Previewing UNLV’s Opponents: Arizona State Sun Devils

Dennis Erickson takes on year two at Arizona State after a stellar first year at ASU where the Sun Devils started 8-0 and claimed a share of the Pac-10 title with USC. Erickson does this with the current payers and then snags a few junior college guys. Once Erickson gets his players the team should be able to flourish to even greater heights.

Offense: Quarterback Rudy Carpenter has the chance to pass all-time Pac-10 greats, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson and even Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway, as the leagues all time leading passer. Carpenter is a four year starter after taking over for Sam Keller and Carpenter never gave up the starting gig. Carpenter is working on his accuracy to get his completition percentage up to 65 and coaches also are working on him being more patient and scale back his gun slinger attitude, so he will make better decisions. The back up to Rudy Carpenter is two year player junior Danny Sullivan who has 44 career attempts and will see mostly mop up duty.

The running game was very good last year and the Sun Devils return Keegan Herring who has more then 2,000 career rushing yards, and holds the freshman rushing record with 843 yards in 2005. Herring is a more of a change of pace back and will get about 12-17 touches per game, and he will be starting at least in their season opener. Behind him on the depth chart is junior Dimitri Nance who rushed for 500 yards last season at 3.8 yards per carry, but he is also not a workhorse back, so look for both to split carries. This could be a problem unless one of the two emerge as a power rusher who can run it up the middle of the defense.

The wide receiver position is loaded this year for Arizona State with three of the four top wide outs back from last years team. The most improved player from spring practices is sophomore Kerry Taylor, and as a freshman in 2007, Taylor caught eight balls for 53 yards and a touchdown. Taylor expected to start at the H in four-receiver sets and see other action as well in different sets.

The best receiver returning is junior Chris McGaha who caught 61 passes for 830 yards and a touchdown. While these numbers may not be overly impressive it is because of the depth of the receivers, and that the offense allows many players to get touches.

The Sun Devils have one of the best red zone receivers in the league with senior Michael Jones who caught ten touchdown passes and Jones should challenge for first team all conference.

Defense: The defense returns seven starters on a pretty stellar defense that gave up 20 points per game. The Sun Devils were third in the Pac-10 in total defense but to make it to the national championship area that needs to improve to the level of a USC, LSU, and others who continually make BCS championship game appearance.

On the defensive line they return three of four starters, and the returning star on the line is David Smith. He started all 13 games last season and finished with nine solo tackles, 13 assists, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5sacks, plus he also had  an interception and a forced fumble. Smith also is the most experienced with playing time in 37 games.

junior Travis Goethel returns after a strong sophomore campaign in which he finished second on the team in tackles with 71 while also adding three forced fumbles and 3.5 tackles for loss, and is the leader in linebackers.  The rest of the linebackers have a lot of experience with Morris Wooten who had 47 tackles last year, and then there is Gerald Munns who impressed all the coaches last year and into spring to be the clear cut middle line backer.

The defense should be much improved especially if all the hype the coaches are praising are true.

Early Prediction: This will not be pretty Arizona State should win by at least 21 points, barring a miracle.

Conference News and Notes

BYU is in negotiations to play a home and home with Tulane possibly starting next season, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. A quote from the article ” That would stay within the current trend of playing two BCS teams (ASU, FSU), a respectable mid-major (Tulane) and Utah State.”

What a second!!! Tulane is a respectable mid-major? That points out a few things one BYU is giving Tulane way too much credit and second that they do not respect Utah State at all. Tulane plays in the Superdome and it is embarrassing when they barely meet the 15,000 attendance requirement and in a 70,000 seat stadium it is sad.

If the ink ever gets dry Tulane is a fine opponent, because BYU also has non-conference games with Florida State and Arizona State next year.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has announced he will not redshirt strong legged kicker Justin Sorensen and could see plenty of time by using him for kick off duty and long field goals. In high school Sorensen kick a 63 yard field goal.

Utah Ute running back Matt Asiata is still limping after rolling his ankle last week and is only doing individual drills at practice. The ankle was not hurt too severely but the injury has lingered longer then thought and is about 70 percent right now.

Utah Quarterback Brian Johnson looked real good on Monday during a scrimmage and “He threw a bomb on a 50-yard rope,” Coach Whittingham said. This is good news for Ute fans, because it now seems that Johnson’s shoulder is finally 100% after his shoulder injury last year.

News out in Laramie, Coach Joe Glenn announced the two deep depth chart and the big news is that the starting quarterback was named as well.  The position battle was with Karsten Sween and junior college transfer Dax Crum, and Gleen announced that Crum is the starter on opening day against Ohio.  Prior to arriving to Wyoming Crum was Honorable Mention National Junior College Athletic Association All-America honors while leading Mesa Community College of Mesa, Ariz., to a 9-2 record and a number eight national ranking.

Utah, San Diego State, New Mexico and BYU have scrimmages today, and more updates will be provided after they are completed.