With less than 10 days until the Sun Devils take on the Sacramento State Hornets, the Arizona State football program released its 2013 fall depth chart.
(A full depth chart can be viewed here)
The Sun Devils have obvious strengths at some positions like running back and defensive line, but they also have plenty of question marks. There's not much time remaining and Todd Graham still hasn't picked starters at crucial positions on defense.
Expect the depth chart to be a fluid entity this fall, especially with key newcomers like Marcus Ball and Joe Morris sidelined for significant portions of camp. Though the depth chart isn't set in stone, the official list does give us some indications of what to look for early on in the season.
Here's our extended breakdown on the offensive side of the ball at each position.
Quarterback: With a strong fall camp, Mike Bercovici beat out Michael Eubank for the No. 2 quarterback job. Bercovici's play gave the coaches confidence that he would be better suited to pick up where things left off in the event that something should happen to Taylor Kelly. Despite losing out on a coveted spot, all is not lost for Eubank. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has developed a package to take advantage of Eubank's running ability, so he will likely see the field in certain schemes this season.
Tailback: Fans might be quick to jump to the conclusion that D.J. Foster has fallen from grace, but just because he's not listed as a tailback doesn't mean he won't see the field. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Marion Grice will handle tailback duties and work consistently out of the backfield while Foster will also see handoffs, but will align in the slot more frequently. The bottom line is that each of these guys will have their hands on the football a lot, so it makes sense to list them both as starters instead of putting one ahead of the other on the depth chart.
After Grice comes Kyle Middlebrooks, R.J. Robinson, and Marcus Washington. Seeing Middlebrooks so high on the depths comes as a surprise because he's just returning from injury, but Todd Graham said he's reluctant to redshirt him this year.
Running Back: Running back is where the coaches will line up the gamebreakers. D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis show up No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart here, and both will be expected to showcase their versatility this year. The pair will line up in the slot, in the backfield, spread the field as receivers, and run between the tackles as backs.
H-Back: Chris Coyle will hold down the fort at the H-back, which is a position that's growing in popularity in the college game. The H-back (Or 3-back, depending on what a team names the position) utilizes a player who has the size and build of a tight end but has the capabilities of running crisp routes and executing blocks in space. Coyle will be asked to go in motion a lot this year, but unlike last year, the direction that Coyle moves shouldn't tip off an opposing defense as to which direction the Sun Devils will run or pass. That's because of the Sun Devils new weapon at tight end.
Tight End: The offensive depth chart lists both Darwin Rogers and De'Marieya Nelson as starters at tight end, but don't be surprised if Graham moves Nelson ahead of the senior in the first few weeks of the season. The reason? Nelson's superior athleticism. The JUCO transfer can catch the football, block in the open field and even run with it if called upon. Rogers is considered one of Arizona State's most improved players, so the coaching staff should be looking to find a way to use Coyle, Nelson and Rogers on the field at once. With three viable options at the H-back and the tight end position, the Sun Devils have a great opportunity to put together some unique personnel packages.
X-Receiver: Not surprisingly, JUCO transfer Jaelen Strong impressed everyone this fall and earned the right to call himself a starter. Strong's 6-foot-3, 205 pound frame is the most imposing of any Sun Devil receiver, and he locked up a spot with the first team early on in camp. Behind Strong, both Alonzo Agwuenu and freshman Cameron Smith are listed as second-stringers. Agwuenu has size and experience, but Graham has loved what he's seen from the freshman from Texas so he may get the first crack on game day.
Y-Receiver: Kevin Ozier will see the majority of the reps at the Y this fall opposite Strong, but unlike last season, the Sun Devils have plenty of depth to spell Ozier if he needs it. Ellis Jefferson has emerged as the clear-cut backup, which all but guarantees he won't be redshirting this season. Joe Morris and Gary Chambers share the No. 3 spot on the chart, but Morris is a guy who could rise up the chart once he gets up to speed in practice.
Z-Reciever: In Norvell's offense, the Z receiver typically aligns in the slot. Sophomore Richard Smith will fill that role this season, and expect Smith to be active in the Sun Devils' option schemes. Smith has blazing speed and can be an asset if used wisely, so Norvell might give him an extended chance early on. Frederick Gammage is listed above Ronald Lewis, which calls into question whether the freshman from Louisiana might redshirt this fall.
Left Tackle: Evan Finkenberg will embark on his fourth and final season as a starter on the Sun Devils offensive line. Finkenberg is the rock that holds this offensive line together and an injury to him could devastate Arizona State's offensive plans. Right now, Evan Goodman is biding his time until he gets his chance next spring.
Left Guard: After trying out some right tackle this spring, Jamil Douglas is back at the left guard spot that he started at last season. Douglas is big for a guard, but he is also more athletic than most linemen his size. He has the speed to pull in run schemes and open up lanes, and his combination with Evan Finkenberg should make for some happy running backs.
Center: Kody Koebensky will do the honors of snapping the football this year after faring well last season. Koebensky's shotgun snaps were mostly solid and Graham has indicated that Koebensky is a leader along the offensive line. Sophomore Nick Kelly will be called upon to spell Koebensky when needed.
Right Guard: The right guard was the biggest question mark on the offensive line heading into spring practice, but Vi Teofilo emerged as the man for the job. Teofilo is young as a redshirt sophomore, but he'll have the ability to learn from the veterans along the offensive line and gain valuable experience before he becomes an upperclassmen. Stephon McCray will back up Teofilo, and since McCray's return from injury, the coaching staff has been pleased with his progress.
Right Tackle: With the graduation of Brice Schwab, right tackle became a point of emphasis for the Sun Devils this offseason as well. Tyler Sulka bulked up and his presence allowed the coaches to move Jamil Douglas back to his spot at left guard. In doing so, Sulka was given a vote of confidence, but should he falter, Douglas is listed as the backup and the Sun Devils may try to find a new left guard instead.
Check back tomorrow for our analysis of the depth chart on the defensive side of the ball.
Have an opinion you would like to share? We would love to hear from you in the comments section of the article. Tell us what you like or don't like about the offensive depth chart (or anything for that matter) and let your voice be heard.