The Arizona State Sun Devils believe that 2011 is going to be a year to remember in Tempe, but this hype hasn’t completely gone national yet.
Although the Sun Devils are finding themselves featured on most of the early preseason polls as a “trendy pick,” the casual fan knows nothing about them.
Come football season, everyone is going to learn a lot more about what ASU football is all about. They have great potential and appear to be the early favorites to win the Pac-12 South.
These are the top ten reasons that teams should fear Arizona State next season.
Last season, Steven Threet started most of the games at quarterback. However, he has decided to quit football due to concussion symptoms, leaving the starting job to Brock Osweiler.
He took over for the injured Threet in the last two games of the season and threw for 647 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. He also showed that he can be a major threat running the ball.
Osweiler has often been criticized for being inaccurate and making poor decisions, but recently Brock has shown signs of improvement in these areas. His decisions have been quicker and his passes on point.
Now Osweiler may not be a Heisman candidate anytime soon, but he should be an above average quarterback in 2011. Arizona State has so much speed and talent around Osweiler that he will not be forced to carry the offense.
If Osweiler can protect the ball and make good decisions, the Sun Devils offense should flow.
One of the many things that has plagued the Sun Devils over the last few years is poor chemistry. There were two teams at ASU, the offense and the defense. Most of this was due to the offense being so weak and the defense being forced to carry the load.
However, in the last game of the season against Arizona last year, the two sides seem to begin to come together. Not only have the become more together on the field, but off the field as well.
If the Sun Devils can finally start playing as one team, they could be scary.
When you look at Junior Onyeali, you see an undersized defensive end who doesn’t look like much of football player. However this 5’11” 233 pound end proved that he is one of the best pass rushers in the conference in 2010.
Onyeali racked up seven sacks in just five starts last season, including three in a winning effort against Washington State. He was so good in 2010 that he was named the Pac-10 defensive player of the year.
Onyeali has said in previous interviews that he would like to be an All-American someday. If he keeps improving every season, that might come sooner than expected for the Junior.
When the Sun Devils have a chance to return a kick, you have to hold your breath. They have such an abundance of returners that they are a threat to take it to the house every time.
Whether it is Jamal Miles, Omar Bolden, Kyle Middlebrooks or many others, the Sun Devils a surplus of exceptionally fast players who can burn you.
Arizona State had a FBS best 27.5 yards per return and took three for touchdowns in 2011. Don’t expect this dominance on the kickoff game to change anytime soon, the Devils return almost all of their key kick returners from a season ago.
Along with being a stud kick returner, junior cornerback Omar Bolden is also one of the best shutdown defenders in the country.
Not only is he incredibly fast, but he is also a strong, reliable tackler. He might not look like a heavy hitter at 5’10” 195lbs, but he can crack helmets.
In the game at Wisconsin last season, Bolden tackled the John Clay by himself. Coming into that game, Clay was being hyped as a back whom nobody could solo tackle.
Bolden nearly entered the NFL draft this off-season, but chose to return ASU for his senior season in order “to bring a Pac-12 championship (here) back to Tempe.”
It is great to hear such confident coming from one of the team leaders.
Arizona State has a two-headed monster at running back in Cameron Marshall and Deantre Lewis.
Cameron Marshall is the main running back on the squad. He is a vicious power runner with very underrated break away speed. As a sophomore last season, he ran for 787 yards and nine touchdowns on just 150 carries.
Marshall’s build makes him very difficult to tackle. He is 5’11” 225lbs square of a ball carrier. Not only can he go through defenders, but he can go over them too.
Deantre Lewis is the perfect compliment to Marshall. He is incredibly fast and great receiver out of the backfield. In his true freshman season in 2011, Lewis ran for 539 yards and scored four touchdowns off just 92 carries.
Along with Lewis and Marshall, the Sun Devils also have solid running backs in Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks, two speed backs that also play receiver.
Experience in huge in college football. The Sun Devils will be one of the most experienced teams in 2011. They are returning 18 starters and will have 30 seniors.
Over the past three seasons, ASU has lost a lot of close games against big time opponents (Oregon, Wisconsin, Georgia, etc…). The excuse was always that they were young and didn’t know how to win close games.
They finally proved they can pull out a nail-biter, when they defeated Arizona in a double overtime thriller to close the 2010 season.
If the Devils can learn to close games out, they will win a lot of games.
Anyone who followed the team during the 2007 season knows what I am talking about. The team’s cocky attitude resembled that of former Dennis Erickson's Miami teams that won National Championships.
Players were dancing, jumping around after every play and talking more smack than any team in the conference.
Well good news Sun Devil nation, this is back. All off-season ASU has been gearing to get back on that football field and prove their worth. Every player that is interviewed always says that they are going to win the Pac-12 and make a Rose Bowl in 2011.
These goals may be high, but isn’t that a good thing?
Nobody has bigger expectations for this team than the team itself. Lets see if they can be true to their word.
It is difficult to find a position on the roster (other than o-line) that does not have exceptional speed.
The speed on defense might be the best in the country. Linebackers like Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Magee and Oliver Aaron are fast enough to catch most running backs from behind.
This speed has made the Sun Devil defense one of the most electrifying squads in the conference. They can beat any team to the sidelines and require teams to try to beat them up the middle.
Expect the Sun Devils to put this speed on display when they play Missouri in week two. Missouri is a quick team, but the Devils will have an opportunity to show them what true speed is.
Vontaze Burfict is the most terrifying, intimidating, overpowering and meanest linebacker in the country. He might get the occasional personal foul, but he will also knock running backs out and make game changing plays.
The Sun Devils All-American linebacker led the team in tackles last season with 89, forcing two fumbles in the process.
Burfict’s insane combination of size and speed is so great that head coach Dennis Erickson compares him to Ray Lewis. Scarily enough, Burfict has the potential to be even better than Lewis.
He has shown a dedication to his team this off-season. He is starting to become a better leader and is working as hard as ever to make 2011 a special season.
If Vontaze can keep his head and stay under control, the sky is the limit for him and his team.