The long, lonely stretch in which Sun Devil football has been absent is now over, as today marks the beginning of spring football.
The 15 practices will be the first football activity under new head coach Todd Graham, and they will culminate with April 21st's spring game.
In preparation, over the last two weeks, we've released a series of in-depth primers that cover the kicking game, wide receiver battle, linebacking situation, defensive back concerns and the new schemes being installed.
Now it's time to list our top five things that each of the House of Sparky staff will be looking at over the next month.
Brad Denny's Picks
A Leader Under Center: Clearly the biggest offseason on-field story line will be who emerges from the three way battle between Michael Eubank, Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly as ASU's fifth starter in the last five years. It's highly unlikely anyone wins the job in the spring, but a pecking order can very well become clear.
A Leader At Center: Who will be the guy snapping to the new quarterback? Kody Koebensky, Devin Goodman and somewhat-converted defensive tackle Mo Latu will all see time in a bid to replace Garth Gerhart. The tackles should be set with Brice Schwab and Evan Finkenberg, but the interior offensive line is in disarray.
Cameron's Caddy: Cameron Marshall is the unquestioned leader in the backfield, but after that? With Marion Grice and D.J. Foster not coming until summer, it will be interesting to see if Kyle Middlebrooks or James Morrison can rebound. But most importantly will be the return of Deantre Lewis, who still feels his is "85%" back to form.
Reloading Linebackers: The top four linebackers from a year ago are gone, opening up a lot of chances. Brandon Magee returns, but he won't be 100% during spring. Can guys like Israel Marshall, Anthony Jones, and Brandon Johnson step up?
New Schemes: The spring is a time for learning, and the Devils have a lot to digest. With entirely new schemes on both sides of the ball, the learning curve will be significant.
Nikil Selvam's Picks
Receivers: A lot has been made about ASU's receiver situation this year, and more specifically how wide open (no pun intended) the possibilities are for the starting lineup. I'm curious to see how players like Kevin Ozier, Rashad Ross and A.J. Pickens step up this spring.
Quarterbacks: House of Sparky covered the ASU quarterback situation a few weeks ago. Now it's time to figure out who can separate themselves from the pack and earn the starting job among the trio of Mike Bercovici, Taylor Kelly or Michael Eubank.
Linebackers: ASU's new scheme will call for a new breed of linebacker, namely one that is more attacking and athletic. It'll be interesting to see which of the players at spring training demonstrate the skills necessary to make the jump.
Discipline: ASU has been notorious in recent years for lacking discipline and committing a plethora of penalties. Hopefully Todd Graham can change that this season. Observing how the players act in these practices could give us an indication as to whether this team is ready or not to move ahead as a more disciplined, cohesive unit.
Atittude: Perhaps more important than anything else on this list is the issue of how the Sun Devils will adapt to the new coaching staff. Graham seems to have energized the players and the fan base, but the only thing that really matters is what happens on the field. Spring training provides the first true test of how this team takes to Graham and his new staff.
Cody Ulm's Picks
The Quarterback Competition: It may be obvious, but this has to be highest on the list. It's a three horse race with each QB bringing something different to the table so it will be intriguing to see which one Graham prefers to run his offense.
Junior Onyeali's Potential Return: When last asked in late February about if we'd see the Devil's best pass rusher back from his suspension for spring football, Graham gave an emphatic "no." While there's no reason not to trust that assessment, fans will still be praying that the 2010 Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the year finds some "accountability" and his way back onto the field sooner rather than later.
Linebacker Turnover: With Vontaze Burfict and leading tackler Colin Parker out the door, who steps up in the middle in Graham's new 3-3-5 defense? At least with so many question marks, it's good that the Devils now have a healthy Brandon Magee to provide some stability.
High Octane or Bust: Graham has preached it all offseason now it's time to see it in full effect. Undoubtedly he has the pieces with Cameron Marshall, Jamal Miles and a fully-recovered Deantre Lewis to go along with two fresh faces in D.J. Foster and Marion Grice but it will be exciting watching how he uses these assets to accomplish his proverbial vision.
Who Emerges Victorious from the Secondary Battle?: Spots are open at virtually every defensive back position in a secondary that got abused down the stretch last season. Devan Spann has the potential to steal one of those but will most likely sit out most if not all of spring practice leaving Deveron Carr, Alden Darby and transfer Robert Nelson to duke it out as ASU attempts to find their next turnover machine.
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