Quarterback Rudy Carpenter finally showed a little consistency last season, upping his completion percentage to almost 62% and cutting down on interceptions. It helped that there seemed to be more of a sense of direction coming from the offensive coaching staff than before. Carpenter's mouth can get him in trouble from time to time though, as evidenced by the Holiday Bowl when he talked smack about the Texas defense and then proceeded to get hammered from every direction on the field. If he gets hurt, the Sun Devils can feel safe turning to strong-armed Danny Sullivan.
One of the reasons it is nice to have two solid quarterbacks ready to go is because the offensive line was one of the worst in the nation last year. Not only did they pave the way to a paltry 3.2 yards per carry, they also gave up a whopping 55 sacks! That was better than only Notre Dame's dismal O-Line. Only two starters return, but that could be addition by subtraction. Plus Jon Hargis was moved over from the defensive line to provide a little boost. Overall there's no way the offensive line performs as poorly as they did in 2007.
The Sun Devils return a decent duo in tailbacks Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance (Trinity High School alum). Herring has good speed and Nance has good size, but neither are elite Pac-10 backs. In combination they'll be good enough to balance out the offense. Top recruit Ryan Bass may also see action.
The receiving corps has the makings of a fine unit with the return of 6-foot-4 Michael Jones (10 tds in '07) and excellent possession receiver Chris McGaha (61 receptions for 830 yards). Jones is a dangerous deep threat, while McGaha is one of the most underrated receivers in the Pac-10. He doesn't have great athletic ability, but has a real knack for the position and how to get open.
Arizona State actually played respectable defense in 2007. They weren't a dominant unit by any means, but they weren't a weakness either. Top defender Robert James graduated, but most of the other key components return. Strong safety Troy Nolan is the vocal leader on the team, and his 6 interceptions last season were the most by any Sun Devil in seven years. Omar Bolden started as a true freshman last season and has excellent quickness. These two players headline a secondary that finished in the top 15 nationally last season in pass efficiency defense. They'll again be among the best secondaries in the nation, which is extremely helpful in the Pac-10 conference.
Up front the Sun Devils are led by defensive ends Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez. Vasquez started out his career at Northwestern before going to junior college and eventually ending up in Tempe last year. He lived up to his advanced billing and is a fine all-around DE. Davis on the other hand is a pass rushing menace, piling up 10.5 sacks in 2007. Michael Marquardt was a beast while plugging up the middle a year ago and his presence will be missed. Luckily another Trinity Trojan is on the roster (Saia Falahola) ready to fill the void.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The offensive line. This is a unit that must show improvement if Arizona State is to once again make a run at ten wins.
Quarterback Danny Sullivan. With Rudy Carpenter entering his last year of eligibility, it's only a matter of time now until Sullivan is unleashed onto Pac-10 defenses. Sullivan flashed his potential in the Holiday Bowl last year and if he can put the mental part of the game together with his unlimited arm, he'll be a star in this offense.