Spring practice has wrapped up across the country and we are a little over three months away from kickoff. To make the time go a little faster, I will count down my top 50 teams one team at a time.
No. 43 South Florida Bulls
No. 42 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
After finishing a disappointing 5-7 last season, Sun Devils fans were left wondering: What happened?
This was the same team who entered the season ranked, rejuvenated and with momentum following Dennis Erickson's 10-win first season.
The Sun Devils were back. So we thought.
2008 was an all-around disappointment that included a six-game losing streak, an inexcusable home loss to UNLV, and a bowl-less postseason for the first time since 2003.
Erickson simply has too much talent in place for that to happen again.
The strength of the team will be an underrated defense that could be the best the Sun Devils have fielded in several years.
Getting pressure on the quarterback is a key. The Sun Devils have the right combination with powerful sophomore Lawrence Guy inside and Dexter Davis and James Books creating havoc on the perimeter.
Mike Nixon, the team's leading tackler, leads a deep and potentially talented group at linebacker and though the secondary lost a huge playmaker in Troy Nolan, the combo of cornerback Omar Bolden and converted safety Ryan McFoy are going to be tough to beat.
The good news offensively is that the Sun Devils have one of the best trios of receivers in the Pac-10 with Chris McGaha, Kerry Taylor and Kyle Williams.
The bad news is that the rest of the offense has holes that need to be filled in a big way.
Danny Sullivan will take over at quarterback, replacing 43-game starter Rudy Carpenter, after completing just 15-of-43 passes a year ago and the running game, one of the worst nationally in '08, could have a nice "thunder and lightning" combination with Ryan Bass and Dimitri Nance.
But the biggest problem offensively is the offensive line, which has allowed over 80 sacks the last two years. Nothing positive can happen if this problem doesn't get solved.
There is talent and leadership returning on the line: senior Shawn Lauvao. He’s not just the best offensive player in Tempe, but he’s also one of the most important members of the unit.
After starting 21 games at guard, he will make the move to left tackle in an effort to solidify the program’s weakest link.
KEEP AN EYE ON
James Brooks: He managed just 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman backup last season, but he has excellent size (6-4/283 lbs.) and impressive athletic ability. This could be a breakout season for him.
Keelan Johnson: He has good size (6-0/200 lbs.), good speed and great ball skills. He's a bone-crunching hitter, too. He was the scout team MVP last season while redshirting as a freshman.
Ryan McFoy: His move from linebacker to strong safety has proven to be an experiment that has worked out perfectly. The senior has taken over the starting strong safety position and cemented the deal with an interception in the final spring game.
FROM YELLOW JACKET TO WOLVERINE TO SUN DEVIL
The perpetually unhappy, conference-hopping quarterback Steven Threet has found a new home.
Threet—who has previously played for both Georgia Tech and Michigan—will now move on to Arizona State.
A traditional drop-back passer, he left both Atlanta and Ann Arbor because of offensive system changes. At Tech, he was chased off by the arrival of Paul Johnson and his triple-option, while at Michigan, he wasn't a good fit for Rod Rodriguez’s spread attack.
Threet started eight games for Michigan last year and passed for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns.
But Rodriguez went out and recruited two true freshman quarterbacks this year and it was clear Threet wasn’t the quarterback of the future. At best, he would have been a second-stringer in 2009.
He might have better luck at Arizona State, where Dennis Erickson still favors a more traditional offensive system.
"It's a pro-style offense where they're in the shotgun and under center, the things you would expect and they throw downfield," Threet said of ASU. "It's definitely a situation where you've got to be comfortable throwing the ball."
He also visited Oregon State.
"For the most part, I only looked at two places and they were very good choices and well-respected programs," he said.
Threet better hope Erickson stays in Tempe. The quarterback doesn't have enough eligibility left to transfer to the Big XII.