The football season is getting closer, and while our Bruins are getting ready for the 2015 season, so is the rest of the Pac-12. So we're taking a quick look around the conference to see how the other 11 teams are stacking up. We posed the same 4 questions to each of our Pac-12 conference mates so we can get to know their team and expectations a bit better, and added a 5th question geared for each school individually. We add some notes on the teams key losses and returns after the Q&A, as well.
Next up for our Pac-12 preseason previews is the school with the best D-1 hockey team in the Pac-12, the Arizona State Sun Devils. Our friend Josh Nacion is one of the co-managing editors at House of Sparky, the fantastic ASU SBN site. Josh was kind enough to share his time and insights with us at BN. Check out his thoughts in the Q&A below, and for the best inside look at the Sun Devils, head on over to House of Sparky and join in the conversation there.
BN: Who are the players on offense we don't know about, but should?
Josh: I would say Devin Lucien, but this being a UCLA site, I'm sure you guys are more than familiar with him. Awkward...
Watch out for running back De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes. We haven't seen much of him because he redshirted last year after coming on as a JUCO transfer, but all we know is that he's fast — so fast that coach Todd Graham can't stop talking about how quick he is, and one anonymous player told the Arizona Republic this offseason that he's the fastest player on the team. Heck, he goes by "Gump" because he runs a lot, just like Forrest Gump. He'll likely be Arizona State's main punt and kick returner, and he might get decent time in the backfield, especially with D.J. Foster moving to wide receiver full-time.
To get an idea how quick Hayes is, here's his highlight reel from when he was at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania.
BN: Who are the players on defense we don't know about, but should?
Josh: Other than Damarious Randall and Marcus Hardison, ASU is going to have pretty much its whole defense back, so it's going to be quite difficult to guess who's going to come out of nowhere and be a star. Two guys to look out for are linebackers Salamo Fiso and Laiu Moeakiola. Safety Jordan Simone will probably be the poster boy of ASU's defense this year, but it's really Fiso and Moeakiola who really give the Sun Devils foundation on that side of the ball.
BN: What game has the biggest circle on the calendar and why?
Josh: As it is every year, it's ASU's season finale against Arizona. Last year's game in Tucson actually decided the Pac-12 South champion that week, and it could very well do that against last year. I don't mean to regurgitate Todd Graham, but every Pac-12 South game, sans Colorado, is going to have just about as much importance.
BN: What is your prediction for your season record?
Josh: 10-2 in the regular season. Haven't really made a prediction of exactly who hands ASU a loss. It's going to be that unpredictable of a season.
BN: This year the Sun Devils return a ton of starters but have to replace a very good and experienced QB (which sounds familiar to us). Of course, we saw Mike Bercovici throw for 500+ yards against us last year, so maybe it won't be such a big transition after all. Following back-to-back 10 win seasons, what does ASU need to do to continue its recent success in what looks to be a very deep Pac-12 South and get back to the Conference Championship?
Josh: ASU definitely has the talent to make a deep run in the Pac-12 and perhaps even make the playoff. Few people outside Tempe will mention that last year was actually a rebuilding year for the Sun Devils. Todd Graham and his coaching staff has done a magnificent job in his first three seasons. However, his teams' weaknesses every year seem to be giving up big plays and having random scoring lulls in the middle of games. In order for ASU to have another 10-win season and contend for championships, the Sun Devils must be consistent. Graham's go-to line whenever ASU loses is "We just weren't prepared enough this week." That can't happen with this amount of talent on the team this year.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Head Coach: Todd Graham, 4th year
2014 Record: 10-3, 6-3 (conf), tied for 2nd in South
2014 Bowl: Beat Duke 36-31 in the Sun Bowl
Key returnees: QB Mike Bercovici, RB/WR DJ Foster, DT Tashon Smallwood, DT Viliami Latu, LB Salamo Fiso, FS Jordan Simone
Key losses: WR Jaelen Strong, QB Taylor Kelly, LT Jamil Douglas, RT Tyler Sulka, DT Marcus Hardison, S Damarious Randall
Matchup with UCLA: v ASU Saturday Oct 3, kickoff tba