Ask ASU head football coach Todd Graham and he’ll say he’s a defensive-minded coach. But make no mistake, the most high-powered offense in the Pac-12 next season could very well belong to the Sun Devils.
At the helm of the offense is redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly, now in his third year of starting for the Sun Devils. Kelly has been nothing short of brilliant so far in his career, and with another strong season he could end up at the top of many school records.
If Kelly throws for a little more than 3,900 yards next season, 300 more than he threw for last season, he will surpass Andrew Walter as the ASU all-time passing yards leader. If he matches his sophomore campaign total of 29 touchdown passes, he will be tops all-time in that category as well.
Kelly has the weapons to do it too. Redshirt junior Jaelen Strong headlines ASU’s group of receivers, and for good reason. Strong caught 75 passes for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns last season and was named a Second-Team All-Pac-12.
Incoming junior college transfer Eric Lauderdale will also look to put up big numbers next season after averaging more than 100 yards per game in his sophomore season with Saddleback College in California.
The talent at receiver goes even deeper than that. Redshirt freshman Ellis Jefferson had 176 yards and two touchdowns in the state championship game with Guyer High in Texas but couldn’t see the field last season with ASU because of injuries. Sophomore Cameron Smith also battled injuries but was able to play and showed that he was a threat deep down the field.
ASU has had an unbelievable amount of success with pass catching tight ends recently with Zach Miller and Chris Coyle. Redshirt senior De’Marieya Nelson has the athleticism to be a standout at the tight end position after seeing time on special teams, defense and even as a goal line running back last season.
Sharing time with Nelson will be redshirt freshman Grant Martinez, who hauled in 561 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior year at Notre Dame Prep in Arizona. The 6-foot-5 Martinez, who also played basketball in high school, was the top senior tight end prospect in Arizona before joining ASU.
The ASU offense isn’t a one-trick pony either. Junior running back D.J. Foster finished the last three games of last season with 318 rushing yards and four touchdowns. In that span, Foster also accumulated more than 100 receiving yards and a touchdown grab. Those big numbers came in some of the Sun Devils’ biggest games against UA, Stanford and Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
Foster, along with Kelly and Strong, was named to the Maxwell Award watch list by the National College Football Awards Association. The Maxwell Award is given to college football’s best player.
Protecting Kelly will be a group of veteran offensive linemen that includes three returning starters. Redshirt junior Vi Teofilo, redshirt senior Tyler Sulka and redshirt senior Jamil Douglas started on the line for ASU last season and will compete with Auburn transfer redshirt junior Christian Westerman, junior Nick Kelly and former four-star prospect redshirt sophomore Evan Goodman for starting roles.
All the pieces are in place for ASU to have an even stronger offense than the group that was second in the Pac-12 in scoring last season. If the Sun Devils hope to repeat as Pac-12 South champions, an explosive offense certainly won’t hurt.
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