In our continuing series looking at Pac-12 spring-football camps, today we examine Arizona State, which figures to be a strong contender for the 2013 Pac-12 South title:
Starters returning – 14 (6 offense, 8 defense), plus PK Jon Mora.
Refresher on 2012 – Sun Devils broke to a surprising 5-1 record, then came back to earth with four straight losses before finishing with three successive victories, including a 62-28 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl conquest of Navy. In an 8-5 season, they compiled some impressive numbers under first-year coach Todd Graham, leading the nation with nine tackles for loss a game, tying for second in sacks with 52, rushing for 205.5 yards a game (second-best mark at ASU in 25 years) and finishing eighth in the country in fewest penalty yards per game with 35.
Coaching changes – Graham fired former WSU offensive line coach Bob Connelly and replaced him with Chris Thomsen, who initially accepted a job with Graham a year ago but instead hooked on with Tommy Tuberville, then at Texas Tech. Among other changes, Graham added D-line coach Jackie Shipp, who was with Bob Stoops during his entire Oklahoma tenure.
Major spring concerns – Finding a replacement for safety Keelan Johnson, second-leading tackler and interceptions leader . . . creating more depth at receiver, where the leading returnee, Kevin Ozier, had only 21 catches . . . replacing graduated CB Deveron Carr . . . solidifying unstable PK position.
Developments – S Viliami Moeakiola, a RS freshman, is listed as a prospective starter at Johnson’s old spot . . . only two WRs who caught more than one pass return, so Sun Devils will count on incoming JC teammates Joe Morris and Jaelen Strong, both 6-4 . . . ex-Louisiana-Monroe transfer Robert Nelson appears to lead at the vacant CB spot, but Rashad Wadood had a good spring . . . Jamil Douglas switched from OG to OT and it went well . . . Chris Young, the ex-Auburn High standout who once signed with Washington, saw time at WLB in a possible switch from his “Spur” LB spot, and it appeared to take . . . Graham inaugurated a tradition of designating players excelling on and off the field to wear a Pat Tillman camouflage jersey in honor of the fallen ex-Sun Devil and war hero, and defenders Will Sutton, Young, CB Osahon Irabor and S Alden Darby won it . . . QB Mike Bercovici, who looked like a possible starter coming out of spring a year ago, had a strong spring, but unseating QB Taylor Kelly, who completed a school-record 67 percent of his passes, will be hard . . . RB Deantre Lewis, shot in the leg in the off-season two years ago, is trying to come back after being switched to defense last year . . . ASU president Michael Crow created a stir when he said the Sun Devils would like to use the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field during renovation of the ASU stadium (the earliest it would be is 2015), but the D-backs reacted coolly . . . Notre Dame, trying to accommodate several games in its newfound ACC home, is trying to get out of a 2014 date at ASU, and ruffling feathers. “The school didn’t have the courtesy to have the athletic director call the AD at ASU to discuss it,” complained AD Steve Patterson to the Arizona Republic. “They had their PR guy call (ASU’s football publicist) to give us a message on Friday afternoon while everybody was out of town at the Final Four. Our position is, we’re playing the game.”
Spring game – In front of 6,386, Kelly was 15 of 21 for 126 yards. All-American Sutton played only a quarter.
2013 schedule – It’s nasty early, with a four-week gauntlet of Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame following an opener with Sacramento State. But Oregon is off the schedule, as is Cal.