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Inside the Pac--a look at the ASU Sun Devils for 2002
Eight returning defensive starters could bedevil or beguile
By: Malamute, 9 July 2002

Led by All-Pac 10 defensive end Darrell Suggs, ASU returns eight starters from last season's defensive unit. Likely the strength of this year's team, the defense should improve on last year's record, which finished next to last in the Pac-10 in our average of 11 defensive categories. ASU loses four offensive linemen who started last season but returns tackle Regis Crawford.

Now that Jeff Krohn has transferred to Massachusetts, the Sun Devils need to find a replacement at quarterback. Last season, he led the Pac-10 in "Pass Efficiency." After  the spring scrimmage held in April, head coach Dirk Koetter said that sophomore Chad Christensen would likely "carry over" as number one. If so, he will be tested quickly, at Lincoln, Nebraska, when the Devils open their season facing the Cornhuskers in Christensen's baptism of fire. 

Along with the other quarterbacks, Christensen played poorly in the spring game, passing 14 times, completing 3 and garnering 21 yards. If he starts, he will be backed up by Andrew Walter (3-11, 58 yards) and Andy Goodenough (4-14, 33 yards). Walter started in two games last season, completing just 44.2 percent of his aerials (86-38-2). Christensen has excellent mobility but doesn't have the arm strength of the other two.

The loss of four starters on the offensive line will be another factor concerning Coach Koetter on the way to Lincoln. The Sun Devils finished fourth in the conference in rushing offense last season thanks to the productivity of Delvon Flowers who benefited from a senior-dominated offensive line. Without Flowers who has departed, the running game was more or less non-productive during the April scrimmage, with Mike Williams dominating the statistics by gaining 44 yards on 11 carries.

Shaun McDonald, who led the Pac-10 in receiving yards per game (100.4) returns at wide receiver. Daryl Lightfoot, who is shifty and speedy, will get some playing time at receiver. He was eighth in the Pac-10 in punt returns last season.

Josh Amobi had a sensational spring, and along with Solomon Bates, will give the Devils a solid line backing corp. They have five excellent players at linebacker that will be fortified by incoming JC transfer Ishmael Thrower--who would be a quarterback if only he were as good enough a thrower as Andy Goodenough. Yikes, there I go again. 

Another incoming JC player, Shane Jones, will help out at defensive tackle and replace the departed Tommie Townsend. The other defensive tackle position is up for grabs, the Sun Devils having lost Kurt Wallin.

On defense, Bates (LB), Jason Shivers (FS), R.J. Oliver (CB), Ricardo Stewart (FS), Alfred Williams (S), and Suggs (DE) all figured in Pac-10 statistics last season (see Table 5 below). 

Although Mike Barth is more than a capable place kicker, the act of replacing punter Nick Murphy is still in limbo, and Brian Biang needs to improve his punting--quickly. 

We summarize some of the ups and downs that could affect ASU for next season. 

Table 1. On the upside

Upside Item Comment
Some respite on the schedule after playing Nebraska. After opening at Nebraska, six of the next eight games are at home.
Terrell Suggs returns on defense He earned All Pac-10 honors last season at defensive end
Dirk Koetter is in his second year as head coach. Although his team was 4-7 last season, from a coaching standpoint, he knows what to expect this season.
Eight players return on defense. Just Cal and OSU return a like number on defense. Three incoming JC transfers will help out on defense.
QB Andy Goodenough joins the Devils coming out of  Palomar JC. The QB position is up for grabs. He may be "good enough" to be a starter. He threw 33 touchdowns last season and had 9 interceptions. Right now Christensen has the nod.
LB Solomon Bates returns. He's lost weight and is looking to have a better year.
Senior Mike Barth will do the place kicking chores.  He missed one try for point last season, going 43-44.

