With recruiting for the 2014 football season completed last week, the Arizona State Sun Devils posted the program’s highest rated recruiting class in the internet era, ranked in the top 25 by most of the country’s recruiting outlets. Losing nine defensive starters and some crucial offensive weapons, head coach Todd Graham needed a strong crop to keep the momentum from 2013 going into this season. That made bringing in players who could contribute right away a high priority. With so many talented, but unproven players on the roster, these have a chance to be successful in 2014:
CB Kweishi Brown: With the departure of Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson, the cornerback position is one that will be up for grabs in fall camp. Lloyd Carrington is expected to fill one spot with JUCO transfer Brown the favorite for the other side. At 6-0, 185lbs, the California native has the size and sub-4.4 speed to make an impact at the Division 1 level. Coaches have raved about his cover skills and fantastic hand-feet coordination. Brown put up great numbers at Grossmont College with 62 tackles, 16 pass breakups, and four interceptions in 2013. Coach Graham puts particular focus on the secondary, leading ASU’s pass defense to be one of the best in the conference in his first 2 years. With new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson now on board, it is vital for that trend to continue to speak victory this fall.
WR Eric Lauderdale: Jaelen Strong’s emergence last season forced opposing defenses to start double-teaming and shading coverage towards the talented wideout. This made recruiting another receiving weapon to keep defenses honest a high priority. Lauderdale is expected to do just that with similar size and ability to grab jump balls, as well as making yards after the catch. The Georgia native hauled in nine touchdowns in 2013, despite missing five games with a groin injury, to go along with the 60 grabs for 916 yards and seven scores in his 2012 freshman campaign at Saddleback Junior College. Lauderdale has all the physical skills to crack the starting lineup in 2014. If he can get on the same page with Taylor Kelly, expect the Sun Devils to have one of the most explosive passing attacks in the country.
RB Kalen Ballage: When Marion Grice went down last season, the Sun Devils’ execution in the red zone and in short yardage suffered. Not having a big, physical back to change pace hurt the offense at times. At 6-2, 215lbs, Ballage definitely fits the bill with a rare combination of size and speed that would be welcome in ASU’s high octane attack. The Colorado native showed himself to be a versatile threat; rushing 206 times for 1,943 yards with 25 touchdowns and 16 receptions for 360 yards and six scores, totaling 2,628 all-purpose yards his senior year. With De’Marieya Nelson likely moving to tight end full time, Ballage should be given ample opportunities in goal-to-go situations to show his skills.
DL Dalvon Stuckey: Replacing two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton was arguably the most difficult task of the off-season. Blessed with outstanding size (6-3, 308lbs) and athleticism, JUCO transfer Stuckey appears to be a prime candidate. The top junior college defensive tackle in the country, Stuckey put up impressive numbers (110 tackles, 28 for loss, 10 sacks) in two years at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi. The Florida native, who was committed to Auburn and Florida State at one time, has turned heads with his explosiveness at the point of attack and pass rushing ability. With the Sun Devils having to replace their entire defensive line, coaches are looking for playmakers at the position and Stuckey has all the skills to be a force in the trenches immediately.
LB DJ Calhoun: Like most of the defensive positions, linebacker is up for grabs this pre-season. Calhoun has put himself in the mix after graduating high school early and enrolling at ASU, meaning he will participate in spring practice. A former USC commit, Calhoun was an All-American, the top defensive player in northern California as a junior and the highest rated defensive recruit to commit to the Sun Devils. Touted as a “seek and destroy” linebacker with equal skill against the pass and the run, the El Cerrito native is known for his toughness and physical style of play; qualities that will make it difficult to keep him off the field. Coaches played musical chairs with the linebackers in 2013, trying to settle on the best combination of players. Now, with a “clean slate” in 2014, continuity and consistency will be the focuses at the position, with Calhoun expected to challenge at the WILL spot.