By Dan Kelley on June 19, 2014
The Arizona State Sun Devils have some rebuilding to do in 2014, particularly on defense where they lost nine starters from a year ago. Yet the Sun Devils are still considered contenders in the Pac-12 based on the strength of their offense, which needs to replace a couple play-makers as well. Here are five guys who will need to step up so the Arizona State football program can build on its momentum and challenge for the Pac-12 championship.
The Sun Devils are heading into 2014 without RB Marion Grice, who ran for nearly 1,000 yards last season. But Arizona State still has a chance to field a potent rushing attack. D.J. Foster should step into Grice’s role, after rushing for 501 yards on 5.4 yards per carry last season. Foster is a dynamic running back who excels as a receiver out of the backfield.
Last season, Foster and tight end Chris Coyle were two of Arizona State’s leading receivers. With Coyle gone and Foster likely getting more touches on the ground, ASU will need another receiver to step up opposite Jaelen Strong. One possibility is Ellis Jefferson. Standing 6’4, Jefferson could provide the big red zone threat that Coyle provided last year.
Damarious Randall is one of Arizona State's few returning starters on defense and he will be counted on to lead the secondary. Considering the complete overhaul the Sun Devils have to undergo on defense, Randall's ability to force turnovers and bring drives to a sudden halt could be very helpful. He swiped three interceptions last season and he may need to double that total in 2014.
The Sun Devils have a lot to replace in the front seven, including LB Carl Bradford, who was a fourth-round draft pick. They will look to sophomore Salamo Fiso to provide some continuity after his solid freshman season in 2013. Fiso started 10 games last year, including the final six, and recorded 71 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
Replacing DT Will Sutton will be one of the most difficult challenges the Sun Devils face in 2014. It is unlikely that any one player will be able to fill that role but if anyone can it will most likely be Jaxon Hood. Hood has deceptive quickness for a 300 lb. defensive tackle and can play multiple positions along the line. Fiso earned Freshman All-American honors in 2012 and followed that up with another strong season in 2013.
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