Part II of a two-part look at the players Arizona State loses from the 2012 team and how they will be replaced. Part I, on defensive departures, ran Monday and can be viewed here.
Consistent talk of Todd Graham’s “High Octane” offense upon his arrival at Arizona State came with a grain of salt, and rightfully so. The offense had lost starting quarterback Brock Osweiler, arguably its best offensive lineman and its top three receivers to graduation and/or early entry in the NFL Draft.
But Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell ended up delivering on the promise of a high-powered, high-scoring offense — just not with the pieces most expected. Wide receiver Jamal Miles and running back Cameron Marshall had limited impacts while new faces like Marion Grice and Taylor Kelly emerged as offensive leaders.
The offense finished the year averaging 38.4 points per game, 77.8 plays per game and 464.5 yards per game, good enough to rank 25th in the nation in total offense. Most of the principals will be back in 2013, giving the Sun Devils a more experienced and possibly more potent offense.
But there will be some holes to fill. Here’s a look at the players the ASU offense loses from the 2012 team and how the Sun Devils might replace them.
CAMERON MARSHALL, RUNNING BACK
Marshall leaves ASU with his name all over the record books, but he didn’t get to finish his college career the way he would have liked. Originally expected to be a workhorse this season, Marshall ended up getting reduced carries due to the emergence of junior Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster. Still, Marshall played a key role in ASU’s three-pronged running attack, finishing with 582 yards and nine touchdowns.
Despite his reduced role, Marshall remained an offensive leader throughout the season and received much credit from Graham for helping lay the foundation for the future at ASU. That leadership will perhaps be tougher to replace than Marshall’s on-field contribution considering his scaled-back presence and ASU’s depth at the position.
The Devils might not necessarily replace Marshall in the offensive plan, rather just giving more touches to Foster and Grice. However, they could also try to replace Marshall’s downhill running presence with Terrell Davis, who redshirted his freshman season and impressed coaches in practice. If ASU opts to stick with three running backs, redshirt-junior-to-be Deantre Lewis, who had just four carries in 2012 after missing all of 2011 while recovering from a gunshot wound, could see a renewed role.
ASU also loses senior running back James Morrison, who tallied 15 carries in 10 games this year as a backup.
RASHAD ROSS AND JAMAL MILES, RECEIVERS
Ross and Miles entered the season as ASU’s most experienced receivers but finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in receiving yards behind tight end Chris Coyle and running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. That was representative of an overall problem at the position.
Ross finished the year with 610 yards and six touchdowns but performed inconsistently despite elite breakaway speed. Miles did not reach the end zone as a receiver or return man all season and appeared to be negatively impacted by the new offensive system.
Replacing Ross and Miles will be more about experience than anything else. In that regard, there is senior-to-be Kevin Ozier, who showed flashes this season while collecting 324 yards and five touchdowns on 21 receptions.
Ozier figures to be one of ASU’s primary receivers, at least at the start of the season. Sophomore-to-be Richard Smith, who caught 14 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns this year, also seems poised to compete for a starting spot. Same goes for senior-to-be Alonzo Agwuenu, who played in 11 games this year but was targeted infrequently.
Recruiting may be ASU’s best source of talent at receiver next year. The Sun Devils already have a commitment from three-star junior-college receiver Jalen Strong, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound product of Pierce College in Los Angeles, and his teammate Joseph Morris, a two-star prospect listed with the same height and weight. ASU also has two other three-star receivers committed and is targeting local four-star receiver Devon Allen of Brophy Prep.
While the position remains a question mark heading into 2013,, there should be no shortage of competition in fall camp.
Miles and Ross will also have to be replaced on special teams. Their return duties could fall to Kyle Middlebrooks, though it looks like he won’t be ready in time for the start of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Smith and D.J. Foster also could see time.
ANDREW SAMPSON AND BRICE SCHWAB, OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
While left tackle Evan Finkenberg, left guard Jamil Douglas and center Kody Koebensky all return, the entire right side of the starting offensive line must be replaced next season following the graduations of guard Andrew Sampson and tackle Brice Schwab. Schwab started every game this season, while Sampson missed two games with an ankle injury.
The good news for ASU is that offensive line has become a position of great depth. Vi Teofilo will be a redshirt sophomore next season, and after getting experience while Sampson was injured, he would seem to be the logical replacement at guard. Coaches were impressed by Teofilo’s athleticism and explosiveness this season, and he played in all but one game.
Schwab’s spot might come with a little more competition. Coaches are high on junior-to-be Tyler Sulka, who saw plenty of action this season, and some shuffling of the line should allow for some additional options. The Sun Devils recently added junior-college transfers center Nick Kelly and guard Josh Tremblay from American River College (Sacramento, Calif.), with Kelly’s arrival allowing ASU to shift Mo Latu to tackle or guard. Graham said Tremblay also will play tackle or guard, and Douglas could move back to tackle, his original position.
Sophomore Evan Goodman also figures to compete in camp for a spot somewhere on the line, and there’s a chance top transfer Christian Westerman will be eligible to play in 2013 if Auburn, his previous school, is hit with NCAA sanctions.
How the line will look come Week 1 of the 2013 season remains unclear, but there shouldn’t be a shortage of of options to replace just the two departed starters.
JOSH HUBNER, PUNTER
Hubner is not technically an offensive player, but he did come on after the offense failed to get it done on the field, so we’ll put him here.
Hubner was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist this season and earned All-Pac-12 second-team honors. Graham characterized Hubner as the best punter in the nation more than once, and that was probably true at least some of the time. Hubner led the Pac-12 with 47.1 yards per punt, a number that ranked second in the nation. He also had 22 punts of 50 or more yards.
Sophomore-to-be Dillon Jackson was listed as Hubner’s backup on the depth chart at the start of the 2012 season but never saw action, so it’s unclear whether he can truly do the job. ASU also has a commitment from two-star punter Matt Haack out of West Des Moines, Iowa.