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ASU Football: House of Sparky preseason roundtable

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Here’s a look at how we see the 2017 season playing out.

Jacob Franklin/House of Sparky

Our Panel:

Josiah Destin - House of Sparky Co-Managing Editor (@Jdestinsports)

Max Madden - House of Sparky Co-Managing Editor (@Max_Madden)

Matthew Tonis - House of Sparky Football Writer (@Tonis_The_Tiger)

Jacob Franklin - House of Sparky Volleyball Writer (@Jacob_Franklin4)

Omar Soussi - House of Sparky Staff Writer (@Coolhandsous)

Ethan Gaines - House of Sparky Staff Writer/Multimedia Reporter (@EthanGaines23)

Blaine McCormick - House of Sparky Multimedia Reporter (@Blaine_Mc8)

Over/Under

Categories Destin Madden Tonis Franklin Soussi Gaines McCormick
Categories Destin Madden Tonis Franklin Soussi Gaines McCormick
8 TDs for N'Keal Harry Over Under Under Over Over Over Over
800 yards for Demario Richard Under Under Over Under Over Under Under
4 starts for Blake Barnett Under Under Under Over Under Over Over
30 total team sacks Under Over Under Under Over Over Under
15 passing TDs for an ASU QB Over Over Under Over Over Over Over
Three 55-yard FGs for Brandon Ruiz Over Under Under Under Over Under Under
10 TDs for Kalen Ballage Over Over Over Over Over Under Over

Individual Awards

Categories Destin Madden Tonis Franklin Soussi Gaines McCormick
Categories Destin Madden Tonis Franklin Soussi Gaines McCormick
Leader in TDs Kalen Ballage Kalen Ballage Kalen Ballage Kalen Ballage Kalen Ballage N'Keal Harry Kalen Ballage
Leader in receptions John Humphrey N'Keal Harry N'Keal Harry Jalen Harvey N'Keal Harry N'Keal Harry John Humphrey
Leader in carries Demario Richard Demario Richard Demario Richard Demario Richard Kalen Ballage Demario Richard Demario Richard
Leader in tackles D.J. Calhoun Christian Sam Christian Sam Christian Sam D.J. Calhoun D.J. Calhoun D.J. Calhoun
Leader in sacks Koron Crump Koron Crump Koron Crump Koron Crump JoJo Wicker Koron Crump Koron Crump
Leader in INTs Dasmond Tautalatasi Marcus Ball J'Marcus Rhodes Joey Bryant Christian Sam Ty Thomas Joey Bryant
Freshman of the year Brandon Ruiz Brandon Ruiz Brandon Ruiz Brandon Ruiz Brandon Ruiz Ty Thomas Eno Benjamin

Short Answer

Q: How do you envision the quarterback battle playing out?

Destin: Manny Wilkins should be safe through Arizona State’s moderately easy non conference schedule, but once he faces a stretch of Oregon, Stanford, and Washington, Blake Barnett may be able to steal his spot. Injuries will also determine Wilkins’s role with the Sun Devils. Last season, eight different players attempted a pass. This season may not be as crazy, but Barnett should see playing time.

Madden: Manny Wilkins has proven across spring camp and well into summer practice to be the best option for the Sun Devils under center this season. Unless Brady White miraculously recovers from his injury rather quickly and Blake Barnett ascends to the level of rushing talent that Wilkins is for Graham's scheme, Wilkins should take the majority of snaps from behind center this season. You should always leave room for injuries and knee-jerk reactions, though.

Tonis: I think it’s Manny Wilkins’s job to lose at this point. That being said, I think Blake Barnett will get at least a couple starts due to injury concerns with Wilkins. If he can avoid big hits and getting banged up, then Wilkins should have the job for at least the first month of the season, until the real trouble hits. If Wilkins can keep his decision-making positive and limit turnovers, he should hold on to the job as long as he’s able to suit up.

Franklin: The quarterback battle seems like it might bleed into the season. I think Manny Wilkins has the job right now, but if he does not go out and perform well then Blake is right there to take it away.

Soussi: I think Manny wins out between him and Barnett and he'll have a death grip on that spot. Unless he plays like Blake Bortles in the NFL, there's no reason he should be bench for Barnett barring injuries.

Gaines: I think Wilkins is a better passer than some give him credit for and he is certainly the best athlete among ASU's choices behind center. However, his decision making isn't great and he has a tendency to put his body in harms way. I think it's likely that he gets hurt again this season or struggles early, warranting ASU to turn to Alabama transfer Blake Barnett. Barnett is a more traditional passer, albeit a less dynamic athlete, and I think he gives the Sun Devils a greater chance to stretch the field and open up space to run for Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.

McCormick: This has been talked about time and time again. I see that Manny Wilkins will get the starting job at first but then Blake Barnett will take over the duties. I predict that Manny will be good, but Blake will be better when he digs his cleats onto Frank Kush Field.

Q: Will ASU improve from back-to-back seasons as the worst passing defense in the nation?

Destin: Yes, but not drastically. I think it’s actually tougher to finish last in the nation for a third season in a row than to improve. The Sun Devils put forth an inexperienced secondary with a veteran defensive coordinator in Phil Bennett. It’s hard to predict how they will perform, but with new talent, the Sun Devils should fare better than last season.

Madden: I don't believe so. One would assume that they could've improved from two seasons ago when they were dead last, but they didn't. Even with Bennett stepping in — which I believe is an upgrade — it's hard to rebound from the amount of talent that left in Armand Perry and Kareem Orr.

