Is a Special Season Upon Us in Tempe?
It's the most exciting part of the calendar year for football fans. The pro and college seasons are just about to begin, and you can almost smell the tailgating grills heating up.
This the time of year everyone thinks their team has a shot to win it all-have a special season. However, most of those dreams will not come true. For fans in the Valley of the Sun, Arizona State is looking to replace the disgusting taste that has lingered since their 5-7 season in 2008. They long for a similar season as 2007, when the Sun Devils won ten games.
Dennis Erickson has taken over playcalling duties for the Sun Devils, allowing offensive coordinator Rich Olson to view the game from a different perspective, up in the press box.
Although many in the Pac-10 might feel the Sun Devils will struggle at quarterback following the departure of Rudy Carpenter, the talent is evident under center. Here, senior Danny Sullivan is ready to lead the maroon and gold in an under dog role.
Few media outlets are talking about the Sun Devils, maybe deservedly so. To get respect, you have to earn respect. I believe is how the saying goes. A 5-7 record will not earn much more than congratulations from the opposing fans as they celebrate a win.
However, the Sun Devils have a lot of strengths that can carry this team and take the maroon and gold to the promise land.
Under the guidance of Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray, the Sun Devils have made incredible steps, and leaps, towards improvement. Last season the defense ranked in the top 45 of most statistical categories.
However, their overall stats could have been much higher, if the overall team defensive performances were more consistent. Ugly performances against Oregon and Georgia did not help those numbers either.
The leadership on defense will help the young players in the secondary and the key reserves up front. Having an incredible combination of speed, quality, and leadership across the board on defense will no doubt help Arizona State erase their 5-7 record of 2008.
The offense is thought to be a weakness heading into this season. Those questions will not be answered completely until the Sun Devils are truely tested by an equal or better opponent-Georgia on September 26th.
Many of the questions on offense surround the front five. The left side of the line seemed to hold their own throughout camp. The right guard and right tackle positions however, have been a revolving door up until the last two weeks.
Matt Hustad has replaced Tom N'Junge in the right tackle position. N'Junge has been sidelined through injury, but Hustad has been pushing for playing time even before the injury to the 2008 starter.
The right guard position is still up in the air. Andrew Sampson has been taking the majority of first team snaps, due mostly due to Zach Schlink being sidelined for the next two weeks with a knee injury.
Special Teams for Arizona State might make the difference in close games this fall. Not only does ASU have a Lou Groza award winner at kicker in Tom Weber, but the Sun Devils also sport a pretty daunting returnee in Kyle Williams.
Weber will look to return to the form which he displayed in his freshman campaign which earned him the top kicker in the country award. Blocking on field goals, extra points, and punts will have to improve greatly for his numbers to be similar to 2007.
Kyle Williams failed to return any kicks or punts for touchdowns last season. However, the senior, speedy receiver did set the offense up with some desirable field position on many occasions.
It will be very interesting to see Arizona State take the field for the first time in 2009 as the maroon and gold attempt to erase the feeling of disappointment of the 2008 campaign.
It all starts Saturday night at 7 PM against the Idaho State Bengals.
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