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ASU Football Positional Preview: Special Teams

Punters are people too

Andrew Palla/House of Sparky

Last but certainly not least, the specialists.

Often times the most overlooked unit in the sport of football, special teams finds its way to play a crucial role in almost every game.

Remember when Washington botched two kicks last October?

Arizona State will be returning their legs this season of sophomores kicker Brandon Ruiz and punter Michael Sleep-Dalton.

Ruiz came to Tempe with the task of replacing Zane Gonzalez, one of ASU’s and the NCAA’s greatest all-time kickers.

Ruiz went 18-25 in his first season with the Sun Devils, showing he had the stuff to step in immediately.

From the archives, House of Sparky’s Blaine McCormick spoke to Ruiz on his game mindset (among other things) early on in his Sun Devil career:

Ruiz will look to improve from last season in his second campaign with the Sun Devils.

Michael Sleep-Dalton’s season was a wild one. Injuries caused him to punt with both legs throughout the year, as the Sun Devils run scarce in the punting position.

His shanks were blows to the field position game several times last season. Holding the position again this season, it is crucial he is more consistent.

Sleep-Dalton came to ASU as the No. 1 ranked punter in junior college (San Francisco City College). If he can remain healthy, than the Devils should be in good position in the punt game.

Several Sun Devils have dropped back to return punts this fall. The standout so far has been Sierra College transfer Brandon Aiyuk.

The JUCO transfer has turned many heads the past few weeks with his exceptional athletic ability and raw determination.

Aiyuk, running back Isaiah Floyd and wide receiver Ryan Newsome have been taking the majority of reps as punt returners. Defensive back Chase Lucas has caught a few punts as well.

With Kalen Ballage graduating, the kick return spot is also open. To date, Aiyuk seems to be the favorite there as well. Floyd, Newsome and running back A.J. Carter have caught from deep too.

Camp will soon separate those gunning for the spot, and to keep up to date follow along for House of Sparky’s daily practice notebooks.

Don’t be surprised if many of ASU’s battles this season come down to special teams, strong play from the overall unit will be necessary in order for the Sun Devils to grab victories in 2018.