Table 2. On the downside


Downside Item Comments
A demanding schedule Playing a 13-game schedule with one bye-week sandwiched in, ASU opens at Nebraska.
Third-year sophomore Jeff Krohn (QB) has transferred to Massachusetts  Krohn led the Pac-10 in pass efficiency last season.
Delvon Flowers has departed Flowers was fifth in the conference in rushing last season.
Seven offensive starters are lost Four of them are on the offensive line
ASU finished next to last in the conference in the 11 defensive categories we averaged. ASU must improve on their defensive statistics, the most glaring of which was Red Zone Defense (10th).
The Sun Devils were scoreless for 3 quarters during their spring scrimmage. And...the Golds, the so-called "weakest team" beat the Maroons 22-7. Getting the offensive line up to speed is a necessity. 
Of the projected starters there are no seniors on the offensive line. It looks to have three redshirt juniors, one junior, and one redshirt sophomore, i.e., Crawford, Tim Fa'aita, Tony Aguilar, Drew Hodgdon, and Damon Niko, as projected by devilsdigest.com.

Table 3. Returnees on offense
Player Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt.
Regis Crawford RG Jr. 6-3 302
Mike Pinkard TE Sr. 6-5 264
Mike Karney FB Jr. 6-0 257
Shaun McDonald WR Jr. 5-9 172

Table 4. Returnees on defense

Player Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt.
Brian Montesanto DE Jr. 6-5 259
Terrell Suggs DE Jr. 6-3 242
Mason Unck LB Sr. 6-3 228
Alfred Williams S Sr. 6-1 203
Solomon Bates LB Sr. 6-2 261
R.J. Oliver CB So. 5-9 172
Jason Shivers FS So. 6-1 190
Lamar Baker CB So. 5-10 196

Table 5. How prominent returnees did in the Pac-10 in 2001

Player Category Pac Stat
Shaun McDonald Receiving 1st 100.4 yds/g
Shaun McDonald Receptions 7th 4.27 pass/g
Shaun McDonald All Purpose 9th 105.9 yds/g
Justin Taplin Punt Return  5th 8.7 yds/g
D. Lightfoot Punt Return 8th 8.2 yds/g
Mike Williams Kick Return 7th 23.4 yds/g
Mike Barth Scoring 7th 6.4 pts/g
Mike Barth Scoring Kick 6th 6.4 pts/g
Mike Barth Field Goals 8th .82 per/g
Mike Barth Field G percent 6th 64.3%
Mike Barth PAT Percent Tie 2 97.7%
Jason Shivers Tackles 9th 8.1 p/game
R.J. Oliver Tackles 23rd 5.6 p/game
R. Stewart Tackles 42nd 4.7 p/game
Alfred Williams Tackles 43rd 4.7 p/game
Solomon Bates Tackles 46th 4.5 p/game
Terrell Suggs Sacks 2nd 10
Terrell Suggs Tackles loss 3rd 16.5
Terrell Suggs Fumbles forced Tie 1 4

Table 6. ASU's Offensive Statistics in Pac-10, 2001

Category Finish
Scoring Offense 4
Pass Offense 3
Turnover Margin 9
Rushing Offense 4
Total Offense 4
Pass Efficiency 4
First Downs 9
Fourth-down conversions 5
Red Zone Offense 4
Third-down conversions 10
Sacks Against 10
Time of Possession 9
Average Finish 6.25

Table 7. ASU's Defensive Statistics in Pac-10, 2001

Statistic Finish
Scoring Defense 8
Pass Defense 7
Rushing Defense 5
Total Defense 8
Pass Efficiency Defense 9
Opponent first downs 8
Sacks By 5
Opponent 4th down conversions 8
Red Zone Defense 10
Opponent 3rd down conversions 9
Sacks Against 10
Average Finish 7.9

Table 8. The Sun Devils' 2002 Schedule

Date Opponent
August 24 at Nebraska
August 31 Eastern Washington
September 7 Central Florida
September 14 at San Diego State
September 28 Stanford
October 5 North Carolina
October 12 Oregon State
October 19 at Oregon
October 26 Washington
November 2 at Washington State
November 9 California
November 16 At USC
November 24 At Arizona

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