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ASU Football: UCLA Players to Watch

A couple familiar faces

Stanford v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’ve finally reached the point of the year where we get to complain about College Football Playoff rankings and I couldn’t be more excited. Illinois is behind two-loss Kansas State? LSU (sadness) is above UCLA? What the heck is happening? I love it.

Speaking of UCLA, did you know ASU is at home against the Bruins on Saturday? Chip Kelly’s No. 12 group will come into Tempe against Shaun Agauno’s Ohana attempting to keep climbing the national rankings going into the final three weeks of the regular season.

Trenton Bourguet is coming off of the most impressive Sun Devil quarterback performance since, well, three weeks ago when he did it against Washington. This matchup against UCLA will be his toughest test yet in the maroon and gold.

Aside from Spencer Sanders in week two, ASU will face the most dynamic quarterback on its schedule in Dorion Thompson-Robinson, aka, DTR.

Watch for: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB

DTR’s numbers on the year surprisingly don’t stand out among the rest of the Pac-12 QBs, but what he brings to the game of football isn’t something that you read on paper. You have to watch it for yourself.

He plays within the offense that Chip Kelly brought over in 2017* when he was hired. They throw out a lot of different looks from empty backfields to 11 personnel. It all starts with the running game, which DTR is a big part of.

Read options and designed keepers have created over 300 yards on the ground for the senior out of Las Vegas. His ability to read the edge rusher quickly, rip the ball from the running back and fire to the outside is what separates him from a lot of guys in the NCAA.

He can throw the ball effectively, too. DTR is averaging just under 250 yards per game through the air on a 73% completion clip. When he combines his arm with his legs in a game, watch out.

We as viewers and fans have seen what this guy can do for several years, so don’t expect anything new. But, a movie you’ve seen before can be just as entertaining as one you’re seeing for the first time.

Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson mentioned it Monday; this offense is a running team at its core. The man who can give the Sun Devils a run for their money will stand right beside DTR the whole game.

Watch For: Zach Charbonnet, RB

Let me tell you about Zach Charbonnet; this guy is a beast. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Charbonnet is a wrecking ball at the line of scrimmage.

When he breaks a tackle at the first level there better be three guys ready to swarm. If not, he might be going to the house. The senior back out of Oaks Christian in Michigan has 10 touchdowns on the season and has only gone under 100 yards rushing just once.

He’s gotten into the end zone in six out of seven games, including three against Colorado. Averaging 137 yards on the ground, Charbonnet is at the top of the Pac-12 leaderboards in nearly every category including yards per carry, total rushing yards, and touchdowns.

ASU had a tough time stopping Deion Smith in the Colorado game as he went for 111 yards and a touchdown. But, if the defense can hold up DTR and Charbonnet on first and second down, UCLA’s top dogs might scuffle and turn the ball over.

On the other side of that, the Sun Devils appear that they can participate in a shootout if it comes to it with Bourguet leading the offense and Badger lined up on the outside.

In order to move the ball down the field, there has to be a big red flag attached to UCLA’s biggest weapon off the blitz.

Watch For: Laiatu Latu, LB

Quite possibly a top name in college football, Laiatu Latu is also one of the scariest edge rushers in the Pac-12. He’s 6-foot-4, 265 pounds of muscle, and explodes off the line on his way to the quarterback.

The former Husky is also having a remarkable 2022 campaign. Through eight games, Latu has 7.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He’s not the guy you’re going to see out in coverage all that often because of how disruptive he is up front.

He may not be someone who makes every tackle, but when he does you’re going to know it was him. He’s relentless in pursuit of the football, and his build really helps him get around blockers to make noise in the back field.

Latu is the type of guy that demands attention, and quite possibly a double team if he gets comfortable with his game. I can see Latu having a big play or two in this one if Aguano’s O-line doesn’t show him respect.

Even after everything I just covered, I think his game is going to come down to the play of the linemen. ASU is going to have to protect Bourguet so he can fire down field along with getting Valladay going on the stretch runs to the outside.

UCLA’s whole offense centers around the line’s ability to block just long enough for either DTR or Charbonnet to make a play. So, if ASU can move the line of scrimmage in their favor, don’t be surprised if this one comes down to whoever has the ball last.