SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Arizona St. Sun Devils

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Dirk Koetter (3rd year, 12-13)
2002 record: 8-6 (Lost to Kansas State 34-27 in Holiday Bowl)
Pac-10 finish: 3rd
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 89.0 ypg
(8th in Pac-10, 111th in nation)
Pass: 303.9 ypg (3rd, 9th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 119.4 ypg (7th, 27th)
Pass: 244.3 ypg (5th, 96th)
Projected Starters
Offense (8 returning starters in bold)
WR   9   Daryl Lightfoot   Jr.  
WR  18  Skyler Fulton  Sr. 
LT   73   Chaz White   So.  
LG   59   Tim Fa'aita   Sr.  
C   53   Drew Hodgdon   Jr.  
RG   70   Regis Crawford   Sr.  
RT  71  Grayling Love  So. 
TE  83  Lee Burghgraef  So. 
QB   16   Andrew Walter   Jr.  
TB   3   Mike Williams   Sr.  
FB   44   Mike Karney   Sr.  
Defense (7)
DE   91   Jimmy Verdon   Jr.  
DT   97   Brian Montesanto   Sr.  
DT   99   Shane Jones   Sr.  
DE  88  Nick Johnson  So. 
LB  51  Jamar Williams  So. 
LB  Justin Burks  Jr. 
CB   26   R.J. Oliver   Jr.  
CB  23  Josh Golden  So. 
S   7   Riccardo Stewart   Jr.  
S   2   Brett Hudson   Sr.  
FS   30   Jason Shivers   Jr.  
Special Teams
31  Tim Parker  Sr. 
31  Tim Parker  Sr. 
KR  23  Josh Golden  So. 
PR  Daryl Lightfoot  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Sept. 6  Northern Arizona 
Sept. 13  Utah State 
Sept. 20  at Iowa 
Sept. 27  at Oregon State 
Oct. 4  USC 
Oct. 11  Oregon 
Oct. 18  at North Carolina 
Oct. 25  at UCLA 
Nov. 1  California 
Nov. 8  at Stanford 
Nov. 15  at Washington State 
Nov. 28  Arizona 
Arizona State's surprising third-place finish in the Pac-10 and the Sun Devils' down-to-wire battle with sixth-ranked Kansas State in the Holiday Bowl have created expectations of a more successful 2003 season.

"It's no secret we feel good about where we're at and headed," ASU coach Dirk Koetter said. "We feel like we're a team that can compete [for a championship] in the Pac-10."

In the Pac-10, it's important to have a playmaking quarterback, and the Sun Devils have one in junior Andrew Walter. Improving the running game and tightening up the secondary are keys to taking the next step -- a Rose Bowl berth.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Walter became the starter late in the second quarter of the season's fourth game and went on to pass for a school-record 3,877 yards.

A terrific deep passer, the 6-foot-5 Walter is looking for a new primary target this season to replace All-American Shaun McDonald. Redshirt freshman flanker Terry Richardson, a top recruit two years ago, is on the fast track to becoming a starter. The coaching staff also is looking to give Walter some help in the running game; he can't continue to throw 50 passes in a game -- as he did four times last year -- if the Sun Devils plan on competing for a conference title.

A reshuffled offensive line will sport four returning starters. Two new running backs -- redshirt freshmen Randy Hill and Loren Wade -- were auditioned to see how they stack up with returnees Mike Williams and Cornell Canidate. Williams, who had 162 yards on 40 carries and scored four touchdowns in the come-from-behind win over archrival Arizona, worked at both running back and wide receiver in the spring.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

ASU is hoping it upgraded its overall talent to continue the improvement the defense showed last season when it created 40 turnovers -- 22 more than in 2001. That task was made more difficult when All-America defensive end Terrell Suggs, the most decorated player in school history, declared for the NFL Draft. The national Defensive Player of the Year, Suggs was a one-man wrecking crew with 24 sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception.

During the spring, ASU was trying to sort out the two linebacker positions, which had its top three players complete their eligibility. Five players, headed by sophomore letterman Jamar Williams and junior college transfer Justin Burks , competed for the jobs.

The five-deep secondary will again be anchored by junior free safety Jason Shivers, who led the team with 121 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Punter Tim Parker had 27 of his 79 boots land inside the opponent's 20. He'll be an all-conference candidate this season. The place-kicking game belongs to signee Jessie Ainsworth. His predecessor made only 1-of-11 attempts of 50 yards or longer. Ainsworth is said to have the ability to kick field goals of that distance consistently.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Arizona State can make a run at the Pac-10 title if Walter doesn't have to account for all the yardage. Sophomore Nick Johnson has the assignment of trying to fill Suggs' shoes. He can be as loquacious as Suggs, but it's his productivity that matters most. A better overall pass rush would help the secondary, which struggled at times against quality opponents. The Devils appear to be solid in the kicking game.

The schedule is favorable with non-conference gimmes in Northern Arizona and Utah State and winnable games at rebuilding Iowa and North Carolina. ASU gets USC and Oregon at home. How much overall help Walter gets will determine how successful the season will be.

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