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ASU Football: 5 Success Statements For 2012

Carl Bradford registers a sack (Photo: ASU)
Carl Bradford registers a sack (Photo: ASU)

Winning a football game is an incredibly difficult task. Preparing, practicing and executing a gameplan on offense, defense and special teams against a talented an well-trained opposing team with the same goal takes skill, determination and luck.

When all of that effort is multiplied 12-fold, then you have a typical college football season. That's no easy task.

Such a complicated and intertwined effort can be broken down into individual segments that, when totaled, can be translated to "Scored more points than the opposition when the clock ran out".

Our next entry into our 5-Pack series brings your five key success statements for the Sun Devils in 2012.

The Devilbackers make 30 plays behind the line

One of the most exciting changes to the Sun Devil team this season is the new attacking approach by the defense. After years of a bend-but-don't-break style, defensive coordinator Paul Randolph is bringing the fight to the opposing offense.

His primary weapon in this effort will be the "Devilbacker" position, a hybrid spot blending aspects of a rush linebacker and a defensive end. With the impressive Carl Bradford and the soon-to-return Junior Onyeali the top two options at the position, Randolph will have a pair of talented players well suited to unleash.

In a conference as offensively-oriented as the Pac-12, ASU will need the Devilbackers to rack up some production in the form of sacks and tackles-for-loss. If the position can rack up a total of the two categories of at least 30 on the year, that should provide the disruptive presence needed, and ease the burden on the other defenders.

Deveron Carr plays to his potential

Watching a highlight reel of senior cornerback Deveron Carr, it's easy to think he's an NFL-caliber talent. He's proven to be able to lock down on top receivers, and his size (5'11", 193) and top-end speed are impressive for the position.

However, he's struggled with consistency and injuries throughout his career, and for every pass defended, he's allowed a big completion.

This spring, while fellow starting corner Osahon Irabor excelled, Carr missed some time due to those nagging injuries. This opened the door for Robert Nelson, now eligible after transferring from Louisiana-Monroe, to impress the coaching staff and make a run at Carr's job.

Carr emerged from spring with a starting job, but if he can finally find the consistency he's lacked, he can form a potent secondary trio with Irabor and Nelson that will be a major weapon in the pass-happy Pac-12.

The team finishes in the top half in penalties

108th, last, 114th, last.

Those have been Arizona State's ranks--among the 120 FBS teams--in penalty yards-per-game. If you have the elite talent that Oregon (110th last year) has, you can overcome numbers like that, but ASU can not afford to shoot themselves in the foot so often and afford to win.

With the extreme emphasis being put into place by head coach Todd Graham, that number should see improvement. However, to really help a team that is in a transition year, facing a tough schedule and figures to play a lot of close games, their standing will need a large jump to at least the middle of the FBS pack (now at 124 teams).

Brice Schwab locks down right the tackle spot

Along with linebacker and wide receiver, the offensive line was ravaged by departures from a season ago. While two starters--tackle Evan Finkenberg and guard Andrew Sampson--return, the rest of the line offers up major concern.

With Finkenberg holding down the crucial left tackle spot, his counterpart on the right will be Brice Schwab. Since coming to Tempe as a heralded juco transfer, Schwab has yet to show that lofty potential. After seeing action in four games in 2010, he fell out of shape and redshirted last season.

With that humbling learning experience behind him, Schwab is now in top shape and impressed during spring ball. At 6'7", 303 pounds, he has the build and the tools to be a top tackle. With ASU breaking in a new quarterback and new offensive scheme, they will need Schwab to deliver.

Alex Garoutte hits 75% of his field goals

By the numbers, Alex Garoutte's debut season as ASU's kicker was solidly average. He hit 15 of his 22 field goals, and had some impressive makes and some costly misses.

With that tough year behind him, Garoutte told us last week that he feels much better prepared for 2012.

The way I look at it, very few people can say they've been through what I've been through, and made it through and kept going. I feel like I'm stronger mentally now than ever before, just for having been through that. There's nothing that can shake me if that didn't shake me.

Talent is not the question with Garoutte. He has a strong leg and has shown excellent accuracy. Like Carr, it's a matter of consistency with Garoutte. After hitting on 68.2% of his kicks last season, he'll need an improvement to the 75% or better range to give the Sun Devils a valuable weapon they can trust.

Previous season preview entries in our 5-Pack series are here

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