So, how was your week? Likely not as tumultuous as that of the Arizona State football team, which underwent a high-profile quarterback shake-up days before the start of the regular season.
Sam Keller was the starter one day, the backup the next and is now gone, plying his trade on the scout team at Nebraska. Rudy Carpenter is the man for the Sun Devils amid murky circumstances, resulting in questions from near and far about what exactly is going on in Tempe.
That is a recipe for the kind of turmoil that boils over on a squad, but ASU coach Dirk Koetter said the opposite has happened.
“Go ask those players,” Koetter confidently told reporters when asked if Keller’s demotion and departure could fracture the team. “I think they will give it to you straight.”
Koetter insists that his team is now closer than ever and believes the Sun Devils — who are No. 24 in the preseason Associated Press poll — remain capable of achieving big things.
“A team that maximizes its potential and plays up to its abilities, that’s what I expect this team to do,” Koetter said. “That’s what you hope for. If this team plays up to its potential, then we’ll win plenty of games.”
As proven last season, the ASU offense can perform at a high level no matter who is taking the snaps. The Sun Devils were the only team in the nation to feature two 2,000-yard passers.
And even while Carpenter backed up Keller during the first half of 2005, he was not hesitant to provide direction and hold teammates accountable as if he were the starter.
“We lose a great player, one of our leaders,” Carpenter said. “But I think it’s my job to step in and be that leader for our team so we can still have a great year.”
With the regular season starting against Northern Arizona on Thursday, ASU will get a chance to put its bad week behind. Wide receiver Terry Richardson, who lives with Carpenter, expects his roommate to direct the Sun Devils’ offense though many good weeks this season.
“We’re going to be the best in the nation,” Richardson said. “We’ve been through so much together. . . . We just know to get out here and start rolling, and that’s something I haven’t always seen on the four teams I’ve been on here. We’ve faced worse adversity before and come through.”
Zach Miller: The preseason All-America tight end has all the tools — size, strength, perhaps the best hands on the team, and blocking skills that are nearly unmatched at his position. In other words, the junior has perfect NFL credentials. Enjoy him while he is here, ASU fans, because he probably will not be after this season.
Rudy Burgess: Where will he line up today? Perhaps the most versatile player in the nation, Burgess could be a two-way standout this season, as the receiver-turned-running back-turned-receiver has also practiced at cornerback since the spring. Hey, Coach Koetter, how about giving this Rudy a chance to play quarterback too, just for kicks?
Terry Richardson: The senior is one of the best kick returners in America, and he is being called on to fill the go-to receiver vacancy created by Derek Hagan’s graduation. Suspended during the spring, Richardson has been a model player during the preseason, and if he stays focused, an NFL career could await him.
Josh Barrett and Zach Catanese: The Sun Devils feel that this physical, athletic duo is one of the top safety tandems in the country. Barrett is looking to unleash his talents after two years of battling injuries, while Catanese is a big-hitting ball hawk.
Jesse Ainsworth: With ASU’s propensity to put the ball in the end zone, the senior does not get a chance to kick many field goals — which has cost him Lou Groza Award consideration. But he is invaluable, as his 82 percent field-goal rate last year and consistent kickoffs to the end zone attest.
Defense: How differently could the 2005 season have played out if this unit were just average? ASU ranked 114th out of 117 Division I-A teams by allowing 29.9 points and 468.8 yards a game last season, numbers so high that they cannot help but go down. However, the defense’s performance during the second preseason scrimmage gives reason to wonder if it will be that much better this year.
Rudy Carpenter: The sophomore got the starting quarterback job after the surprising, bizarre reversal by Koetter, and now he is going to be watched like a hawk by observers around the country. Mistakes will be magnified, and an unfair amount of win-loss weight will likely be put on his shoulders. As someone who has dealt with high scrutiny since high school, Carpenter figures to be ready for the test. And with true freshman Danny Sullivan his backup, it would behoove Carpenter to stay healthy.
Dirk Koetter: ASU’s coach had his reasons — some which will likely never be known publicly — for handling the quarterback situation as he did. But the awkwardness of it all dictates that he also will be judged by Carpenter’s performance. What’s more, fans want to see movement toward the upper echelon of the Pac-10 to justify his contract extension.
Punt team: The four well-documented blocks last season made this unit’s overall performance in 2005 seem much worse than it actually was, but consistency is still an issue. After punting well during practice last week, junior-college transfer Jonathan Johnson won the job from Jesse Ainsworth.
REMEMBER THESE NAMES
Brady Conrad: The former walk-on tight end was recently awarded a scholarship after a quick ascension up the depth chart. He could be on the field for some big downs before the end of the season.
Travis Goethel and Gerald Munns: These true freshmen (along with 23-year-old Mike Nixon) have been the most promising among a group of six new linebackers. Munns is first on the depth chart at strong-side linebacker, and Goethel — whose physical appearance is reminiscent of Pat Tillman — will get lots of playing time as a reserve on the weak side. Nate Kimbrough: If anyone else cracks the main receiver rotation — which now consists of Mike Jones,
Rudy Burgess, Terry Richardson and Jamaal Lewis — it figures to be Kimbrough, a sophomore who flashed some high stepping and big-play ability during camp.
Ryan McFoy: This true freshman needs to get bigger — and he will — but his physical frame is similar to that of Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, a Pro Bowler in waiting. McFoy will back up Josh Barrett this season, and Koetter thinks that he could be the best defensive back he’s ever coached at ASU.
