WR Derek Hagan
Coach: Dirk Koetter
26-23, 4 years
2004 Record: 9-3
at Northwestern WON 30-21
at Oregon WON 28-13
at Southern California LOST 7-45
UCLA WON 48-42
at California LOST 0-27
at Arizona LOST 27-34
vs. Purdue WON 27-23

2004 Final Rankings
AP-19, Coaches-20, BCS-19

2005 Outlook

Few teams can match the range of preseason predictions that swirl around Tempe. The Sun Devils are predicted to achieve everything from a top 15 ranking to a sixth or seventh finish in the Pac-10, mostly due to legitimate questions at QB, RB and depth on defense. Dirk Koetter deserves more respect (and job security) after a special season that saw ASU win tough non-conference games (Iowa, Purdue) and display uncanny poise in close ones. Much of that was thanks to Andrew Walter, but Sam Keller's Sun Bowl can be a solid confirmation of his future success. With a full spring of reps, he'll be ready to step into a starting role where he can benefit from a tremendous line and two of the best targets in college football. The size of the line and battle memories alone should improve respectability on the ground, as will a controversy-free backfield. When tougher in the red zone, they won't need gaudy yardage numbers to put up 30ppg.

The red zone is likewise, a key concern for the defense. Near the goal-line, they need to be more physical. Only two TDs shy of most allowed in the Pac-10, it's tough to imagine numbers that bad again when Oliver and Fawley begin to again resemble their former selves. If they don't, or if there are injuries along the line, the overall unit is too fragile to hold up. With a little work, though, the defense will look more like the aggressive one that tormented Iowa before being exposed by USC and Cal. They'll generate more (and give up less) "big plays", and considering everyone returns on special teams, the Sun Devils are much more complete and experienced than they are being given credit for.

Wins over LSU or USC would be shocking, but no other game on the schedule looms as particularly challenging, especially after capping an undefeated season in Sun Devil Stadium. Those early tests will be the level of competition needed to kick-start all of the above-listed (needed) changes. Then, foes that follow will be easy marks for a tuned up set of Sun Devils. Odds are the '05 squad falls on the wrong side of close games more often than not. But eight wins, a solid bowl, and a continued revitalization of the program are to be seen, and shouldn't be discounted when you see what this all means by 2006.

Projected 2005 record: 8-3
QB - 4 DL - 3
RB - 2.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 4.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Sam Keller, 71-42-1, 606 yds., 5 TD

Rushing: Hakim Hill, 122 att., 566 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Derek Hagan, 83 rec., 1248 yds., 10 TD

Scoring: Jesse Ainsworth, 18-28 FG, 40-40 PAT, 94 pts.

Punting: Chris McDonald, 64 punts, 43.1 avg.

Kicking: Chris McDonald, 64 punts, 43.1 avg.

Tackles: Dale Robinson, 93 tot., 50 solo

Sacks: Jordan Hill, Kyle Caldwell, 7 each

Interceptions: Jamar Williams, 3 for 69 yds.

Kickoff Returns:
Rudy Burgess, 15 ret., 22.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns:
Rudy Burgess, 31 ret., 7.5 avg., 0 TD


LB Jamar Williams
OFFENSE: Andrew Walter-QB, Drew Hodgdon-C, Hakim Hill-TB (dismissed), Loren Wade-TB (dismissed)
DEFENSE: Jimmy Verson-DT, Ishmael Thrower-DE, Justin Burks-MLB, Chris McKenzie-CB, Riccardo Stewart-S

This year's transition at QB was eased for Sam Keller after record-setter Andrew Walter was injured. The junior then made his first start in the Sun Bowl and threw for 370yds and three TDs (MVP honors after come-from-behind victory). The drop-back protégé has arrived. He might not have the arm strength of Walter; yet, his gutsy play was reminiscent of another Sun Devil, Jake Plummer. Keller has the smarts and prototypical QB size (6'4, 228) to accompany his uncanny poise. The question is, can he maintain his high TD:INT-ratio (5:1) in the limelight? Every indication is that he's for real, having mastered Coach Koetter's wide-open offense under the sage tutelage of Walter. His ability to check-off and read blitzes makes him the starter without question; but, how long will it be before blue-chip stud Derek Shaw finds his way under center? He spurned Miami to have a chance to play in Tempe; whenever given a shot, he'll be showing off his quick, cannon-like release and fluidity in the pocket.

