TEMPE — Things done changed.
Since Arizona State’s 10-3, 2014 season, the Sun Devils have seen two forgetful losing years, dozens of coaching changes and a nearly 10,000 seats dismantled from its stadium in place of a massive video board.
Seven Sun Devils have been picked in the NFL Draft and three classes of freshmen have arrived leaving 19 seniors, and just 13 of whom have been on the team since 2014.
“It’s wild... everything goes just like that,” senior linebacker DJ Calhoun said.
Taylor Kelly, Jaelen Strong, Antonio Longino, Demarious Randall, DJ Foster and Jamil Douglas — all familiar Sun Devils, who all set 10-win season standards and still leave an impact on the face of today’s Sun Devils.
“They conducted themselves as pros,” redshirt junior linebacker Christian Sam said of his former teammates. “They were leaders and they set the standard for what was supposed to be done.
“They knew the system and they were there for awhile. I feel like that 2014 class is us now helping the younger guys and being pros about everything we do”
It may be tough to recollect.
The Sun Devils were ranked as high as sixth in the nation, walloped then-No. 10 Notre Dame at home 55-31, and rallied past then-No. 16 USC in the ever so famous Jael Mary.
Only 2014 freshmen can say they’ve lived these moments and still hit the field every Saturday.
“I ain’t gonna lie that game was just like... because we went in there basically the underdogs,” Calhoun said of Arizona State’s win over Notre Dame. “And everybody thought they were going to steamroll us like they did in the previous year. We just came in there with a head full of steam, and just got to it.”
The Sun Devils ranked No. 6 in the nation and wore an 8-1 record after beating the Fighting Irish.
For Sam, Arizona State’s signature last second win over USC was nothing short of an eye opener.
“As a freshman I just had big eyes,” Sam said. “Speed. They were fast. First game against big time talent... I was like ‘damn, this is it. This is the coliseum.’ A lot of greats have played in here.”
“People will always say ‘Jaelen got lucky on that,’ which he didn’t,” Calhoun said. “He went to the highest point of the ball, which you’re supposed to do.”
Calhoun had nine of his 35 freshman season tackles against USC and earned a then-career high 2.5 tackles for loss and sacked Cody Kessler for his first career sack.
Sam played in 12 of 13 games in 2014, as he earned 16 total tackles and managed five of them against the Trojans.
But the player who saw the most production in his true freshman season is senior running back Demario Richard. The 5-foot-10, 219-pound RB tallied 478 yards on 84 touches, notching the second-most yards behind New England Patriots running back DJ Foster.
“Every chance I get, I pick his brain a little bit,” Richard said of Foster. “It’s someone I still look up to to this day.”
Richard, Sam and Calhoun have felt the pain of the last two years and have set their eyes on a new season.
After what Sun Devil offensive lineman Sam Jones and running back Kalen Ballage tabbed as “the best Summer ever,” the Sun Devils are geared for a 2017 season that they see better than the last two — back to 2014.
“The way our Summer, Spring and everything has been going, it’s felt like back to like 2014. That’s what I appreciate the most. And I really appreciate it more because it’s our senior year,” Calhoun said.
Richard added. He added boldly.
“Once we accomplish these goals that we’ve got planned out for us, it can be better than the 2014 season. It could be better than that 1987 Rose Bowl team. So I mean, once we put the pieces together and get everything locked up, we’ll be fine.”