With just a few days before Arizona State football Spring Camp begins, I wonder with great anticipation about what Sun Devil Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell must be thinking as he prepares to implement part of a plan to replace key personnel at both the skill positions and along the offensive line.
In order for Norvell’s fast-paced offense to match the success of ASU’s high-powered defense, the 31-year-old Todd Graham disciple must replace five starters in Cameron Marshall, Rashaad Ross, Jamal Miles, Andrew Sampson, and Bryce Schwab.
Unlike a defense that looks to be good material for those predicting in April how teams will finish in the league in December, its counterpart looks to be in transition. Norvell needs to replace starters at tailback, multiple wide receiver slots and two starters on the line. That’s five players who had played in two bowl games, at least two Territorial Cups, and scored over 40 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
When delving a little deeper, however, the simple fact is that Marshall, Miles, Ross were all playmakers that failed to reach new heights in 2012 after the success of their junior years. These were ascending skill position players coming out of Fall Camp, whose statistical measures of 2011 were not matched during this past season, whether it was having peaked as college athletes, struggled with a new offensive system, battled injury, or some combination of the three.
Prognosticators will tell you that you can’t replace experience. But while the ASU offense will start Spring Camp missing out on 46 combined starts registered during the 2012 season from its graduating seniors, the bar must be set higher to achieve Graham’s ultimate goal of winning championships.
Norvell was the second youngest offensive coordinator in the Pac-12 behind only Utah’s Brian Johnson last season and to successfully call plays at this level and at his age really makes people around the country take notice. He looks to have the interest of programs with greater prestige than that of his current employer in Tempe. But if he wants to earn that next big raise at ASU or at another program he’ll have to show that he can continue the process of developing this offense built around a system both he and Graham have pledged by, that has been run at previous stops at both Pitt and Tulsa.
The task of replacing departed seniors is something each and every college coach deals with on a yearly basis at all levels of football. And the offense certainly has its work cut out for the 2013 season in this regard. But if a Taylor Kelly can improve upon a Brock Osweiler in this new offensive system, can the same be said for those stepping in along the skill positions and along the right side of the offensive line?
Next week, we’ll bring you a preview with the list of players Graham and Norvell will have to work with on offense within these key positions of need during 14 practices and the Spring Game, before summer arrives and those eligible from the 2013 Recruiting Class put on the pads and join the ranks for the first time.