Running Back
Considering the disciplinary actions against departed-Hakim Hill and Loren Wade, converted-WR Rudy Burgess's performance was nothing short of miraculous (186 yards vs. Stanford 11/6/04). Nevertheless, ASU's running game was anything but divine, finishing a dismal eighth in Pac-10 rush offense with a division I-A-low six ground scores. What the Sun Devils lack in certainty, they make up for in optimism. Even if Burgess returns to his more natural WR position, Randy Hill will step up. The RS junior was steady before injury (42car, 3.7avg), possessing the steely body (6'2, 208) to be a feature back. His ACL injury lingers, though, leaving room for junior Cornell Candidate, who is healing from his own (groin) injury (season ending surgery). Cornell may be undersized but he proves speed runs in the family. Look for fellow track-star Price Wilks to be the big surprise. The true sophomore combines speed (10.7-sec 100 meters) with a bigger frame and great hands. Assuming ASU can't rely on Wade, Wilks will develop into the most complete back. Koetter's wanted a go-to RB for years so this will be spring's most hotly contested position battle, and the competition will only improve what was the nation's No.94 rushing squad.

Derek Hagan is proof that recruiting is overrated. Overlooked as a prep, the senior will wind up becoming the most prolific WR in Sun Devils history before October. Nine catches and 274yds short of those career marks at ASU, Hagan will set his sights on a third straight 1,000+yd season, (has already earned NC.net second-team) all-America status and quite possibly the Biletnikoff Award… he's that special a player. Great after the catch, he's a big target and a smooth route-runner with a superior mental approach - he expects to be the best WR when out there, period. This hard worker's both consistent (14 of last 20 games with 100+yds rec.) and electric. Expect constant double teams, which will open things up for the other three returning snarlers. The other starter - junior Terry Richardson - is similar to Hagan physically and speed-wise. On the field, he's almost as dangerous a deep threat, but Matt Miller will take that role away, stretching the field with 4.4-sec 40 speed. Burgess will help as an intermittent slot receiver, though athletic, lanky Nate Kimbrough is the youngster with the biggest upside. With complex schemes and plenty of ways to stretch defenses, this corps will be tough to contain, though not deep past these regulars. Injuries here would likely devastate this offense.

Offensive Line and Tight End
If great lines are built, not born, then expectations are deservedly high for this veteran bunch. Losing only one (oft-penalized) member, the line brings back 20 years of experience at ASU and will no doubt decrease their 39 sacks allowed, especially with more mobility at QB. NC.net first-team all-American (also all-Pac-10) Grayling Love leads the bunch with his versatility (he can play any spot on the line) and weight-room tenacity. Expect to see him at RG, but he could move anywhere as the line was constantly reshuffled. Towering tackles Chaz White (6'5") and Andy Carnahan (6'8") can block out the desert sun while monster RS junior Stephen Berg (6'6", 313) is the best run-blocker and should complement Love well at guard. In all, the top six returnees started 47 games last year, which should help them accelerate their ability to adjust in-game, a problem Stanford's Jon Alston exposed for his four sacks against them. Sophomore TE Zach Miller makes the line exceptional. The freshman all-American exceeded lofty expectations with school frosh records for catches (56), and yards (552). Battle scars have to equal results, or this talented offense goes nowhere.

