Yesterday was an awesome day to be a fan of college football. Not only did coach Todd Graham put together a very respectable class on National Signing Day, but he gave Sun Devils fans across the nation a glimpse into the future. Guess what? The future is looking pretty bright.
While we've all pored over the list of new Devils and thought about how they'd fit into the 3-3-5 and the spread offense, the time has come to take the first glimpse at the strengths and weaknesses of the Arizona State roster going into 2012.
Running backs: Without a question, the best position on the ASU roster in terms of depth, talent and versatility goes to the workhorses in the backfield. Cameron Marshall returns for his senior season, hoping to build on his 18 touchdown, 1,050 rushing yard junior campaign.
Deantre Lewis should be back after missing last season, while the talented Jamal Miles will continue to see snaps out of the backfield. D.J. Foster and Marion Grice, both four star recruits that signed yesterday, should compete immediately for snaps and provide a very exciting position battle from spring practice all the way up to the season opener against Northern Arizona.
Secondary: I know this might seem blasphemous, but I'm actually confident that the secondary will be greatly improved in 2012. Graham is bringing the 3-3-5 defense with him from Pitt, and it's going to be quite the change. At all times, there will be five members of the secondary roaming the field, and we've got plenty of experience out there between Osahon Irabor, Deveron Carr, Alden Darby and Keelan Johnson. Kevin Ayers also provides a layer of depth.
One of the biggest additions from Graham's class yesterday is Chris Young, who is a JUCO standout from Arizona Western College in Yuma. Young will play a hybrid position for us, and while he has mainly played outside linebacker, he can drop into coverage and give opponents fits with his hard-hitting style of play. A whole year of conditioning and training will bring out the best of this unit.
Linebacker: We lost our four main linebackers from 2011 (Vontaze Burfict, Shelly Lyons, Oliver Aaron and Colin Parker). Brandon Magee returns from his torn achilles and Steffon Martin (also of Arizona Western College fame) should step in and find immediate playing time, but there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this unit and what is to be expected of them. Hopefully our concerns are overblown, but this position is lacking right now.
Wide receiver: The Sun Devils need to figure out their identity in the passing game, and the loss of several key contributors (and the quarterback) hurts in a big way. The expectation is for newly signed Alonzo Agwuenu to play a role in the passing game, while tight ends and running back/wide receiver hybrids could be common in 2012. Look for Jamal Miles to be the go-to guy here, with Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier taking larger roles.
Quarterback: Everyone is expecting Michael Eubank to be a good football player, a dual-threat talent who can get it done with his arm and his legs. Don't sleep on Taylor Kelly and Michael Bercovici, who spent the year under Brock Osweiler's tutelage and learned a lot through the struggles ASU faced in 2011. I expect a spirited battle in camp to anoint the quarterback of the future, though Eubank is currently in the lead.