Arizona State (0-1) has taken nearly a month off to deal with COVID-19 cases throughout the team and coaching staff. But finally, the team is cleared to play football again.
This week, the Devils will play their only home game of the season against the UCLA Bruins (2-2) and their head coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly, who once owned the Pac-12 during his tenure with the Oregon Ducks, is experiencing a small career renaissance with the Bruins after a disastrous stint in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.
He has restored his fast break offense to the collegiate level with success, as his team is averaging almost 450 yards per game in 2020.
This game will put a lot of strain on an ASU defense that has only seen 60 minutes of game action all season. UCLA is more experienced and better conditioned, which will soften the Devils’ advantage in sheer talent. Here are the players to watch this Saturday for the Bruins.
Running Back Demetric Felton (R-Sr.)
Felton is coming off of his best offensive game of the season against Arizona, where he carried the ball 32 times for 206 yards and a touchdown.
His performance this season as the principal of the UCLA offense has him entering discussions as a potential mid-round selection in next year’s NFL draft.
He is small at only 5-foot-10, but he accounts for that by using his explosiveness to his advantage. Also a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, and at times, in the slot, Felton is going to test ASU’s outside linebackers all day long.
Tight End Greg Dulcich (R- So.)
Dulcich has been the most productive player in the Bruins passing game this season. His numbers aren’t necessarily eye-popping, outside of a fantastic week one against Colorado where he caught four passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, but at 6-foot-4, 242, he’s still a tough matchup.
As his teammate Felton’s numbers have increased over the course of the season, Dulcich’s role with the offense has shrunk somewhat. But if ASU sells out to stop Felton, Dulcich could be a reliable No. 2 option to take the top off the defense.
Linebacker Caleb Johnson (Jr.)
Johnson is the leader of the Bruins defense. Both he, and his running mate Carl Jones have been studs defensively for UCLA all season.
Johnson enters this contest fresh off his best game of the season against Arizona where he scored seven tackles. This year, he has 2.5 sacks and one interception.
Someone recently wrote that UCLA had the best defense in the PAC-12. It’s an interesting argument, but let’s pump the brakes a little on that claim and take a closer look.
UCLA held Cal and Arizona to 10 points each in wins. Both of those teams have a combined zero victories this season.
In week one, the Bruins gave up nearly 50 points to Colorado in a loss and then 32 points to Stanford in a win, which are the most points the Cardinal have scored in a game all season. Certainly, the Bruins haven’t seen an offense with the weapons ASU possesses.
Sleeper: Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (Jr.)
It has been an injury-riddled year for the quarterback out of Las Vegas. He has been out of the lineup since week two against Cal, where he completed 14 of 26 passes for 196 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Thompson-Robinson was a highly sought after recruit in the 2018 class out of powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School, fielding offers from Michigan, Alabama, and ASU. He was the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, ranked only behind Ohio State QB Justin Fields.
While he hasn’t lived up to the hype and maximized his abilities in Kelly’s offense like many projected he would, he has still shown flashes of brilliance over the course of his career (see: 2019 vs. Washington State).
If he is healthy, he adds another dynamic layer to this UCLA offense that ASU will have to manage.