From the collegiate level up to the pros, depth charts are the most over-hyped aspect of football. But for whatever reason, that doesn't stop many a fan from devouring these misleading formalities whenever they are released.
As a lover of the game, I can relate. Seeing the names of your favorite players officially classified on a chart is the closest you'll get to visualizing what your favorite team will look like before they actually take the field. Beyond that, the only thing they're good for is stimulating competition between position groups.
Although we sometimes like to pretend otherwise, depth charts by themselves only let the outside world into the tiniest freckle of the coaching staff's psyche. That's why it's important to read between the lines and to do that you need context.
Unfortunately for Sun Devil fans, there isn't a huge sample size to compare this year's final preseason depth chart considering this is only Todd Graham's second year at the university. But hey, that isn't going to stop us from trying.
Todd Graham's Depth Charts: Where everything's made up and the points don't matter
Although he hasn't told me personally, it's pretty obvious that depth charts mean little to CTG. If you don't believe me, just look at the similarities between the depth chart released 10 days before the the NAU game last season and the one released Tuesday:
First off, it's pretty clear that Graham believes there are starters and then there is everyone else. "Second-string" and "third-string" are not concrete terms on his Sun Devil squads. Hell, it's difficult to decipher exactly what Graham even means by "starter" sometimes.
This season, Graham was even more liberal with the co-starter tag. Two names are listed at the top of the depth chart at six different positions (Darwin Rogers and De'Marieya Nelson at tight end, Anthony Jones and Chris Young at SPUR linebacker, Steffon Martin and Salamo Fiso at SAM linebacker, Chris Young and Salamo Fiso at WILL linebacker, Robert Nelson and Damrious Randall at field safety and Lloyed Carrington and Robert Nelson at field corner). Making matters all the more mucky, Graham decided to list co-second-stringers at six different positions on top of that.
By my interpretation, Graham's use of "OR" on the depth chart essentially means "eh, we'll figure it out later." Which of course begs the question why even put out a depth chart at all but that's a whole different rant for another day. In a way though, it's also a testament to how versatile the athletes on this roster are. On defensive in particular, Graham has options at his disposal and this is his way of making it clear that he intends to use them.
Of the three co-starters from 2012, only the Colemon/Onyeali pairing played anywhere close to starter snaps; Washington/Rodgers were stuck in the insignificant canyon all season long and Pennel graciously decided to let Hood make the position his own by getting suspended to infinity and beyond.
The big takeaway from this season's co-starter pileup is two men are pretty much guaranteed to start somewhere: Chris Young and Robert Nelson. Just like those two, Salamo Fiso is also listed as a co-starter at two different positions and will surely get his fair share of snaps at multiple linebacker positions as everyone moves around.
Nothing is promised if you're a wide receiver
With how his first two years have played out at ASU, Graham would be better off having a separate week-to-week depth chart solely for the position.
In 2012, Graham began the year with three upperclassmen listed as his starters: Rashad Ross at X, J.J. Holliday at Y and Jamal Miles at Z. By the end of the season, Holliday was playing defensive back while Ross and Miles were seeing just about as many snaps at the position as Marion Grice and D.J. Foster.
The moral of the story is that Graham is going to do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it isn't conventional or pretty. This time last year, Graham might have felt a slight need to appease some of the veterans at the position since he was transitioning into the program.
Flash forward to the present and two of his three starters at the position are sophomores. Even Ozier, the longest tenured ASU wide receiver, is likely going to relinquish some snaps to freshman Ellis Jefferson, who has looked like the Devils' top receiver at times during camp.
With all the mind, it's important to remember that the term "starter" for the wide receivers is nothing more than a fancy title. Arizona State is undoubtedly deeper at the position than the were last season but they still have just as many question marks. Expect Graham to rotate bodies until he finds a trio that sticks (and even then I wouldn't set it in stone).
No more positional carousel
Looking at last season's depth chart from this time, it's almost humorous to see the sheer amount of players who were listed at another position by the end of 2012. It seemed like everyone and their mother was converted to defensive back last season as Graham tried to make the best of the hollowed out corpse of a roster Dennis Erickson left him.
Don't anticipate that in 2013.
Comparing last year's depth to this year's depth is night and day. On defense, there's at least one upperclassmen on the two-deep depth chart at every single position. More importantly, this year's roster is considerably more molded by Graham. He knows what he's working with on a position-by-position basis. Even many of the juniors and seniors were hand-picked by Graham due to his ferocity on the junior college circuit.
Graham is resourceful but he isn't thick-headed. The man knows his team has as good a chance at a Pac-12 South title as anyone so I don't see him derailing things by over-tinkering.
Then again, if there's anything Graham taught us last year with his roster management it's to expect the unexpected.