Key Things to Watch as Arizona State Football Heads to Camp Tontozona

Robby Baker@@Robby__BakerContributor IIIAugust 7, 2013

Arizona State has a chance to win the Pac-12 South this year, but they still have a lot of work to do before they can be crowned champions.

As ASU opens fall camp and heads up to Camp Tontozona, there are many areas the team needs to improve and focus on.

Sun Devil fans should keep an eye on how the wide receivers perform, who will win the starting job as kicker and how the defense looks against the run while ASU is up at Camp Tontozona.


How Will the Wide Receivers Perform?

Arizona State's offense relied heavily on their running backs and tight ends last year when it came to their passing attack. No wide receiver really stepped up and became a go-to guy for quarterback Taylor Kelly.

Tight end Chris Coyle was Kelly's favorite target all year, and his stats show that. Coyle finished last season leading the team in receptions and receiving yards.

If ASU wants to capture the Pac-12 South crown though, they will need their wide receivers to perform better in 2013.

The addition of JUCO transfer Jaelen Strong will help.

Strong has a unique combination of size and speed that will allow the Sun Devils to stretch the field and go for the home run.

ESPN's Travis Haney (Subscription Required) has Strong listed as the No. 26 player most likely to have a breakout season in 2013.

Running back Marion Grice is ranked No. 4.

If ASU has a deep passing threat, defenses won't be able to stack the box to stop ASU's running game, which will open up even more holes for Grice and D.J. Foster.

As a unit, fans should keep an eye on how the receivers perform up at Camp Tontozona because everything should look cleaner and quicker during Kelly's second year at running the offense. 

Kelly and the receivers should be on the same page and be able to run even more of offensive coordinators Mike Norvell's plays than last year. It will be a litmus test for this offense to see how Kelly and the receivers perform.


Who Will Be the Starting Kicker?

All ASU fans will agree, anytime the Sun Devils lined up to kick a field goal over the past few seasons everybody closed their eyes and prayed. That goes for extra points too.

For whatever reason, ASU has struggled mightily over the past few years when it comes to kicking field goals. They have never been able to find the right guy to solve the riddle.

Last year's starter, Alex Garoutte, made only 54.5 percent of his field goals and made only two field goals all year between 30-39 yards.

That should be a kicker's bread-and-butter.

Freshman Zane Gonzalez and Matt Haack will enter camp as possible solutions to the problem.

Haack will likely be the replacement for Josh Hubner at punter, but Gonzalez has a chance to be the Sun Devils answer at kicker.

Coach Todd Graham told's Doug Haller he's confident in his group of kickers:

The guys that are here (junior kickers Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora) have gotten better, but we got two really talented guys coming in. Zane and Matt are really talented, and I think they can handle it. We'll see. It's something I probably should be more worried about than I am.

If ASU plans to win the Pac-12 South, this is something Graham should definitely worry about.


How Will ASU's Run Defense Look?

ASU had a surprisingly good defense last season, but thanks to their tough schedule in 2013, they need to be even better if they want to win the Pac-12 South.

As Doug Haller writes, how ASU's run defense performs might be the biggest difference between a hot or slow start:

Last season, ASU's defense excelled in several areas, but rushing defense wasn't one. The Sun Devils allowed 182.9 yards per game, ranking 10th in the Pac-12 and 81st nationally. Wisconsin, Stanford and Notre Dame last season all ranked in the Top 50 in rushing offense.

With ASU playing Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame within the first five weeks of the year, their ability to stop the run will be paramount to their success.

ASU's defense will get a good test during fall practice as they go up against the likes of Grice and Foster, both of whom are listed on the Doak Walker Award watch list.

While Will Sutton will anchor the defensive line and clog up the middle, ASU will be looking for a replacement for Brandon Magee during fall practice.

It looks like Chris Young will be that replacement.

Young ended ASU's spring atop the depth chart at both SPUR and WILL linebacker positions. While he excelled on the field during the spring, as Brad Denny of writes, ASU hopes Young can fill Magee's leadership role too:

Beyond the possible need to fill in at his old position, Young is also being looked upon to help step into the leadership role that Magee held for the entire defense. Unlike bringing down ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage, this is a skill that does not come naturally to Young.

ASU will need their entire defense to be on the same page when the 2013 season kicks off. Four of their first five games are against very good opponents who run the ball well. If ASU wants to bring home a Pac-12 South title, they will need to stop the run in 2013.

What do you think ASU needs to do to have a chance at winning the Pac-12 championship game?


All stats unless otherwise indicated come from


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