Arizona State Football: 5 Underclassmen the Sun Devils Can Build Around in 2013
The campus of Arizona State University is abuzz with the men's basketball team having one of their best seasons in a long time. The No. 4 softball team went 7-0 last weekend in the Kajikawa Classic only surrendering two runs all weekend. The baseball team is ranked No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball and begins their season this weekend hosting Bethune Cookman.
Where is the football?
A successful class of 27 recruits signed on to play with Arizona State last week and Coach Graham can't wait to get them all in camp and see where the pieces will fit in the intricate puzzle that is Arizona State Sun Devil football.
Here is a list of five players that Graham and others can build around in the coming years.
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D.J. Foster had a solid freshman year out of the backfield in 2012 and will look to increase his production now that Cameron Marshall has graduated.
He gained just under 500 yards on the ground and 533 yards receiving. He scored two rushing touchdowns and four as a receiver. His all-purpose yards were second best on the team.
Foster was injured in the Sun Devils' bowl game and missed the bulk of the game but we will be ready for Spring drills.
Look for new running backs coach Chris Thomsen to develop a run scheme that will benefit both senior Marion Grice and Foster. Foster was one of the most sought-after athletes coming out of Arizona and he is ready to carry this Sun Devil offense into the future.
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Jaxon Hood is another local product out of Hamilton High School in neighboring Chandler, Ariz. Hamilton High is best known for producing newly crowned Super Bowl All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Hood was one of only six players in school history that started as a true freshman in their first opportunity. He made the most out of this opportunity with 1.5 tackles that game, including one for a loss.
Hood finished the year with 26 tackles, four of them for a loss of 19 yards and three sacks for a loss of 18 yards.
When you are talking about the most highly sought-after recruits out of Arizona in the past couple years, you have to mention Christian Westerman.
The 6'4", 300-pound offensive lineman out of talent-rich Hamilton High School in Chandler hit all the big numbers prior to graduating. Westerman was ranked by Scout.com as the No.1 recruit in Arizona, the No. 1 offensive guard in the country and the No. 17 player overall.
Westerman is one of the most highly rated recruits in the history of Arizona State football but let's remember, it doesn't matter how many stars you have after your name, but how you use them.
Westerman signed with Auburn out of high school and redshirted in 2011. His 2012 campaign was limited due to injury and he decided to return home. It is yet unknown if he will be able to play this season, but he is already enrolled in classes and will participate in Spring drills.
The offensive line needs a big talent like Westerman to protect quarterback Taylor Kelly and to provide running lanes for running backs Grice and Foster. There is a gaping hole on the right side of the line after Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab graduated and Westerman will hopefully fill it sooner rather than later.
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Carlos Mendoza was having a great game against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
The freshman had intercepted two Illinois passes in the Week 2 game and collected three tackles. It was the third tackle where Mendoza injured his shoulder requiring season-ending surgery.
Mendoza used the medical redshirt and will most likely return to the WILL linebacker position that was left vacant with the departure of Brandon Magee.
Magee sat out the game against Illinois and Mendoza proved that he could do the job. Others that will be competing for the WILL position are redshirt junior Grandville Taylor and in coming freshman Alani (A.J.) Latu.
Grant Martinez is the newest addition to Arizona State or what has been labeled "Tight End U." Following in the footsteps of NFL greats Todd Heap and Zach Miller, Martinez is going to be a big hit for the Sun Devils.
Starting tight end Cris Coyle is entering his final year of play and Martinez is looking to be the Aaron Hernandez to his Rob Gronkowski.
Coach Graham will run a monster two-tight end set with these guys and wreak havoc on secondaries across the country. Coyle is 6'3" and 230 pounds while Martinez is a daunting 6'5" and 210 pounds.
Also signed to the tight end spot last week was junior college transfer De'Marieya Nelson from San Joaquin Delta College. Nelson is a redshirt junior and will be the perfect replacement once Coyle graduates next year.
Martinez is the next big thing at the tight end position and you'll be hearing a lot about him for years to come.
photo courtesy of wmicentral.com
In an effort to equally represent the entire Sun Devil roster, I selected those five but there are many others that will be making great contributions for the next four to five years.
- Jayme Otomewo - FR
- Marcus Ball - FR
- William Earley - FR
- James Johnson
- Viliami Moeakiola - RS FR
- Ellis Jefferson - FR
- Cameron Smith - FR
- Ronald Lewis - FR
- Richard Smith - SO
- Jaelen Strong - RS SO
- Chans Cox - FR (pictured)
- Viliami Latu - FR
- Alani Latu - FR
- Antonio Longino - RS SO
With the convincing end to the 2012 season, the Sun Devils proved that they know how to win and in convincing fashion. If the Devils pick up where they left off last year against an extremely tough non-conference schedule, they will elevate themselves to the elite come next National Signing Day.
David is the lead writer for Arizona State Athletics for b/r. Follow him on twitter at @asudave.