The Sun Devils start off the season with the Weber State Wildcats on Aug. 28. It should be a walk in the park for the maroon and gold, but here are two players to watch.
Offense: Running back Bo Bolen (5-foot-9, 200 pounds)
Besides just having a really fun name to say, the senior is the Wildcats leading returning rusher. He did it all for Weber State in 2013 with 123 rushing attempts for 549 yards and five touchdowns and hauling in 27 receptions for 203 yards. He also fielded 10 punts and 11 kickoff returns, leading the team with 1,087 all-purpose yards and finishing second in total offense.
Bolen could go down as one of the best Wildcats ever depending on his production next season. He already ranks second in school history in kickoff return yards and third in all-purpose yards.
Defense: Linebacker Roman Valenzuela (6-foot-0, 220 pounds)
After redshirting in 2011, Valenzuela recorded 59 tackles during the 2012 campaign but really came into his own last season. His 88 tackles in 2013 tied him for second most on the team.
Weber State also hired a new head coach this past offseason in former Utah assistant Jay Hill, who spent 13 seasons in Salt Lake City. Read more about Hill here, but this excerpt for the Salt Lake Tribune talks about the style of play he plans to implement for the Wildcats:
The twist is that the Wildcats also will be influenced by Big Sky Conference rival Southern Utah's program. Hill hired SUU's offensive and defensive coordinators, Steve Clark and Justin Ena, and will play to the Wildcats' personnel strengths with a two-back, run-oriented offense and a defensive scheme with mostly zone coverage.
The Sun Devils had issues stopping the run early last season so it will be interesting to see how they respond in the early going. Bolen and Valenzuela shouldn't give the Sun Devils too much trouble, but Todd Graham will be the first to tell anyone that no player or game should be taken lightly and he's not looking past next week's opponent. The first game of the season should provide Arizona State with a good trial run to gauge themselves against a team not wearing the same colors.
It will give the Sun Devils a good chance to further define roles and more importantly get reps for an inexperienced defense. It should be over by halftime if not by the end of the third quarter so some younger guys should be able to hop in and get some time as well, which will be important before the team heads on the road the following week to face New Mexico.