DB Troy Nolan
Coach: Dennis Erickson
10-3, 1 year
2007 Record: 10-3
at Stanford WON 41-3
at Washington State WON 23-20
at Oregon LOST 23-35
at UCLA WON 24-20
USC LOST 24-44
Texas LOST 34-52

2007 Final Rankings
AP-16, Coaches-13, BCS-11

2008 Outlook

Be honest and remember what you thought the moment you heard that Dennis Erickson would become the head coach at Arizona State…c’mon, be honest now. Quite frankly, we thought twice about the then-head man at perennial floor-mat Idaho. We sure hope all of those who share prognosticating egg on their face can admit their opining errors. It’s not like his résumé missed warning us of his coaching legend – two national titles at Miami in three years (1989. ’91), one of two coaches in his career to win three games versus No.1 opponents (Lou Holtz the other), and his famed turnaround at Oregon State are just a few of this journeyman-coach’s many accomplishments. Starting off 8-0 was not a shock, but was somewhat unexpected; then finishing 2-3 disappointed, but it showed Erickson just what his team would need for 2008. Besides the loss to Oregon (when Duck QB Dixon was still healthy), the losses were to teams that finished better than ASU, so no major concern. With the same emerging QB and most of the main ball-handling weapons returning, State could easily be amongst the top 10 by October.

Rudy Carpenter has the talent and will keep this offense consistent and aggressive. A few of those foes in the latter stages of 2007 held the team under 30 points, but none could stop Carpenter’s methodical results – he had a TD pass in every game last year, and only threw a combined three INTs in those five crucial year-end tilts. The RBs are stacked four high waiting for well-earned carries, and the WRs/TEs are there for anything to happen. The line issues (at both tackles) will hopefully turn last year’s sack crisis into this year’s opportunity to improve through graduation(s).

The Sun Devils stay on track personnel-wise on offense, but the defense loses three DBs, and we all know how the Big Ten is a “passing purgatory” when your secondary isn’t playing well together. All of the individual talent aside, if the secondary can’t gel for a well-orchestrated effort, last year’s high pass efficiency (defensive) ranking – 15th – won’t come close to being repeated. WLB Robert James is gone, but it won’t be as hard to fill in his numbers as it will be to recreate their tight passing defense. See, that was the result of the Sun Devil’s strong run-stopping – foes threw it 487 times since they often failed in their 407 ground tries. The front seven returns five starters, so stopping the run will again happen, thus foes will start to pass it early and often.

The rough schedule isn’t bad if fans remember that, in voter’s eyes, playing better teams translates in the polls and thus a tougher schedule is good for year-end jockeying. Stanford early is a trap game with Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh beating USC last year. The game at home with Georgia has to be a focus, but cannot distract ASU - the UGA game kicks off five straight games against bowl teams from last year. Southern Cal, Cal and Oregon State are all away, too, during that critical span.

Carpenter is a senior, making this a poignant time for Arizona State to make its move into the BCS – USC is in flux at QB, as is Oregon, and Cal is coming off a lull year. The top guns are vulnerable, so if ASU cannot get it done this year, it has to be seen as a blown opportunity to take the program where it has the potential to reach. Pac Ten co-champs last year was nice, but seizing the “golden ring” and making the BCS has to be the goal so that, even if someone finishes ahead of them in the conference, they make a wildcard spot in the big show(s) playing to their high potential.

It’s going to be getting hotter in Tempe, even as fall rolls around and a November chill hangs over the desert.

Projected 2008 record: 8-4
QB - 4.5 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 4.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 2 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 246-398-10, 3202 yds., 25 TD

Rushing: Keegan Herring, 154 att., 815 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Chris McGaha, 61 rec., 830 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Thomas Weber, 24-25 FG, 46-48 PAT, 118 pts.

Punting: Thomas Weber, 47 punts, 39.3 avg.

Kicking: Thomas Weber, 24-25 FG, 46-48 PAT, 118 pts.

