to 17 seniors that made a huge impact in their time in the desert.
Those 17 seniors will play their final game in a Sun Devil uniform against the United States Naval Academy in a little under two weeks in San Francisco and they will leave some pretty big holes in the roster. Here are the five biggest areas that need to be filled by current players or new drafts in the 2013 season.
*This article is being written with the assumption that junior defensive end Will Sutton returns for his senior season.
Honorable Mention: Cameron Marshall and the Running Game
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The running game at Arizona State did a great job this year with the triple-threat of Marion Grice, D.J. Foster and Cameron Marshall—who has led the team in rushing the past three seasons.
With the addition of Grice and Foster, I can hardly say that the Sun Devils need help in the running game, but Marshall's productivity will definitely be missed.
Last year, Marshall was the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006 and his 18 touchdowns tied Terry Battle and Woody Green with most touchdowns in a season. He is currently second all-time for the Sun Devils with 35 career rushing touchdowns.
His 2,620 career rushing yards place him 10th all-time for Sun Devil running backs as well as his 4.8 yards per carry. He saw a decrease in production with the help of Grice and Foster in the backfield and he leaves knowing that the running game will be in capable hands.
Safety Keelan Johnson
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The biggest hole that will be left to fill is in the secondary. Safety Keelan Johnson and cornerback Deveron Carr, two local products, are ending their college careers.
Johnson had five interceptions this year. This led the team, was third in the conference and tied for ninth-best in the FBS. He finished the year second on the team with 81 tackles—60 of them solo. He also had a team-high 13 passes defended and eight pass breakups.
Deveron Carr had a team-leading two fumbles recovered along with an interception, a tackle-for-loss, nine passes defended and eight pass breakups.
Juniors Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor have been great in the secondary and need to mentor the new guys filling those holes.
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Josh Hubner has been spectacular this year for the Sun Devils, making it so much more difficult to fill his shoes.
He is the nation's third-best punter with an average of 47.1 yards per punt. Hubner also claimed the top spot in Sun Devil history in average yards per punt. He finished the year with 22 punts over 50 yards, including a 73-yard punt against UCLA.
Hubner was named to the Pac-12 All-Conference team as a second team specialist for his punting prowess. He also garnered a second-team place on Phil Steele's All-Pac-12 team and an honorable mention for Sports Illustrated's All-American team.
He didn't have a single punt blocked this year and has pinned 20 punts within the 20-yard line the past two years.
There are five remaining players on the squad that are listed as a kicker or placekicker, but I feel that coach Todd Graham is happy with his tandem of Alex Garoutte and Hubner doing the kicking. The punting could fall on any of the remaining players or they need to scout a new punter.
Punt Returner Jamal Miles
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This hole on the roster is also huge. The return game at Arizona State has been dominated and perfected by two seniors this year.
Wide receivers Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles have split up the punt and kickoff return duties and have both been remarkable.
Ross was named an honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Conference team and was one of only four players in the conference to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. His 384 total yards and 25.6 average yards per return rank him third in the conference.
Miles began the season returning both punts and kickoffs but relinquished the kickoff duties to Ross. In his 13 kickoff returns, he averaged just under 21 yards and had a long return of 31 yards. He has taken the lion's share of the punt return duties returning 24 of the 31 punts this season for a total of 183 yards and a long of 25.
Look for freshman receiver Richard Smith and junior Kyle Middlebrooks to step up next season in replacement of Ross and Miles.
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Three seniors are leaving the O-line this year, two of them are starters— Brice Schwab and Andrew Sampson (pictured). Sampson is a team captain who played in 46 career games and started in 32 of them. He missed three games this year due to injury but returned to anchor the offensive line.
Schwab has started all 12 games this year and Kyle Johnson saw action in all 12 games, but nothing consistent.
The onus will be on Evan Finkenberg to take the offensive line to new heights and he has done a great job this year receiving an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
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Three senior linebackers will be leaving the Sun Devils this year, but only one starter in Brandon Magee. Magee was a profile in courage after sitting out the entire 2011 season with an injury. He came back big with an interception returned for a touchdown in the first game of the year against Northern Arizona.
Magee was named to the All-Pac-12 second-team defense and led the team in tackles with 104—including 11.5 for a loss of 63 yards. He finished second in the conference with 9.5 tackles per game and .59 sacks per game.
Brandon Johnson saw action in 10 games this year and compiled five tackles, including a sack. Charles Beatty didn't record any stats this year, so that won't be difficult to replace.
Magee's production, however, will be difficult to replace. The team has a great linebacker in Carl Bradford (pictured with Magee) to mentor and teach those looking to fill Brandon's spot.