Dirk Koetter may be under fire for the way the Arizona State program is run; however, no one can question his offensive game-plans. The top pass offense in the west put up video game-like numbers of 500+ attempts and 3800+ yds with a league high 35TDs. There's no question that if/when Keller fixes his release point, he will lead the Sun Devils to similar numbers. Offensive identity must be established for this team to challenge, and Keller will do such. Fans should hope for greater balance, and a fully-recovered RB-corps will make this so. The run can finally set up the pass here, making each that much more effective. While stats show ASU as among the Pac-10's best in the red zone (79.2%), they settled for more field goals than anyone because of an inability to run (it in) near the goal line. There's so much experience that the emergence of a sufficient go-to back is all the Sun Devils need to cement themselves as the conference's second best offense behind USC.


OL Grayling Love


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Sam Keller-Jr (6-4, 227) Rudy Carpenter-Fr (6-2, 178)
Chad Christensen-Sr (6-3, 208)
TB Rudy Burgess-So (5-11, 181) Randy Hill-Jr (6-2, 207)
Cornell Canidate-Sr (5-9, 206)
HB Lee Burghgraef-Sr (6-5, 261) Brent Miller-So (6-5, 240)
WR Derek Hagan-Sr (6-2, 197) Moey Mutz-Sr (6-2, 180)
WR Terry Richardson-Jr (6-1, 185) Matt Miller-Sr (6-2, 173)
TE Zach Miller-So (6-4, 250) Jamaal Lewis-Jr (6-4, 238)
OT Brandon Rodd-So (6-4, 313) Chaz White-Sr (6-5, 297)
OG Stephen Berg-Jr (6-6, 319) Leo Talavou-Fr (6-4, 277)
C Grayling Love-Sr (6-3, 297) Mike Pollak-So (6-4, 279)
OG Zach Krula-Jr (6-7, 283) Robert Gustavis-So (6-3, 297)
OT Andrew Carnahan-Jr (6-8, 297) Julius Orieukwu-So (6-6, 311)
K Jesse Ainsworth-Jr (6-3, 219) Mark Merrill-Jr (5-10, 185)



Defensive Line
Depth on the front seven remains the key issue for a defense that needs QB pressure to win. Fortunately, at least two spots on the line are locked up by talented returning starters. Juniors DT Jordan Hill and DE Kyle Caldwell form a deadly inside-out pair whose combined 14.5 sacks made them the only teammates among the top eight in the Pac-10 in that category. The converted linebacker Hill added bulk but continues to play the middle with reckless abandon; expect him to lead the team in TFLs (12 in '04). Caldwell's quick first step makes him ideal for the Sun Devils pass-rush-oriented "Cobra" defensive front. The former prep All-American has only made himself better with his rigorous work ethic. At 6'3", 256, and boasting a squat well above 500lbs, this physical specimen won't allow double-teams to prevent him from another monster statistical year. The question is, who will surround these two anchors on the line? Experience should nab Quency Darley one spot, but after that, look for a major shake-up of the two-deep this spring. Considering the juco influx, a monster DT like Shannon Jones could find himself starting sooner than later. Hill and Caldwell are work horses; but, even they may tire without the depth to substitute freely.

If Matt Fawley can pick up where he left off, then this is the Sun Devils deepest and most experienced unit. That could be a big "if" for the former starter (in '02 and '03) who was suspended for all of last season. When on the field, Fawley plays the ball-hawking "Devil back" spot in ASU's 4-3 scheme, emulating his idol and former Sun Devil Darren Woodson. Fawley has surprising speed (4.5/40) and possesses not only the cover skills expected of a former safety, but also the instinct to make plays in the backfield. Senior Dale Robinson knows something about making plays in the backfield (13 TFLs), or anywhere for that matter. He's as sure a tackler as there is (93 total, T-7th in Pac-10) and can afford to play aggressively with his savvy senior OLB mate, Jamar Williams, shoring up the strong-side. Williams led all ASU LBs in INTs and uses smooth changes of direction to efficiently drop into coverage. The unit is more speed than strength, which means rush defense may again be only average in the Pac-10; however, experience will make this one of the better units in conference and drastically improved in the red zone.

