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ASU Football: 5 Players Poised for a Breakout Year on Offense

The Sun Devil offense should be among the conference's better units, and could be explosive if these five players make an impact.

RB Deantre Lewis
RB Deantre Lewis
Ezra Shaw

OG Sil Ajawara

One of the big questions coming into spring was where Jamil Douglas, last season's starter at left guard, would line up. With Douglas now established at right tackle, a spot was opened at his old position.

Ajawara saw action in five games last season, and appears poised to grab Douglas' old spot. The 6-foot-4, 297-pound junior brings power and a mean streak to the trenches. With all of the offensive linemen from the 2013 class already here, the starting five should be set by spring practice's end. Ajawara figures to be one of them as he has run with the ones for most of the sessions thus far.

With a loaded backfield and quarterback Taylor Kelly coming off a strong debut year, a standout offensive line could lift the ASU offense to elite status.

TE De'Marieya Nelson

Chris Coyle had a record-setting year in his first year as the team's 3-back, and the next torch-bearer of the "Tight End U" legacy could share the position with him this fall.

De'Marieya Nelson comes to Tempe from the junior college ranks, and his rare combination of athleticism and playmaking ability for a player of his size should give opposing defensive coordinators fits.

"De'Marieya is tailor made for our three back position," said Todd Graham during the Signing Day press conference. "This guy can play running back. He also can play a tight end and he can also play an inside receiver. He is one of the best chasing tight ends in the country and a guy that is going to be very impactful with what we are doing."

Like Coyle, Nelson comes in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. Last season at San Joaquin Delta College, Nelson hauled in 26 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns, and he led the team with 557 yards and eight touchdowns rushing.

With the team's ongoing issues at wide receiver, the presence of two playmaking tight ends could result in some impressive numbers. [Nelson Highlights]

RB Deantre Lewis

A re-breakout, in this case.

By now, the story is well known to Sun Devils fans.

After his sensational freshman year, Lewis was shot and subsequently sat out the 2011 season while recovering. Last year, Lewis had not regained the explosiveness that became his trademark while moving back and forth between running back and safety.

This spring, Lewis has finally returned close to form. The junior has been a consistent standout in the running and passing games, and has subsequently established himself as the team's third running back. While Marion Grice and D.J. Foster will provide one of the nation's elite 1-2 backfield punches, a healthy Lewis could make it a terrifying trio.

WR Ronald Lewis

Major questions still linger around the ASU wide receiving corps, and to that end, the team signed five players at the position in the 2013 class.

While the highly-touted Jaelen Strong is getting most of the attention, it could be Ronald Lewis who could end up making the greatest impact in 2013.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Lewis brings top notch speed (4.45 in the 40), explosiveness and athleticism to the Sun Devils. Lewis has the ability to play a role similar to D.J. Foster did last year, seeing time in the backfield and in the slot. He also is a prolific punt and kickoff returner, and could plug team needs there as well. [Lewis Highlights]

WR Rick Smith

While five new wide receivers will be looking to help rebuild a disappointing position, a young holdover from last year is primed to become the go-to target.

The speedy sophomore has been among the team's best players this spring, showing off his explosiveness, sure hands and increasingly crisp route-running. While he played in the slot last season, Smith has been seeing more time on the outside this year.

"I try to go every day without dropping any balls that are thrown to me," Smith told me last week. "I just look to that every day. One of the main goals I have is to not have a coach tell me I did anything wrong. My goal is not to be perfect, but to do the best I can do to make them happy. Let them know I can be a good guy and that they can count on me this year."

If Smith can prove that to the coaches and the fans, the Sun Devil offense will be lethal in 2013.