Who was the biggest key to Todd Graham's high octane offense with the Sun Devils in 2012?
The biggest turnaround between the 2011 Sun Devils, led by Dennis Erickson, and the 2012 Sun Devils with Todd Graham at the helm was the offensive output. The Devils lost Brock Osweiler to the NFL, but dropped only two spots to be ranked 25th in the nation in total offense. Their rushing statistics show that they ran the ball for almost 70 more yards per game. They also scored 5 more points per game under their new, more traditional offense.
So which player had the biggest impact on the offense's 180? Was it the quarterback? The trio of running backs? How about the tight end? We take a look at which player should be named offensive player of the year for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
The list has to begin with the quarterback. After being third on the depth chart heading into training camp, Kelly surpassed both Mike Bercovici and freshman Michael Eubank to snatch the starting job. And he never looked back.
Kelly was absolutely phenomenal for the Devils as the team's sophomore quarterback and he has plenty of room to grow. He passed for over 3,000 yards and had a completion rate just a tick above 67 percent. His touchdown to interception ratio was an astounding 29:9, which shows why he was chosen to be the starter in the first place. He takes care of the ball without being overly cautious. He will be a huge piece for this team moving forward.
Another young player that had a huge part of Arizona State's success was true freshman running back, D.J. Foster. The four-star recruit immediately found his way into the running back rotation along with JUCO transfer Marion Grice and senior runner, Cameron Marshall.
Foster's speed and versatility allowed him to not only play running back, but line up in the slot as a receiver from time to time as well. In all, he amassed just a shade under 500 yards rushing and over 500 yards receiving. He scored a total of six touchdowns, two from the ground and four through the air. Foster has proven to be the type of player this program is going to build itself around for the future.
The other player in the backfield with Foster was junior college transfer, Marion Grice. The junior back was far more effective at getting into the end zone than Foster was, scoring 11 rushing touchdowns by himself. He, like Foster, also brings a certain level of versatility with him, as he had 425 yards receiving and eight receiving touchdowns.
His play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Navy was exemplary of the rare combination of character and skill that he possesses. Just over a week after his brother was shot and killed, Grice went on the field and rushed for over 150 yards and two touchdowns, winning offensive MVP of the game. As the main back for the Devils in 2013, many are expecting big things from this former four-star transfer.
Coyle was Kelly's favorite target this past season, catching 57 balls from his sophomore signal caller. Added to the Mackey Award Watch List midseason, Coyle only continued to improve and just barely missed voting to become a finalist for the prestigious award given to the best tight end in the nation. Still, he was an integral part of ASU's offense that finally found a use for the tight end position under Todd Graham.
Coyle provided a safety net of sorts for Kelly, catching passes over the middle of the field and converting first downs with his 6'3", 230 pound frame. Whether Coyle decides to go pro or come back for his senior season at ASU, it should be noted how big of a piece he was to the Sun Devils' winning ways in 2012.
While there are always more people we could mention, I am going to keep the list as is. And for me, the winner is...
Marion Grice. He was the biggest piece to the puzzle, assaulting opponents both through the air and on the ground. He was always a threat to score and almost an impossible athlete to cover. His heart and passion for the game, coupled with his unbelievable talent should translate well for ASU in 2013.