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ASU Football: 5 Questions That Still Remain After Spring

Spring football is now over for the Sun Devils, and there remain some key questions left unanswered.


Can someone make a field goal, please?

When a team signs a player in the middle of spring football to address a need, that's typically not an encouraging sign.

Such was the case with Arizona State, whose half-decade long issues at kicker are no closer to being resolved.

Jon Mora remains the starter after taking over for Alex Garoutte last October, but neither player showed the consistency needed to put ASU fan's worries to rest once and for all.

"I like to say that I had a better spring than I probably had, but there's always room for improvement and I'm going to hit it hard this summer," said Mora.

"Kicking is not like every position," Garoutte said. "It's a lot more technical, it's not about how much you sweat, it's about how meticulous you are with every part of the movement."

Head coach Todd Graham was similarly meticulous in signing Zane Gonzalez as a late addition to the 2013 recruiting class, and the strong-legged Texan will arrive on campus in August with a very good chance to win the field goal kicking job.

Just like every year it seems, fans will want to keep a close eye on this battle.

Who will be Brandon Magee's heir?

ASU had one of the nation's best defenses in 2012, and figures to be stout once again with the return of eight starters. One of the few holes, however, is massive, both on and off the field.

Brandon Magee heads to the NFL after leading the team in tackles and serving as the defense's inspirational leader last fall.

Senior Grandville Taylor, Magee's longtime understudy, had a very solid spring and saw significant action at the WILL linebacker spot. Carlos Mendoza also saw a lot of on-field reps, but was wearing the green non-contact jersey as he was recovering from surgery, preventing him from going all out.

The most notable move of the spring was the shift of last season's starter at the SPUR spot, Chris Young, to WILL. Young proved to be a dynamic playmaker from the SPUR spot, and whether he can do more good at WILL, with Anthony Jones then taking over at SPUR, remains to be seen.

The competition will ramp up significantly during fall camp, with the addition of four players to the linebacker corps. Antonio Longino and Eriquel Florence could be two newcomers who make a strong run for playing time at the WILL spot.

Will there be any help from the wide receivers?

That quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns last year is something of a minor miracle given the performance of the Sun Devil wide receivers.

A year after being plagued by inconsistency and drops, the team lost their two most productive players from the position, leaving even more uncertainty split out wide. It's therefore no surprise that Graham signed five wide receivers in the 2013 class, and each now has a chance to make an immediate impact this fall.

Sophomore Rick Smith, now playing on the outside had a fine spring, and helped to solidify a starting role at the Z spot. Kevin Ozier continues to be a steady, if unspectacular, player at the X, but Alonzo Agwuenu and Gary Chambers failed to standout.

Overall, the position is still very much a concern, and ASU will need to hope the newcomers pan out. If the highly-touted Jaelen Strong can perform as hoped, and the team can get some quality time from Ronald Lewis, Joe Morris, Cameron Smith or Ellis Jefferson, this could be a good unit.

If not, the burden of the passing game will once again fall upon tight end Chris Coyle and the running backs.

Who will start at defensive end?

Start with a consensus All-American in Will Sutton at the nose. Add in a Freshman All-American tackle in Jaxon Hood. Toss in the occasional Carl Bradford when he lines up with his hand down at Devilbacker.

That gives you a damn good defensive line. But who starts at end?

Throughout spring, senior Gannon Conway held down the starting spot, and was solid. However, Conway has been a depth player over his time at ASU, and may not be the type of player the team would like to start.

One of the reasons Conway saw the first team action this spring was Junior Onyeali's recovery from injury. The former Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year started five games last year at end, recording six sacks. The other eight starts came from Davon Coleman, who happened to be in the staff's doghouse throughout spring as he ran with the second-team defense. Newcomer Kisima Jagne is very talented, but was held out of much of spring.

Ultimately, the spot could come down to another rotation similar to last year, with Onyeali and Coleman seeing action with Jagne and Conway mixed in. While he is best suited as a tackle, highly touted newcomer Marcus Hardison has the athleticism and skills to potentially be a factor at end.

With the talent at the other spots, the Sun Devils do not need a star at end, just someone who can provide quality and consistent reps.

How will the team split the work at running back?

This is a good problem to have. With Marion Grice, D.J. Foster and a now healthy Deantre Lewis, the Sun Devils have as potent a trio of backs as any team in the Pac-12. But in the end, there remains just one football.

Running backs coach Bo Graham feels that while Grice may technically be the "lead back", the group's athleticism makes it a fluid situation.

"The best thing about our backs is that we can do either or," Graham said of dividing carries. "If we're going to split someone out, DJ is going to go first, but Marion has the ability to do the same things, as well as Deantre. Right now, Marion is taking that role and will take more of the load to start out, but DJ has the ability to do the same thing. We feel confident in both of these guys in either role."

The running backs are the clear strength of the Sun Devil offense, and with their pass catching ability, it will be interesting to follow how ASU utilizes their talents. Often times, "running back by committee" carries with it a negative connotation.

In this case, it may only be negative for the defense.