The Sun Devils face their first road test of the year with a young team on defense, facing a rare offensive scheme. All indications point to Arizona State taking care of business, but as Washington, Oregon State and Colorado showed last week, that can be easier said than done in non-coference play. Here are the players to keep an eye on Saturday.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said he was very impressed with Johnson's effort against Weber State, and he has been rewarded with time at first team bandit safety at practice this week. Although he only had one tackle, Graham said he liked the way he handled the multitude of "exotic" defensive schemes that were thrown his way against the Wildcats. It will be interesting to see if Johnson can further his spot as a potential starter as conference play gets closer.
Since New Mexico runs a triple option, Hardison will either be pinching on the dive or pressuring the quarterback to make a quicker decision. New Mexico quarterback Clayton Mitchem will most likely make Hardison his primary read as to whether he should hand the ball off on the dive, keep it, or flick it out to the pitch man. Depending on how Hardison reacts initially off the ball will have a lot to do with how each play develops for the Lobos.
He had the most tackles of any corner against Weber State with three. The triple option has a lot to do with staying on assignments and being disciplined which can be more difficult for a freshman such as Perry. Although Graham said it wouldn't be an issue, being on the road with a young team and the distractions that it can provide shouldn't be ignored. New Mexico can burn a team easily with a play action pass given how run heavy they are, and Perry might get picked on more given his inexperience. The corners will need to stay on their toes to not give up the big play over the top.
This was a position that didn't really get solved or clear up against Weber State. Graham said Sunday after practice that he liked the way Antonio Longino played, but as a whole the Devilbacker needs to be more aggressive. An aggressive mindset against a triple option offense can burn a team badly though. Patience and more discipline can play a big part in having success Saturday. A clearer picture of who will start might develop as the week goes on, but how the Devilbacker position will develop this season is still up in the air.