Tackles: Travis Goethel, 71 tot., 43 solo

Sacks: Dexter Davis, 10.5 sacks

Interceptions: Troy Nolan, 6 for 129 yds., 2 TD

Kickoff Returns:
Chris McGaha, 5 ret., 20.0 avg., 0 TE

Punt Returns:
Kyle Williams, 23 ret., 9.7 avg., 0 TD


K Thomas Weber
OFFENSE: Ryan Torain-TB, Rudy Burgess-WR, Tyrice Thompson-WR, Brent Miller-TE, Brady Conrad-TE, Brandon Rodd-OT, Robert Gustavis-OG, Mike Pollak-C, Julius Orieukwu-OT, Zach Krula-OT, Dane Guthrie-TE
DEFENSE: Michael Marquardt-DT, Robert James-WLB, Justin Tryon-CB, Chris Baloney-CB, Josh Barrett-FS, Jonathan Johnson-P

It looks like coordinator Rich Olsen and head coach Dennis Erickson solved Arizona State’s offensive (in)consistency problems in their first campaign here. Only the best defenses stopped Rudy Carpenter in his junior year. The line seemed to be a marginal run-blocking group, but allowing 55 sacks was third-worst in all of FBS. Yet the passing game did function rather nicely, regardless, which is more of a statement unto Rudy’s prowess. Many skill positions are back, and with their senior hurler, this offense will impress again. Carpenter is one of the top arms in the country, and he became a great game manager, too, during last year’s 10-3 campaign. From his sophomore to his junior campaigns, his completion percentage went up and his INTs went down, and we think his upside still hasn’t been fully realized. He has only thrown two INTs three times during his illustrious college career (led NCAA in passing efficiency as a freshman). This guy needs protecting, for even though he proved his toughness by standing tall in the pocket, that next hit could be the one that harms his sub-200lb. body and really hurts ASU’s chances at the Pac Ten crown. Conversely, Rudy has to be more aware of his presence in the pocket and move when that short clock says it’s time. Backup Danny Sullivan has the profile to be another great one, and his brief insertions have shown such. We think it’s a no-brainer that he sees more reps as the heir-apparent.

And speaking of talents, RB Keegan Herring claims a 4.3 in the 40, lightning speed through the hole. Dimitri Nance is the tough inside runner who needs to live up to expectations (a mere 3.8 yards per carry average for a guy who hit for 3,000+ yards in his senior prep season). JUCO-prospect Jarrell Woods is a junior and a physical specimen – he has a 39” vertical leap to go with his 425lb. bench and 605lb. squat. Woods looks hungry for carries, as does Shuan DeWitty, who missed last year (back, knee) and has been limited for most of his time here in Tempe. These four are quite enough for this one-back set, and making the ball go around evenly will be a challenge, though, all will participate if called upon. Even though Olsen and Erickson have their guys run it a little more than they pass it, the run needs to be established better than it was in 2007. When the offense is doing great, methodical running eats the clock nicely…but when they struggled last year, the running game didn’t have that extra gear to assure itself production.

Imagine what Carpenter can do when not running for his life – three of his top four weapons return to raise the bar even further. Kyle Williams joins all-conference honorable mentionees Mike Jones (6’4) and ex-track guy Chris McGaha to form the triple-pronged “pitchfork” attack. The unknown guy is Kerry Taylor, a Chandler (Hamilton) product who can adjust well to poorly thrown balls and pile up YAC like crazy. All-around athlete Gerrell Taylor (QB/RB/WR/DB) and Kemonte Bateman, two four-star prospects, should get touches, too, to keep them in Tempe. UPDATE: Tight end Dane Guthrie will not be returning to Arizona State this season, reportedly because of academic issues.

ack to the line…can the new faces protect their QB? Freshman center Garth Gerhart has been touted as the leader at that spot, and his heady approach is just what the OL needs to help break down the needed blocking schemes when protecting. He joins senior Paul Fanaika and junior Shawn Lauvao inside, securing the runs between the tackles. It’s the tackle prospects that need sorting out. Richard Tuitu’u could find himself back on the left side; his size and effectiveness should be an upgrade. The other tackle spot looks like it is up for grabs, with Jon Hargis, JUCO-transfer Tom Njunge and Adam Tello all capable of securing the slot. This allows the others to be backups, and all will see time early on as the coaches decide who works best with whom. They have until the Georgia game to figure it out. The TE slot is also up for grabs, and Andy Pettes (runs 4.7 in the 40) looks in line for a well-deserved start. Dane Guthrie has also been patient after transferring from Florida, and offers more size to go with his soft hands. The new-look front can actually find its own identity and shake off last year’s pass protection troubles.


