Did you know about Arizona's explosive second string quarterback before Anu Solomon went down last game? Did you know that Arizona's center, who had multiple, costly bad snaps against UCLA last Saturday, was a left guard during the entirety of his three year career (two years as a starter) prior to this season, which may help explain why he had issues while squaring off with a future NFLer? (I doubt that Arizona's previous opponents this season, UTSA, Nevada, or NAU, had a "Kenny Clark" type player ready to smash the center upon snapping the ball.)
If you didn't know about these guys, it was because you didn't read BN's preview of Arizona's offense last week!!!
So check out this week's preview of Arizona State's offense, so you can impress your Bruin friends at the Rose Bowl or at your watch party about your knowledge of the opponent during and after the game on Saturday.
2015 Offensive Statistics
Arizona State is 55th in the nation in total offense, averaging 431.3 yards per game and 5.60 yards per play. For the sake of comparison, UCLA is 26th in the nation in total offense, averaging 482.5 yards per game and 6.35 yards per play. Arizona State's competition appears to have been slightly more difficult than UCLA's. Arizona State's four opponents are ranked as follows in total defense: Texas A&M is #60 (out of 127); Cal Poly is #112 in FCS; New Mexico is #68; and Southern Cal is #83. UCLA's four opponents have the following rankings in total defense: UVa is #100; UNLV is #95; BYU is #89; and Arizona is #93. As you can see from the rushing and passing stats below, Arizona State's offense is much more reliant on the pass than UCLA's, which is much more balanced.
Arizona State is 79th in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 163.5 rushing yards per game and 4.33 yards per rush. ASU's rushing yards per game is about half of that of UCLA's last opponent, Arizona, and the Sun Devils' yard per rush average is a 2.9 yards less per rush than that of the Wildcats. So the Arizona State rushing attack does not appear to be as potent as that of the Wildcats, which is good considering how the Bruins fared against Arizona's Jerrald Randall and Nick Wilson. By comparison, UCLA is 22nd in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 236 yards per game and 5.72 yards per rush.
Arizona State is 38th in the nation in passing offense, averaging 267.8 passing yards per game and 6.82 yards per passing attempt. By comparison, UCLA is 53rd in the nation in passing offense, averaging 246.5 yards per game and 7.09 yards per passing attempt. Arizona's State's strength on offense this season (although not as much of the strength as the last fews seasons) has been an up-tempo offense featuring the passing attack. This is not uncommon under Head Coach Todd Graham, and his offensive coordinator, Mike Norvell, whose work with Graham goes all the way back eight years to Graham's tenure at Tulsa.
Mike Bercovici, a senior who started 3 games for ASU last season after Taylor Kelly went down with an injury, returns to the Sun Devils as starting quarterback. Last season, Bercovici went 2-1 as a starter (with his sole loss to UCLA), and was surprisingly good in his relief of Kelly. This season, after four games, Bercovici has been good, but not as good as last season. He has completed 93 of this 157 passes (a 59.2 completion percentage), for 1071 yards, 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His passer rating is 128.7, lower than last season. In comparison, Josh Rosen has a higher completion percentage, higher passer rating, but more interceptions, and 107 less yards. And, of course, Rosen is a freshman.
After being gashed last weekend by run-first, backup quarterback, Jerrard Randall, the Bruins still need to worry about Bercovici running the ball this week. Although Bercovici is a pro-style quarterback, and until now has not been a huge threat to run, he did have a 19 yard rushing touchdown earlier this season against Texas A&M. Tough to tell whether that run was a scramble or a really, really late, designed quarterback draw. Look for yourselves. Hopefully Coach Bradley has shown that play to the defense while watching film in preparation for ASU. Some Sun Devil fans have been calling for Bercovici to keep the ball more on read option plays. UCLA had best be ready.
No quarterback other than Bercovici has taken a snap for the Sun Devils this season. Therefore, it is unclear who would go into the game for ASU in a backup situation. Between a redshirt freshman, Manny Wilkens, or two true freshmen, Bryce Perkins or Brady White, I would suspect Wilkens. None of them has ever taken a snap in their respective college careers.
In high school, Wilkens was a talented quarterback who could beat you with his arm and with his legs. Knowing that the UCLA defense struggled with the read option against Arizona last week, does Norvell put any packages in with Wilkens at quarterback, to potentially utilize his strength at running the ball?
Demario Richard, a sophomore, takes over duties at running back. No, D.J. Foster, who played the position for the past three years, did not graduate, but the ASU coaching staff decided to move Foster to wide receiver to make room for Richard. And Richard has impressed, with 429 yards on 70 carries, a 6.1 yard per carry average. A tough runner to tackle, Richard has scored 4 rushing touchdowns. Like his predecessor, Foster, Richard has also seen a lot of action in the passing game, hauling in 10 passes out of the backfield for 185 yards and two receiving touchdowns, one of which was for 93 yards against New Mexico. It is not all rainbows and unicorns for Richard, however, as ball security has been a bit of an issue for Richard this season.
