Carl Bradford makes a play against Utah (Photo: ASU)
The offseason is a time to prepare and look forward to the upcoming season. Analyzing the schedule, rating the incoming players, assessing the losses, and making predictions of every kind help to fill those hot and slow summer months.
Over the next few months, rest assured that House of Sparky will be bringing you such in-depth previews, analysis, interviews and more to get you ready for this new era of Sun Devil football.
But now, let's take that prognosticating a step further. Let's shift the focus past this season and take a look at who will be the Sun Devils' top players for Todd Graham's second season in Tempe in 2013.
Carl Bradford - Devilbacker
Heading into his redshirt sophomore season, Bradford has the inside track to be the team's starting "Devilbacker", an outside rush position that is a hybrid of defensive end and linebacker spots. Good thing for him that he has experience playing both...and with making plays in the opponent's backfield.
One of the top high school fullbacks in the nation in 2009, Bradford first moved to linebacker at ASU, but with the need at defensive end last season, he shifted over and made some plays over the season's latter half. He finished with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his limited playing time in 2011. Those numbers figure to swell extensively in the new attacking scheme.
At 6'0" and 240 pounds, Bradford has excellent size and the explosiveness necessary to excel in the Devilbacker role. While he and the rest of defense will be acclimating themselves to the new schemes this season, Bradford has the makings of one of the Pac-12's better defenders in 2013 and 2014.
Alden Darby - Safety
Another versatile player on ASU's rebuilding defense, Darby will be sticking to the safety spot this season after playing cornerback, safety and linebacker in nickel situations in 2011.
Now a junior, Darby is a tad undersized for the safety spot (5'10", 187 pounds), but he compensates with tremendous athleticism and a knack for making big plays. Despite just two starts, he made 51 tackles, had three interceptions and broke up six passes. However, he showed some glaring inconsistencies down the stretch that cost the Devils on more than one occasion.
Those struggles have helped Darby develop not only his play, but his leadership. He had a great series of spring practices and has emerged as a leader on a defense that is going through a major transition. By 2013, with the graduation of Brandon Magee, he should not only be the face of the defense, but a candidate for all-conference honors as well.
D.J. Foster - Running Back
The biggest recruiting catch since Vontaze Burfict in 2009, D.J. Foster's arrival in Tempe will have a major impact both on the field and on the recruiting trail. Despite a loaded backfield, the 6'0", 190-pounder is far too explosive and talented to redshirt as a freshman, and he will see the ball in a number of ways this fall.
Foster is the type of player who can score anytime he touches the ball, making him a perfect fit with the "high octane" attack sought by offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. Cameron Marshall will rightfully see the majority of touches this season, with Foster, James Morrison, Deantre Lewis and Marion Grice in the mix for what's left.
But in 2013, with his work ethic honing his already massive talent, Foster could become the centerpiece of the Sun Devil offensive attack, being a lethal threat in the running and passing games.
Steffon Martin - Linebacker
Martin joins Foster as a member of ASU's 2012 recruiting class, but instead of a raw high schooler, Martin brings a game polished by two seasons at Arizona Western College. Last season, he was a one-man wrecking crew, registering 108 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions to earn lofty ranks among all juco players.
Martin has great size (6'2", 230 pounds), speed (4.54 in the 40) hitting ability and instincts that figure to land him a spot in ASU's starting lineup this season. If he can translate that sideline-to-sideline production to the FBS level and gain valuable experience this year, he should be a dominant force as a senior in 2013.
Will Sutton - Defensive Tackle
A lot has been expected of Sutton, but he's yet to deliver on his immense talent. He made 12 starts last year, making 33 tackles, but just 5.5 for loss. Sutton is better than that.
He'll get his chance to prove it starting this season. With his blend of speed, size (6'2", 270) and skill, Sutton should be a great fit for the new defensive approach employed by ASU. He has the ability to play as a 4-3 tackle and an end in a 3-4, and he could become one of the Pac-12's most disruptive defensive players in 2012 under the coaching of defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Paul Randolph.
Should Randolph be able to tap into the reservoir of Sutton's talent and unleash him in creative ways, his senior year in 2013 could have the makings of something special.
Those are my picks for the top Devils one year from now. Now it's your turn. Who projects as your top five in 2013?