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Spring Football: The Five Biggest Question Marks

As spring ball rolls around in just three weeks, we take a look at the five biggest question marks surrounding the Sun Devil football program as it prepares for the 2013 season.

The Sun Devils hope to be seeing a lot more of this happening in 2013.
The Sun Devils hope to be seeing a lot more of this happening in 2013.
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

After an 8-5 finish that included a come-from-behind Territorial Cup victory against the Arizona Wildcats, the Sun Devils head into the 2013 season with great excitement and anticipation.

Coach Todd Graham landed a recruiting class that he and his coaching staff are confident in and his program is taking shape according to plan. With all of the developments during the Graham era, it's safe to say that expectations are building for what's in store.

With just three weeks until spring practices start, we break down our five biggest question marks heading into spring football.

1. How will the defense mesh?

The defensive line is loaded, the linebacking unit has to replace a superstar, and the secondary has a few holes to fill.

Coach Graham has the fortune of incredible depth along the defensive line as Will Sutton is back, Carl Bradford completes the tag-team duo, and a few other key pieces are ready to make this position group among the nation's elite.

With such a potent combination of linemen available, who will lead the defense at middle linebacker? Brandon Magee will move on to the NFL, and Carlos Mendoza is inexperienced. Chans Cox is just a freshman, and Grandville Taylor only has one solid game to his credit in his career.

In all likelihood, Spur backer Chris Young will take over the leadership responsibilities and allow someone to grow into role of filling Magee's shoes.

In the secondary, Deveron Carr and Keelan Johnson are gone, but that doesn't mean this unit is depleted. Robert Nelson proved his worth against the Wildcats, and Graham brought in a few recruits to plug some holes.

In just his second year, Graham is facing a make-or-break year with his defense. He has all the talent at his disposal, and spring is the time to make this group one finely-tuned machine.

2. Who's catching passes?

One of the Sun Devils' greatest weaknesses last season was the deep ball. In the bowl game, Rashad Ross helped fans see that Taylor Kelly can throw it with ease, but with Ross moving on, who will become the vertical threat?

Kevin Ozier is a solid possession receiver and no one moves the chains better than tight end Chris Coyle, but neither appears to be the answer.

Kelly loves to throw to his running backs in space, and Marion Grice and D.J. Foster both made brilliant strides when they lined up as receivers last season.

Foster is built for the versatile role that offensive coordinator Mike Norvell carved for him last season, but can he consistently beat the defense and will Arizona State forego using Foster in the backfield to line him up out wide?

Chances are, the Sun Devils won't break spring camp with a determined deep threat. JUCO transfer Jaelen Strong has the best potential to fill this void, but he won't be joining Arizona State until after spring ball.

3. What will the special teams look like?

The Sun Devils appear primed for a spring full of question marks when it comes to kickers and returners.

The on-field battle between Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora doesn't appear to have an end in sight as the two sophomores will likely duke it out for reps heading into their junior seasons.

Punter Josh Hubner is gone, and that makes the punting unit bleak for the spring. Recruit Matt Haack appears to be a suitable replacement, but he won't start logging practice time at Arizona State until after the academic year.

Though fans and supporters alike want to see D.J. Foster returning kicks, the talented frosh was not listed on the return depth charts last season. However, Graham will have to replace Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross somehow, so maybe a change of heart will occur.

Spring practices aren't exactly the most important times to be worried about special teams, but right now, the Sun Devils need to be thinking about finding answers.

4. What will the quarterback depth charts look like?

Believe it or not, the coaching staff's failure to lure a quarterback to Tempe might be a bigger issue than previously advertised.

Taylor Kelly came on strong at the end of last season and proved that the 2013 job is his to lose, but the competition for the No. 2 spot might get heated.

Michael Eubank flashed signs of brilliance in some of his on-field escapades last season, but he also reminded some fans why Graham stuck with Kelly for so long in other games.

The real question mark on the quarterback depths is Mike Bercovici. Heading into 2012, Bercovici had the best chance at replacing Brock Osweiler, but he dropped all the way to third on the depth charts and decided to redshirt.

As Bercovici will be a junior, it's hard to imagine he'll want to spend another season buried on the depth charts. Time is running out, and if Bercovici doesn't make strides, he could transfer.

Similarly, if Bercovici passes Eubank, will the athletic wunderkind jump ship in favor of a smaller program where he can start?

If the Sun Devils don't head into the fall with all three of these quarterbacks on their roster, they will likely have a walk-on manning the No. 3 spot on the depths. All of a sudden, Arizona State will be hitting the recruiting trail hard and praying for good health.

5. How will Coach Graham treat the spring?

Sun Devil coaches, players, supporters, and even casual fans know Todd Graham to be one of the most intense individuals around college football.

Graham has built his reputation as a stickler for details and a coach who won't accept anything less than the best effort from his players. In turn, fans won't accept anything less than the best from the Sun Devils as well.

After an 8-5 finish, expectations will skyrocket because of the defensive unit and because of outsiders' confidence in Graham's abilities as a coach.

With so much riding on a great 2013, the coaching staff will likely make spring practices more difficult than ever before.

Will Graham ease up a bit and take the pressure off of his players? Or will coaches bust these players until they have given their all out on the practice field, even if it's just March?

The demeanor Graham brings with him to spring camp is undoubtedly important, and Sun Devils everywhere will be watching closely.