Arizona State Sun Devils (2000: 6-6)
The following team preview is provided by Blue Ribbon. For the nation's most comprehensive look at this and all Division I-A teams, be sure to order the 2001 Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, on sale now at 1-800-775-2518.
Coach and programThe age-old question will again be addressed at Arizona State during the 2001 football season. How many wins is enough?
Bruce Snyder won 58 games in nine seasons as head coach of the Sun Devils and went to bowl games five of the last six seasons. In 1996, his 11-1 team was nipped in the Rose Bowl, 20-17 by Ohio State, and narrowly missed winning a national championship.
All that just wasn't enough for the administration, which gave Snyder the boot even though he took the team to the Aloha Bowl last season.
In his place comes Dirk Koetter, a guy who has the task of living up to the administration's lofty ambitions in a conference that includes programs such as former powerhouse USC, which has failed to crank out national championship contenders on a yearly basis the way it once did.
Perhaps the Pac-10 is simply too balanced for any program to expect domination on a yearly basis. Oregon, Washington State and Stanford all have broken lengthy Rose Bowl droughts in the last 10 years. Oregon State has rejuvenated a program that was dead and gone. Perhaps bowls in four of the last five seasons wasn't so bad.
Nonetheless, the Sun Devils have landed a new man.
Certainly, Koetter was a monster overachiever at Boise State, where he went 25-10 in three seasons. Before he arrived, Boise State never had a winning season in Division I-A. He had three, including the school's first two bowl wins as a Divison I-A team.
And besides just winning, the Broncos were a kick to watch. They were first in Division I-A last season in scoring (44.91 points a game). They were No. 2 in the nation in total offense (496.27 yards per game).
Koetter, who developed high-powered offenses at Oregon when he was offensive coordinator there in 1996-97, knows how to move a football. Now the question is whether he can develop a consistent big winner in the Pac-10.
OffenseDespite minor injuries and a bout with mononucleosis, sophomore Jeff Krohn (6-2, 185) managed to start 10 games last season while setting school single-game records for a freshman with 432 yards and five touchdown passes against Oregon. He threw for 1,751 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But junior Matt Cooper (6-5, 240) and redshirt freshman Andrew Walter (6-5, 230), a highly recruited prep out of Grand Junction, Colo., might also be ready now.
"All three returning guys showed enough at one time or another [in the spring] that we thought he could be the guy,'' Koetter said. "But nobody set himself apart enough that we wanted to say this is the one we are going to live and die with in the fall."
After averaging 6.4 yards a carry in 1999 with 512 yards rushing and six touchdowns, Delvon Flowers (5-11, 195) was expected to vie for national honors in 2000 and was added to the Doak Walker watch list until he blew out his knee. If he returns without losing a step, he is a tremendously fast game-breaker.
With All-America tight end Todd Heap and talented wide receiver Richard Williams gone, the Sun Devils will be hard-pressed to replace them. Fortunately for Koetter, it would appear he has plenty of talent left.
Senior wide receiver Donnie O'Neal (6-2, 180) led the team with seven touchdown catches in 2000 and he finished with 39 catches for 661 yards. Sophomore Sean McDonald (5-9, 170) caught 22 passes for 358 yards and he figures to improve.
Senior center Scott Peters (6-4, 290) is the dominant figure on the ASU line, a Lombardi candidate who was a first-team All Pac-10 selection last season. He had offseason knee surgery and missed full-contact drills in spring camp, but he expects to be ready by the time summer camp rolls around.
Defense and special teamsThis could be the year sophomore defensive end Terrell Suggs (6-3, 230), last season's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, generates some national attention. Suggs burst on the scene in 2000 with 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
Playing opposite Suggs at the other defensive end will be sophomore Brian Montesanto (6-5, 250), who earned four starts last season and played in all 12 games.
The Sun Devils not only have to replace Pac-10 Defensive Player-of-the-Year Adam Archuleta, they are using a new system that utilizes only two linebackers.
One of those positions figures to be held by senior Eric Fields (6-3, 235), who started every game at outside linebacker last season. He had 11 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Junior Solomon Bates (6-2, 260) is a good fit at the other linebacker position as he had 99 tackles last season and was an honorable-mention All-Pac-10 pick.
It will be an interesting time to utilize a five-man defensive backfield considering the Sun Devils are a bit short on experience in the secondary. Senior safety Willie Daniel (6-0, 205) is the guy who might have to hold everything together.
Senior Nick Murphy (6-0, 185), who is handling the punting duties for a third consecutive year, was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award last season when he averaged 41.3 yards a punt.
Flowers should bring excitement to the kickoff return unit after averaging 22.3 yards a return in 1999.
Bottom lineYou get the feeling that everything Koetter touches turns to gold, so there might be some magic in Tempe this year. Koetter will need some breaks. Although his non-conference schedule is easy -- games against San Diego State, San Jose State and Louisiana-Lafayette -- the Sun Devils have to open Pac-10 play the second week of the season on the road at conference favorite UCLA.
If ASU does have trouble in the first half of conference play, it will be interesting to see if he can hold the troops together. A minor bowl appearance would be a good place for Koetter to start in Tempe. Of course, that's exactly the result that got Snyder fired a year ago.