Since the Arizona State program began to recreate itself in the image of "Speaking Victory", one of the key goals was to approach every aspect on and off the field in a "high-octane" manner.
While Todd Graham and staff have done just that in reversing the formerly toxic culture, winning key recruiting battles and restoring fan confidence, there still exists some questions as to how the philosophy will manifest itself on the field come August 30th.
However, the team does have one major answer in it's pocket: Jamal Miles.
The electric 5'10", 180 pounder may not fit the traditional profile of his current position of wide receiver, nor his former spot at running back. But Miles has proven over the last two seasons that the best term to place him under is "playmaker".
Over his first two seasons in Tempe, Miles split time at running back and wide receiver accuulating 359 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage. He made his biggest splash in 2010 with a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown against UCLA.
Last season, Miles took on a more prominent role in the offense. Former offensive coordinator frequently threw swing passes and quick screens to Miles, who finished second on the team with 60 receptions. However, do to the short nature of those passes, he averaged just 6.0 yards per reception. The versatile Miles also finished second on the team with 237 yards on the ground, and threw that memorable touchdown pass to Aaron Pflugrad against Missouri.
He made an even greater mark on special teams, where he developed into one of the nation's elite returners. Miles had two kickoff return touchdowns to go along with another score on a punt return against Oregon State.
Now a senior, the team will need the dynamic Miles to be even better.
While the Sun Devils do return the great Cameron Marshall at running back, they will be breaking in an entirely new offensive system with their fifth new starting quarterback in as many seasons. The wide receiving corps loses over two-thirds of their production from a season ago, so needless to say, there is a lot of concern surrounding the offense.
During spring practice, Miles showed improvement as a full-time wide receiver. He made some great plays and showed off some improved hands, but questions persist about his route-running.
Miles may never fit the mold of a true wide receiver in that sense, but for this team to succeed this fall, he may not need to. His versatility and explosiveness merely requires that he get the ball with some space to use his rare acceleration and agility to find a seam. The coaching staff will be creative in how it gets him the ball, but he must still work to refine his technique during fall camp.
One area that needs little work is his prowess in the return game. With the team figuring to play many close games this fall, several could come down to the plays Miles is able to make in the return game..provided the opposition kicks to him.
Through the air, on the ground, or on returns, the story in 2012 will be the same: the Sun Devils need a big year from their most dangerous weapon.
Check out the previous Most Important Player countdown entries:
6) Devilbacker Carl Bradford
7) LB Brandon Magee
8) OT Brice Schwab
9) K Alex Garoutte
10) LB Steffon Martin
11) NT Mike Pennel
12) DT Will Sutton
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