COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: Defensive back E.J. Gaines #31 of the Missouri Tigers breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Rashad Ross #15 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the game at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Through the first three weeks of Arizona State's 2012 season there have been several discoveries.
However, for all the findings, there have been a few things that have gone missing.
LB Steffon Martin
Among the most talked about pieces of the 2012 recrutiing class was linebacker Steffon Martin. The juco transfer from Arizona Western brought a wealth of physical talent and production to one of ASU's most pressing areas of need. A strong fall camp earned Martin a starting job, where it was thought his skills would make a major impact in the Sun Devils' new defense.
So far, that has not happened. Not by a long shot.
Martin has started all three of Arizona State's games and has registered just a pair of tackles, which puts him tied for 20th on the team. Yikes.
While other linebackers such as Brandon Magee, Anthony Jones and the now out-for-the-season Carlos Mendoza have made their presence felt, the team is still waiting for Martin's production to match his potential.
First, take a running back that ran for 1,050 yards and scored 18 touchdowns last season. Put him into an offense built around the run. Add a coach that has a history of utilizing a workhorse back. Then you have the reason why Todd Graham said at ASU's Media Day that he wanted to give Cameron Marshall 30 touches out of the 80 or so plays he hoped to run each game.
Through three weeks, Marshall has just 29.
Some of this can be explained by the blowout nature of ASU's first two games, some by a minor hamstring issue, and some due to the Sun Devils' backfield depth. But even with all of that, there is no disguising the fact that the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch list member is off to a disappointing start.
"A lot of it is just the first two weeks and the rhythm of the offense. We'd like to get him more rhythm. I'd sure like to get him a lot more touches with the football," Graham said during his weekly press conference. "We want to get the ball to whoever we need to, to win games but we want to get him more involved in what we are doing and get him going."
With the tough conference schedule starting this week, the Sun Devil offense will be best served with a hefty dose of Marshall
Every Wide Receiver
After losing most of their key players that accounted for nearly two-thirds of last season's production, it was expected that the Sun Devil wide receiver corps would have some struggles, but the performance through the first three weeks is far more worrisome.
Thus far, the group has been more notable for the plays they could have made than for the ones that they have. Last week in Missouri, they were charged with three drops, but there were arguably several more plays beyond those that should have been made.
While Coyle has emerged as the team's top target, and running backs DJ Foster and most recently Marion Grice have become key targets, the wide receivers have struggled. They's caught just 23 of the team's 55 receptions and 277 of the 750 yards.
The effects of their ineffectiveness were beginning to show against Missouri, as without the threat from ASU on the outside, the Tigers were able to limit Coyle to mostly short receptions underneath.
For this offense to reach its full potential, it will need a few targets to develop from the group, but right now, just one would be nice.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
James Morrison has an impressive offseason, but when the season rolls around, he's stuck on the sidelines.
Once again, Morrison was an early star, earning the nickname "Tank" from Graham after a stellar spring. Yet when fall came around and Grice and Foster joined the backfield mix, Morrison was once again the odd man out. He saw some practice reps at the 3-back spot in an attempt to keep him in the flow of the offense.
Unfortunately, Morrison was suspended for the opener against NAU, dealing him a self-inflicted setback, but he's been a total non-factor since his return. He's seen action in both games, but has yet to register a touch as the other backs have begun to establish a productive rotation.
A senior, Morrison has worked very hard this entire season, so hopefully a chance emerges at some point in the future for him to show what he can do in meaningful game situations.