Projected starter: Taylor Kelly
The skinny: There were very few passers who were as efficient as redshirt junior Taylor Kelly last year. He had the eighth-best quarterback rating in the nation last year (159.9) and completed 67.1 percent of his passes. Kelly is mobile as well, recording 516 rushing yards last year. He has also proven to be effective as a pooch punter on fourth downs, averaging 37.9 punt yards per game. Kelly even managed to get seven of his eight punt attempts inside the 20-yard line.
Also vying for time at the No. 2 spot are redshirt sophomores Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank. Bercovici was the backup in 2011 but redshirted last year when Eubank beat him for the No. 2 spot. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said Eubank would still get his own packages whereas Bercovici could be ready to play as well.
Coach’s comment: “Going into year two, (Kelly’s) really got that experience under his belt. He’s approaching every practice and every rep as the guy who’s been there. He’s trying to be the leader and the point man for this offense.” — coach Norvell
Projected starters: Marion Grice (tailback), D.J. Foster (running back)
The skinny: Senior Marion Grice and junior D.J. Foster make up arguably the Pac-12’s most lethal one-two punch in the backfield. Toward the second half of last season, both halfbacks overtook Cameron Marshall for time and both became ASU’s designated running backs, combining for 1,202 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.
It’s not just rushing yards that define these running backs, though. Both Grice and Foster also racked up a high amount of receiving yards as well. Foster’s 533 yards was the third highest on the team last year, and Grice’s 425 yards stands as fourth. That said, look for Grice and Foster to be on the field at the same time often this season, whether it’s Foster lining up in the backfield or as a slot receiver.
Redshirt junior Deantre Lewis and senior Kyle Middlebrooks will also appear as the team’s third options. Both made solid progress bouncing back from their respective injuries.
Coach’s comment: “The way (the runningbacks) have grown and their versatility, I think it’s going to be a real benefit for this offense. The way they can impact a game will be a lot of fun.” — coach Norvell
Projected starters: Evan Finkenberg (left tackle), Jamil Douglas (left guard), Kody Koebensky (center), Vi Teofilo (right guard), Tyler Sulka (right tackle)
The skinny: ASU had to fill a couple of holes over the off-season with Brice Schwab and Andrew Sampson gone, but this is a group in which Norvell and offensive line coach Chris Thomsen are very confident. Redshirt senior Kody Koebenseky is a Rimington Award watch list candidate and anchors the line as a leader with redshirt senior Evan Finkenberg. Last season, the line only gave up 37 sacks. Redshirt junior Jamil Douglas originally started spring camp at right tackle but moved back to his natural position at left guard, moving up redshirt junior Tyler Sulka to right tackle.
Coach’s comment: “That’s probably the group I’m most proud of. We got our starting five there. … Our depth is beginning to come. One of the things we challenge our guys with is the season may come down to the sixth, seventh or eighth offensive lineman, and we’re making sure we’re prepared for that …” — coach Norvell
Projected starters: Jaelen Strong (X), Kevin Ozier (Y), Richard Smith (Z)
The skinny: There were some concerns about this position after last season ended because ASU lost its top two receivers in Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles. Redshirt senior Kevin Ozier has become the undisputed leader of the corps and ASU has added two top targets from Pierce Community College (Calif.) in redshirt sophomore Jaelen Strong and junior Joe Morris. Both were touted as excellent junior college wideout recruits. Coach Todd Graham said Ellis Jefferson, Cameron Smith and Ronald Lewis could all see time as true freshmen at some point of the season. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Gary Chambers and redshirt freshman Frederick Gammage should give the corps some extra depth as well.
Coach’s comment: “I’m extremely confident (in this group). If you look at Rick Smith (and) Kevin Ozier, we know he’s a guy that’s been extremely solid. When you bring in the newcomers — Jaelen Strong, Joe Morris, Ellis Jefferson — and the development of guys we’ve had, I’m really excited about that. I think that group is going to be a strong one for us.” — coach Norvell
Projected starters: Chris Coyle (H-back), De’Marieya Nelson or Darwin Rogers (tight end)
The skinny: Senior Chris Coyle returns for his final year as one of Kelly’s top receiving targets. Coyle caught five touchdown passes last year and his 696 receiving yards led all receivers. Redshirt junior De’Marieya Nelson and senior Darwin Rogers are two athletic tight ends who can catch and block from the H-back spot. Several packages in ASU’s offense feature Coyle on the line of scrimmage and Rogers or Nelson in the backfield.
Coach’s comment: “Those three guys, we feel are all great players at the three back position. You’ll see more of having two or three of those guys on the field at one time, because we feel they are top-notch players for us and can definitely make plays.” — coach Norvell
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