Ryan Torain: A junior-college transfer, Torain is a downhill runner who made a big impression during camp. The junior will contribute heavily on special teams and could become the Sun Devils’ best rushing option on short-yardage situations.
Thursday NAU, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 Nevada, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Colorado, 4 p.m.
Sept. 23 at California, TBA
Sept. 30 Oregon, TBA
Oct. 14 at USC, 5 p.m.
Oct. 21 Stanford, 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 at Washington, TBA
Nov. 4 at Oregon State, TBA
Nov. 11 Washington St., TBA
Nov. 18 UCLA, 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 25 at Arizona, 4 p.m.
Times subject to change
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Sept. 9 vs. Nevada: This game should provide an important early-season test for the Sun Devils’ revamped defense. Nevada coach Chris Ault’s “pistol” formation offense can create headaches for opposing teams.
Sept. 16 at Colorado: Coach Dirk Koetter meets two of his former assistants — Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich — at one of the most picturesque college football settings in the nation, Folsom Field.
Sept. 23 at California: The start of a three-game stretch that could define ASU’s season. If Cal develops any consistency at the quarterback spot by then, the Golden Bears could be the toughest foe the Sun Devils face all year.
Sept. 30 vs. Oregon: Considering that ASU will be underdogs at Cal and the following week at Southern California, this is a home date that is a must win. You can bet that Koetter’s squad will want to avenge the season-altering loss the Ducks handed it in 2005.
Oct. 14 at USC: The Sun Devils almost derailed the Trojan Express last year, and the ABC cameras will be there again — this time, in prime time.
Nov. 25 at Arizona: It is hard to say why, but the Territorial Cup game always seems more fun when it is in Tucson. Last season was more proof that in rivalry games, the inferior team can easily give the favorite a scare, and the Wildcats figure to be better in 2006.
BY THE NUMBERS
2-16 ASU’s record against ranked opponents in five seasons under Dirk Koetter, including an 0-4 mark last year. The wins: at No. 6 Oregon in 2002 and against 16th-ranked Iowa in ’04.
96.9 Percent of the Sun Devils’ gross rushing yardage — from eight players, compiling 2,017 of 2,080 yards — in 2005 that returns this season.
22 Quarterback sacks by the Sun Devils last year, with just 7 1/2 from the defensive line.
24 Quarterback sacks defensive end Terrell Suggs had by himself during his NCAA record-setting and Lombardi Award-winning season of 2003.
97 Consecutive extrapoint attempts made by kicker Jesse Ainsworth, a school record.
3 Schools that finished in the top 10 of Division I-A in punt returns and kickoff returns last year — ASU, Kentucky and national champion Texas.
OFFENSE Wide receiver
1 Mike Jones (6-3, 208, So.) 82 Jamaal Lewis (6-4, 229, Sr.)
62 Brandon Rodd (6-4, 301, Jr.) 79 Julius Orieukwu (6-7, 318, Jr.)
73 Robert Gustavis (6-4, 308, Jr.) 67 Shawn Lauvao (6-3, 316, Fr.)
76 Mike Pollak (6-4, 305, Jr.) 56 Thomas Altieri (6-2, 281, Fr.)
66 Stephen Berg (6-6, 316, Sr.) 63 Paul Fanaika (6-6, 355, So.)
52 Andrew Carnahan (6-8, 288, Sr.) 75 Richard Tuitu’u (6-5, 346, Fr.)
86 Zach Miller (6-5, 259, Jr.) 83 Brady Conrad (6-4, 256, Jr.)
87 Brent Miller (6-5, 238, Jr.) 81 Tyrice Thompson (6-5, 226, Jr.)
3 Rudy Burgess (5-10, 180, Jr.) 17 Terry Richardson (6-1, 188, Sr.)
12 Rudy Carpenter (6-2, 207, So.) 15 Danny Sullivan (6-4, 200, Fr.)
24 Keegan Herring (5-10, 186, So.) 36 Shaun DeWitty (6-2, 215, So.)
20 Jesse Ainsworth (6-3, 216, Sr.) 38 Thomas Weber (6-0, 195, Fr.)
58 Dexter Davis (6-2, 243, Fr.) 55 Wes Evans (6-2, 215, So.)
77 Michael Marquardt (6-4, 289, Jr.) 91 Will Kofe (6-2, 291, Sr.)
1 Jordan Hill (6-2, 301, Sr.) 90 David Smith (6-3, 275, So.)
50 Kyle Caldwell (6-3, 272, Sr.) 85 Kellen Mills (6-3, 246, Jr.)
47 Gerald Munns (6-3, 238, Fr.) 49 Garrett Judah (6-3, 232, Jr.)
25 Mike Nixon (6-2, 226, Fr.) 51 Beau Manutai (6-1, 253, Sr.)
18 Derron Ware (6-4, 217, Sr.) 44 Travis Goethel (6-2, 229, Fr.)
8 Keno Walter-White (5-11, 179, Sr.) 23 Chris Baloney (6-0, 190, Sr.)
19 Josh Barrett (6-2, 227, Jr.) 2 Ryan McFoy (6-1, 194, Fr.)
5 Zach Catanese (6-2, 230, Sr.) 7 Jeremy Payton (6-1, 204, So.)
4 Justin Tryon (5-9, 182, Jr.) 9 Littrele Jones (5-9, 178, Jr.)
35 Jonathan Johnson (6-1, 205, Jr.) 20 Jesse Ainsworth (6-3, 216, Sr