Tonis: ASU will look like it improved statistically, but only because Cal and Washington State aren’t on the schedule. The Sun Devils lost so much talent from a season ago when the secondary wasn’t good, that it’s hard to see them progressing too much. That being said, a new batch of players could be exactly what the much-maligned defense needs to turn things around on the back end.

Franklin: I think there is only one way for this teams secondary to go after a very cold season last year. You cannot be much worse than the numbers the Sun Devil secondary had last season.

Soussi: I think Arizona State’s defense will improve thanks to the talent on the defense and with the addition of Phil Bennett as defensive coordinator.

Gaines: HOT TAKE ALERT: ASU will not be the worst passing defense in the country this season! Rejoice Sun Devil fans! I don't think they could possibly get any worse. Todd Graham is a smart enough defensive coach to realize changes needed to be made and I think ASU's passing defense at least marginally improves because of that.

McCormick: There’s a lot of standouts with this class and the early practices. They can improve with the personnel they have but they will still struggle this season.

Q: Which player in the secondary is the most important to watch?

Destin: Dasmond Tatalatausi has consistently lined up at first-team safety throughout fall camp and the spring. He played primarily on special teams in his redshirt freshman and sophomore years, but finally lines up with the secondary this season. With so much change and inexperience in the secondary, it’s important to have a redhshirt junior leader like Tatalatausi.

Madden: Kobe Williams has nowhere near the same upside as someone like Alex Perry, but he has quietly been one of the more experienced players in ASU's secondary. He started at Long Beach CC since he was 17 and should form into a leader in an Arizona State secondary that badly needs one.

Tonis: Joey Bryant. He’s the most unknown commodity in the unit, but he’s impressed through camp. If he can prove himself as an impact guy, the ASU secondary could surprise.

Franklin: I think the most important player is who I had leading the team in INTs. Joey Bryant could be a big factor for this year’s defense.

Soussi: Chase Lucas. The highly-touted redshirt freshman is one of the many new faces on the defense. Though he’s never played defense up to this season, he’s grabbed the attention of head coach Todd Graham and could see a lot of playing time this season.

Gaines: ASU added some nice talent to their defensive back pool with players like Alex Perry and Ty Thomas (Freshman of the Year?).

McCormick: Joey Bryant is a player to keep your eye on with a killer season at Mt. San Antonio College where he received second-team All-America honors. The guy also placed first in the high jump at the 2016 California State Track and Field Championships. His athletic abilities and his coverage will be the determining factor in his gameplay.

Q: What does Todd Graham have to do this season to get off the hot seat?

Destin: Win a bowl game and beat the Wildcats.

Madden: I might have lower goals set for Graham's sixth season. With this brutal schedule, the recent personnel departures and a brand new coaching staff, a bowl birth would suffice. It wouldn't earn him a long-term extension, but possibly a couple more shots at it.

Tonis: Make a bowl game and win the Territorial Cup. After two 10-win seasons in his second and third year in Tempe, a third straight disappointment will be hard to swallow, especially coming off what was a down year for ASU revenue sports. A return to the postseason would set things in the right direction, especially if the losses are to top teams and/or are close games.

Franklin: I want to say win eight games. But looking at the schedule I think he could help himself out with seven wins.

Soussi: The Sun Devils not only have to attain a winning record, but they also have to stay competitive in each game. If ASU is losing 45-0 to USC and Washington, Graham may have to look for employment somewhere else. A win over U of A might also help his case as well.

Gaines: Go 7-5 and win a bowl game, I think it's as simple as that. He needs to show that the team is trending in the right direction with some young talent.

McCormick: It’s simple, win. At least seven wins and get a bowl game, it’ll be an improvement and with the class he has this year, its realistic.

Q: What will Arizona State’s final record be and where will the Sun Devils finish in the South?

Destin: The Sun Devils could easily win three of their first four games before plummeting to the bottom of the Pac-12 after facing Stanford, Washington, Utah, USC Colorado, and UCLA in that order. Arizona State should finish 6-6 and fifth in the Pac-12 South.

Madden: I have the Devils at 5-7 at just one spot above Arizona in the cellar of the Pac-12 South. As I mentioned before, it's difficult to find wins on this schedule and convincing anyone that this team is significantly better than last years' is a tough sell.

Tonis: It’s hard to see the Sun Devils finishing with more than six wins, and that’s being generous. Starting out 4-0 is imperative on the quest toward bowl eligibility, but the showdown with Texas Tech down in Lubbock poses some real problems. I see a second straight 5-7 season for ASU, going 3-6 in conference play and failing to win a Pac-12 road game for the second consecutive season.

Franklin: Airing on the side of a more positive outlook for the Sun Devils, I think they could feasibly finish 8-4, but more realistically think they’ll be 6-6 or 7-5. Sitting at about third or fourth in the Pac-12 South.

Soussi: 7-5 and fifth in the Pac-12 South. I think they'll get a couple of wins in the Pac-12 but they'll get smacked by the top teams in the division like USC and Washington.

Gaines: 6-6, finishing fourth in the Pac-12 South with a bowl game victory to give them a winning record. While ASU has increased their pool of talent on both sides of the ball this season, they still don't have enough firepower on either front to really contend in a pretty competitive Pac-12. The team should be good enough to beat the likes of New Mexico State, San Diego State and Texas Tech, and I see the Sun Devils managing to win at least three games in their conference schedule. Todd Graham sticks around.

McCormick: This season is a tough one for the Sun Devils. 8-4 with a fourth place finish in the Pac-12 South. It’s a tough division to be in but there can be hope.