The Arizona State football team opens up their spring practice schedule next Tuesday. We've been bringing you detailed position previews and analysis leading up to the action, but now we're going to break it down to a very simple question.
What player will we be watching most intently this spring?
There are several good candidates from which out staff can choose, and as such, we have many different answers. Check out our picks and let us know who will be under your lens over the next month.
Brad Denny: I'll be watching the battles at wide receiver and offensive line closely. While players like Alonzo Agwuenu and Rick Smith are intriguing at wide out, I'll go into the trenches and pick Jamil Douglas. The reason Douglas gets my selection is not just his talent, which is immense, but it's where he will play that will have a major impact. He started every game at left guard last year, but he has the size and skill set to be an outstanding tackle, and could slide out to replace Brice Schwab on the right side, a move that has been discussed. If he does, that opens up an interesting three-way guard battle between Vi Teofilo, Mo Latu and Sil Ajawara. If he stays at left guard (with a move to left tackle in 2014 to replace Evan Finkenberg?), could this be the beginning of the Evan Goodman era at tackle? So many fun storylines to follow.
Cory Williams: It's gotta be Taylor Kelly. A player who made major strides last season, Kelly will be expected to lead the Sun Devils to a Rose Bowl berth on January 1, 2014. It will be very interesting to see how Michael Eubank is employed in the system this year, and we'll get a minor glimpse into that in spring practice. However, Kelly needs to show a little growth as a pocket passer. His rare talent, being able to run and gun, has its drawbacks -- namely, an increased risk of injury and a higher chance of interceptions and broken plays. It's not a stretch to imagine Taylor Kelly as the next Jake Plummer, considering the similarities between the two. For now, we'll have to watch and hope that an improved wide receiver depth chart and a solid one-two punch of Marion Grice and D.J. Foster can help Kelly and the Devils reach the promised land.
Cody Ulm: I'm going to be watching the defensive line, but namely Jaxon Hood. Everyone knows that if ASU is going to make it win the south this season, it's going to be because of the gentlemen in the defensive trenches. Of course, that means no one can afford to take a step back but I believe it would be especially concerning if Hood encounters a sophomore slump. Hood is only one season away from inheriting a huge leadership role on defensive with Will Sutton, Davon Coleman and Junior Onyeali set to graduate. That means Hood has to show he isn't content with the impact he made last year and that all starts in spring ball.
Kerry Crowley: I'll agree with Cody and say it's Taylor Kelly. Everyone knows about the talent the Sun Devils have on the defensive side of the ball, and it's up to Kelly to get the offense in gear and make this a complete team. Arizona State fans truly believe the Sun Devils can win the Pac-12 conference and make the Rose Bowl this year and Coach Graham has echoed that sentiment. As a sophomore, Kelly came out of nowhere to win the quarterback job and nearly broke Andrew Walter's record for most touchdown passes in a season. As a junior, he'll be the No. 1 guy on the depth chart and be expected to demonstrate poise, leadership, and maturity throughout the spring. The offense will go as far as Kelly can take it, so the improvements he makes now are crucial to the success of this team.
Tyler Nickel: The player I will be watching is sophomore Michael Eubank. He is a talented quarterback that the team often used in red zone situations and designed running plays, but he never received significant snaps behind Taylor Kelly. Will Eubank be content with allowing Kelly to be the starting QB or will be make it a controversy once again? If he can show improvements to his throwing accuracy, things could get interesting.
Ryan Bafaloukos: I know I'm not playing by the rules, but I'm going to name two players. This spring I will be watching Carlos Mendoza and Chans Cox and their battle for playing time at linebacker. Todd Graham seems to have a man crush on Cox, he has been raving about him since he signed his letter of intent. Mendoza played outstanding last season before his injury and I am looking to see who has the most impressive spring and who takes the lead for a starting job heading into fall camp.
Nick Marek: I'm going to take Ryan's cheating ways and go with two players. I'll be watching the development of running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice this spring. I know people do not think either one of there performances were flukes but I want to keep an eye on the "battle" and see how Graham is splitting the workload between his two elite backs. With Cameron Marshall out of the mix, I'm wondering who is going to get more third down carries because Foster is a hybrid and Grice is more of a balanced back. Grice had nearly 700 yards and 11 touchdowns. Add Foster's numbers into the mix and you have 17 touchdowns in the backfield. These two will be fun to watch and I wonder if Graham will play Foster differently knowing that he still has three years of eligibility remaining compared to Grice's one.