The Sun Devils still hand the ball off to Foster as well; he has carried the rock 21 times this season, for 111 yards (a 5.1 yard average). Junior Gump Hayes and sophomore Kalen Ballage have also gotten carries, but each only averages about 3 yards per carry.
Senior, D.J. Foster returns for the Sun Devils, but the 1,000 yard rusher from last season is now playing wide receiver. Foster has always been a good pass catcher out of the backfield, exceeding 650 yards receiving in each of his past two seasons. Through four games at wide receiver, Foster has (a team leading) 22 catches for 189 yards and one touchdown.
Senior, Gary Chambers has a team leading 196 yards receiving, on 10 catches, but has yet to find the end zone. Junior, Tim White, has 10 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, although he has been limited due to his recovery from a broken hand.
Also, we haven't forgotten about Bruin-for-life, but Sun Devil for this season, Devin Lucien. Lucien has caught 13 passes in three games, for 147 yards. He was banged up and missed the Southern Cal game with an injury. It is unclear if he'll play in his homecoming at the Rose Bowl. If Devin can get healthy, he could have his best season statistically.
Sun Devil fans miss Jaelen Strong, who now plys his trade in the NFL. Junior Cameron Smith was expected to have a big season. He caught 41 balls for 596 yards and six touchdowns last season, and has 4.4 40 spped. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, Smith was lost for the season wiht a knee injury in Spring Practice. The loss of Strong and Smith, as well as injuries to White and Lucien, have hurt Arizona State's prospects for an outstanding (rather than just good) passing game this season, at least so far.
The Sun Devils have had good success from their junior tight end, Kody Kohl. Kohl has caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Arizona State returns three of its five starters on the offensive line from the 2014 season. The center and both guards, all seniors, return after starting in their junior seasons, while ASU breaks in new tackles.
ASU's starting center is senior, Nick Kelly (6'3", 295 lbs.). Kelly, a co-team captain this year and an All PAC 12 Second team selection last season, is on the Rimington watch list (as is UCLA's Jake Brendel) for most outstanding center in college football.
Vi Teofilo (6'3", 315 lbs.), a senior, has loads of experience. He leads the team with 30 career starts and has starting 27 straight game. Teofilo is the starting right guard. Senior Christian Westerman (6'4", 300 lbs.) slots in at left guard. Westerman is apparently Arizona State's "strongest man," benching pressing 315 lbs. twenty times," and started last season at left guard. Both Teofilo and Westerman were All PAC 12 Honorable Mentions last season.
Kelly, Teofilo, and Westerman form a very solid core of the ASU offensive line, and having played many games together, have developed a nice chemistry.
The tackle positions are much less experienced. At right tackle is senior William McGehee (6'6", 314 lbs.). Although McGehee is huge, his first start was against Texas A&M this season, and most of his past experience last year was on special teams. At left tackle, protecting Bercovici's blind side, is junior Evan Goodman (6'4", 310 lbs.). Goodman had some injury issues last season, and has played although being banged up this season.
Strategy and Analysis
UCLA's defense matches up against ASU's offense much better than it did against the Arizona Wildcat offense, under either Solomon or Randall. UCLA has had most if its defensive issues defending the run, which, for ASU, is not as potent as its passing attack. Even the Sun Devils' passing attack, however, has been limited by injuries and Jaelen Strong's departure to the NFL. The injuries to Arizona State's receivers kind of offset the injuries to UCLA's Myles jack and Fabian Moreau. Through four games, Arizona State's offense is frankly just not as potent as it was in past seasons, averaging just 15.5 points in losses to Texas A&M and Southern Cal, and 34.5 points in wins against Doormats, Cal Poly and New Mexico
UCLA cannot, however, get caught looking ahead to Stanford on the road next week. Arizona State is a wounded animal and Mike Bercovici has already declared that the UCLA game is a must win:
"Nothing much needs to be said except for Saturday's a must win." - Mike Bercovici pic.twitter.com/PyWyxJECqZ— Tim Ring (@timringTV) September 28, 2015
The Bruins cannot afford to overlook the Arizona State Sun Devils this weekend. This is the type of letdown game that has plagued the Bruins in seasons past. Oh, and in Coach Mora's sole meeting against Arizona State in the Rose Bowl, ASU prevailed 38-33, in 2013. So there's that.
That wraps up Bruins Nation's preview of Arizona State’s offense. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.