Defensive Back
Arizona State fans should forward their thank-you letters to the NCAA. Granted sixth years of eligibility, returnees Emmanuel Franklin and RJ Oliver instantly morph the secondary from a glaring weakness to a marginal strength. Granted, there is considerable room for improvement on the Pac-10's seventh best pass defense and Oliver, like Fawley, is a question mark after missing '04 to injury. Yet, new defensive coordinator Bill Miller was known for sterling pass defenses at Michigan State and Miami and has enough talent to turn the Sun Devils around. Start with Franklin, who led the secondary with six TFLs while finishing in the conference's top-ten in INTs and pass break-ups. Oliver should do well one-on-one if he still has the after-burners that garnered him Thorpe award consideration in '03. Senior CB Josh Golden forms a pair of undersized, speedy corners who can tackle in the open-field, but will need help on jump balls. Among a solid three-deep, juco transfers CB Chris Baloney and S Zach Catanese are the gems whose height and 4.4 speed will warrant starting consideration by mid-season. Bottom line: if the established guard can't feed the bulldog, then the newbies will quickly rush in to fill any coverage voids. Unexpecting foes will get burned by this unit.

The need for depth on the defensive side led Coach Koetter to the junior college ranks; however, don't view this as an act of "win-now" desperation. While immediacy was a consideration, the Sun Devils have put together an athletic bunch who will make this defense a force once gelled and developed. For now, there are enough returning starters to ensure improvements in '05. The biggest concern is getting QB pressure to catalyze the unit's aggressiveness. While sacks will be down from the 36 that led to -256yds (only USC was better in conference), Caldwell and Hill are difference makers that ensure the line's respectability. The experience at linebacker offsets personnel losses; plus, a change at coordinator will breed newfound intensity, so weaknesses could become strengths depending on many presently unforeseen factors that spring will straighten out. Or not. Expect fewer shootouts in the desert as the collective defensive speed, along with the maturity to keep the play in front of them, will limit big yardage and red-zone opportunities.


LB Dale Robinson


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Mike Talbot-Sr (6-2, 235) Wes Evans-Fr (6-3, 256)
DT Jordan Hill-Jr (6-2, 277) DeWayne Hollyfield-Sr (6-4, 287)
DT Quency Darley-Jr (6-2, 273) Brett Palmer-So (6-2, 280)
DE Kyle Caldwell-Jr (6-3, 253) Will Kofe-Jr (6-2, 280)
SLB Jamar Williams-Sr (6-1, 244) DeAndre Johnson-So (6-1, 231)
MLB Dale Robinson-Sr (6-1, 236) Beau Manutai-Jr (6-1, 260)
DLB Robert James-So (5-11, 213) Nick Clapp-Sr (6-0, 221)
CB R.J. Oliver-Sr (5-9, 173) Chad Green-So (5-10, 173)
CB Josh Golden-Sr (5-10, 174) Uriah Marshall-Fr (5-11, 182)
S Josh Barrett-So (6-2, 206) Zach Catanese-Jr (6-3, 215)
S Emmanuel Franklin-Sr (5-11, 196) Maurice London-Sr (6-0, 181)
P Chris MacDonald-So (6-4, 214) Greg Woidneck-Fr (6-0, 193)




The strong-legged junior K Jesse Ainsworth will start for a third straight year after showing consistency from inside 40yds. Improving on his 4-of-9 from 40-49 yards away is a given. Coverage was stellar on KOs, so expect more of this as special teams tighten up even more.

Former walk-on Chris MacDonald evolved into a freshman all-American with an average over 43yds (3rd, Pac-10), 15 punts inside the 15 and a laughable long of 72yds. However, miserable coverage and multiple blocked punts made this an illogically inefficient area for the Sun Devils (worst net-punting in conf.)

Return Game
Consider Rudy Burgess the poor man's Reggie Bush. He'll handle the bulk of both punt and kickoff duties after respectable averages of 7.4yds/PR and 22.5yds/KR. Terry Richardson could push for punt return duties but more likely, ASU won't fix what's not broken after finishing among the conference leaders in returns. Ainsworth's frequent touchbacks make coverage easier than usual.