New coach, new insight. Before Arizona State kicks off Pac-12 play on Saturday, we asked Jack Barsch of Colorado’s SBNation site The Ralphie Report a few questions about the Buffaloes. You can read our answers to their questions here.
Brady Vernon: Sun Devil fans got their taste of Laviska Shenault last year, but who is another offensive playmaker the fans should know about?
Jack Barsh: Well, KD Nixon and Tony Brown both have shown flashes, but they also played last year against Arizona State. A brand new face to keep an eye on is freshman RB Jaren Mangham. The talented running back scored two touchdowns against Nebraska in the comeback win, and his bludgeoning running style is very useful at the end of games. He is all of 6’2, over 220 pounds, and has a surprising amount of speed. Look for him in the second half.
BV: The ASU offensive line has been less than stellar, is there a pass rusher who could ruin the Sun Devils’ day?
JB: CU is trying to figure that question out, too. Slated starting out side linebacker Carson Wells has missed significant action with a concussion, and the edges of the Buffaloes’ defense are soft enough that selling out for the run is an every-down occurrence. When CU did have success against Nebraska and Colorado State, it came from Mustafa Johnson, an undersized 3-4 defensive end, who is quick as lightning. He will cause disruption all day unless he’s double-teamed, in which case one of Alex Tchangam or Nate Landman will come screaming in from the outside. If you keep Mustafa bottled up, there are not other consistent threats to get after the quarterback.
BV: ASU went through a coaching change last year with the fan base having a rollercoaster of emotions about it, what are Colorado fans feelings on Mel Tucker thus far?
JB: Every fanbase likes the new guy, right? Mel Tucker has said and done a lot of the right things since coming to Boulder. He immediately made the team bigger, bringing on some defensive line help, he hired the right O-line coach, and talked a big talk about being the best conditioned team. While every coach says that, the fourth-quarter explosions makes me think that it isn’t just talk. The defense has been a struggle, as it will be all year, but the arrow is pointed towards more physical football, which is always good in my book.
BV: In your opinion what is the best way to slow down Shenault?
JB: We have seen three different approaches to this problem so far. CSU would play Hack-a-Viska, where they would knowingly draw flags to make sure he didn’t get the ball. While it kind of worked, the Buffaloes still had first downs out of that strategy. Nebraska roughed him up on every down, played him physical, and had two guys watching him on every play. This shut down Laviska pretty thoroughly, though other playmakers flourished. Tony Brown in particular had a solid, consistent day, and KD Nixon broke some big plays. Air Force played him straight up, and he scored two touchdowns and went for over 120 yards. So, take your pick. I would say that ASU has the best secondary of the teams that CU has played so far, so they could try to take their chances one-on-one. He will get the ball in his hands no matter what.
BV: Score prediction?
JB: It’s been a while since I have felt this confident about a conference road game, despite having no reason to. I think Mel Tucker refocuses this team and they are bound and determined not to repeat the 0-7 slide from last year. I think CU wins, 24-17