Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19, 2012
As we continue to take an early look at each of the Ducks opponents during the upcoming season we turn our attention to game number seven of 2012; a trip to Tempe, Arizona to face the Sun Devils of Arizona State.

After their first bye week of the season, the Ducks will face Arizona State on a Thursday night in Arizona.

As has been the case seemingly every week in the 2012 season, the Ducks will face a team whose coaching staff has been overhauled. In this case, with the fading successes of Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils replaced him in the off-season with Todd Graham.

Coaching change. Graham has been somewhat nomadic in his coaching career spending just one season as the head coach at Rice before moving to Tulsa as their head coach following the 2006 season. After leaving Tulsa to take over the Pitt job, Graham lasted just one season at Pitt as well before moving on again to Arizona State.

After many years of coaches with offensive mindsets in Tempe, Graham comes to the Valley of the Sun from the defensive side of the ball.


Returning Starters: 3

Key returners: Cameron Marshall, 5-11, 223, RB; Jamal Miles, 5-10, 183, WR

Key Losses: Brock Osweiler, QB, Gerrell Robinson, WR; Aaron Pflugrad, WR; Garth Gerhart, Center

Key Arrivals: D.J. Foster, 5-11, 190, Athlete, Saguaro (Scottsdale) High School; Marion Grice, 6-0, 215, RB, Blinn C.C.

Tim Nelson/
Cameron Marshall returns to lead the ground game for ASU
The offense took a bog hit in the off-season with the loss of three starting offensive linemen, the starting quarterback and their top receiver. What the Sun Devils return, however, is leading rusher Cameron Marshall. A strong, physical back, Marshall gained over 1000 yards last season as a junior and will be a likely focal point of the new offense being put in place by offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. Norvell coached with Graham at Tulsa and Pitt and is known for his wide open passing attacks.

The key position to watch this off-season will be the quarterback position for the Sun Devils. ASU has just three quarterbacks on the roster, none of whom have any experience. Without an experienced quarterback and with two of the top receiving threats from 2011 now graduated, the Sun Devils will have a difficult time establishing their offensive identity in the 2012 season. Nonetheless, by the time this game arrives on the schedule, the Sun Devils should have the beginning of their offensive identity and it will likely involve a lot of passing with a steady does of Cameron Marshall. Do not be surprised, though, to see the offense feature more of Kyle Middlebrooks who should provide a change of pace to the bruising running style of Marshall.

Early Offense Prediction: The Sun Devils lost a lot of talent from the 2011 team and at the most important positions, there does not appear to be anyone ready to step in and fill the shoes. This is especially true of the quarterback position. Norvell's offense relies on the quarterback to be like a point guard and distribute the ball all over the field. The Sun Devils will have some success throwing the ball, but will not likely have the tools or athletes to score as much as in years past. Expect Norvell to try and attack the secondary, but not find a lot of success.


Returning Starters: 4

Key returners: Junior Onyeali, 5-11, 245, DE; Deveron Carr, 5-11, 193, CB; Brandon Magee, 5-11, 230, LB

Key Losses: Vontaze Burfict, LB; Bo Moos, DT; Colin Parker, LB

Key Arrivals: Steffon Martin, LB, 6-2, 235, Arizona Western C.C.

As with the offensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils lose their most productive players from last season. One important returner is Brandon Magee returning after missing all of last season with injury. Another important component to a rebuilt defense will be Onyeali. Despite missing five games due to injury, Onyeali still managed to post 3.5 tackles for loss in his abbreviated season. Onyeali should be fully recovered and ready to make his mark again in the 2012 season.

Deveron Carr was far and away the team leader in passes defended last season. His presence should help offset the loss of three other starters in the defensive backfield.

Tim Nelson/
The loss of the mercurial Vontaze Burfict will be huge for the Sun Devils
Early Defense Prediction: A team that played a lot of undisciplined football, outside of their victory over the Trojans, lost most of their stars. This may be a good thing as sometimes the mantra of "addition by subtraction" applies. In this case, a fresh start may help the team be more consistent on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive Coordinator Paul Randolph has had defensive success in his prior coaching stops including three seasons as the defensive ends coach for Alabama (2003-05). Though the team will likely be more disciplined in 2012 than in years past, the Sun Devils lack the talent and speed to compete at the Ducks level. The Sun Devils will have a difficult time containing one of the most explosive offenses in the nation again in 2012.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks will need to overcome the raucous Thursday night crowd it is sure to face against the Sun Devils. As long as the Ducks do not give ASU extra chances via turnovers, the Ducks should be able to roll up plenty of points against a young, inexperienced Arizona State football team.

OREGON WILL LOSE IF: If, however, Oregon turns the ball over a few times and lets the high octane throwing offense get behind the defensive backfield, the Ducks could face a team fired up and struggle to contain the offense.

PREDICTED OUTCOME: The Ducks should be able to roll into Tempe and win this game. Like in all games, the team must not take the victory for granted, but I doubt Chip Kelly allows this team to go on the road, for a Thursday night game, after a bye week and not be fully focused on the task at hand. Oregon win.


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