QB Rudy Carpenter


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Rudy Carpenter-Sr (6-2, 199) Danny Sullivan-Jr (6-4, 236)
TB Keegan Herring-Sr (5-10, 186) Dimitri Nance-Jr (5-10, 204)
WR Michael Jones-Sr (6-4, 208) Nate Kimbrough-Sr (6-1, 189)
T.J. Simpson-Fr (6-2, 185)
WR Chris McGaha-Jr (6-1, 189) Kerry Taylor-So (6-0, 187)
WR Kyle Williams-Jr (5-10, 185) Brandon Smith-Jr (6-2, 200)
TE Andrew Pettes-Sr (6-4, 252) Jovon Williams-Jr (6-4, 227)
OT Jon Hargis-So (6-4, 310) Tom Njunge-Jr (6-5, 280)
OG Shawn Lauvao-Jr (6-3, 307) Brent Good-Jr (6-2, 354)
C Thomas Altieri-Jr (6-2, 292) Garth Gerhart-Fr (6-2, 300)
OG Paul Fanaika-Sr (6-6, 359) Matt Hustad-Fr (6-5, 260)
OT Richard Tuitu'u-Jr (6-4, 350) Adam Tello-Fr (6-4, 290)
K Thomas Weber-So (6-1, 202) Zach Richards-Fr (6-2, 188)



This is the side of the ball that needs the most attention. Numbers from ’07 were good and signal that the talent here can do the job at times. But at other times, it seems they are overwhelmed. The last three losses were all games where ASU allowed at least 35 points, but they were also against some of the nation’s best teams. Defensive improvements will go the farthest toward improving State’s W-L record.

The line has its three most productive guys back, with the ends combining for 25 TFLs. Dexter Davis is an All-American with us this preseason since he tied for 14th nationally in sacks. This ex-wrestler plays smart, mobile and aggressively. JUCO-graduate Luis Vasquez hasn’t gotten to the QB as much as he did when he led the NJCAA from 2005-06 in sacks, but the former Purdue recruit has an upside that should be realized as foes focus on Davis’s side. The tandem started every game last year together. Inside, Jon Hargis is reported to be moving to offense (LT), so Dave Smith is the lone tackle with worthwhile experience. Smith is big enough to plug and clog, and quick enough to play outside of the five-gap when the line shifts/stunts. Paul ‘Unga looks decent, but needs some girth to be effective (enough) in this league. Las Vegas’ Lawrence Guy is this class’s No.13 prospect, and more depth inside has us believing the strong run stopping efforts will continue.

The longest run against ASU last year was 48 yards, and a huge reason was this LB set. Losing Robert James may affect results early on, but things should rebound as juniors Nixon and Goethel settle in. Soph Oliver Aaron has the safety-LB hybrid look that is good for stopping spread out opponents, and the spring competition will only pump up the candidates replacing James even more. Finding the right guy at MLB will go a long way toward holding ASU’s win total above eight.

The only leftover from the ’07 secondary is Omar Bolden, an ex-RB who proved much to keep coach Erickson resting well come early August. C.C.-transfer Terell Carr looks like an immediate contributor at corner, so there is hope before UGA kicks off the four-game span that will define the season for Arizona State. All-Pac Ten SS Troy Nolan proved his value in stepping up big-time (third on ASU for tackles; tops in INTs) after 2006 forced a red-shirt. Jeremy Payton (foot) will bounce back to provide a solid starter – the ex-WR can play any place in the secondary, so he can match-up well against anyone when multiple receivers are employed. Rod Cox is a viable backup, so the DBs look like they just need to gel.

The only thing left to say has to do with first quarter scoring, something which has to be stemmed (128 combined points). Big points were allowed early in the USC, Oregon, Texas and Oregon State games, with only OSU then allowing ASU a comeback for the win. They did better as the game went on, only allow 39 combined points in the fourth quarters, so this problem in the initial 15 minutes seems to be a single dimension that can also lead to more wins.


DE Dexter Davis


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Dexter Davis-Jr (6-2, 247) Jamarr Robinson-So (6-2, 234)
DT Jonathan English-So (5-11, 335) Saia Falahola-So (6-2, 301)
DT David Smith-Sr (6-3, 280) Paul 'Unga-Sr (6-3, 255)
DE Luiz Vasquez-Sr (6-2, 247) James Brooks-Fr (6-4, 271)
SLB Travis Goethel-Jr (6-3, 229) Derrall Anderson-Fr (6-3, 220)
MLB Morris Wooten-Sr (6-1, 237) Gerald Munns-Jr (6-4, 240)
WLB Mike Nixon-So (6-2, 226) Oliver Aaron-Fr (6-2, 205)
Ryan McFoy-Jr (6-2, 201)
CB Terell Carr-Jr (5-9, 170) Travis Smith-Jr (5-11, 178)
CB Omar Bolden-So (5-11, 200) Grant Crunkleton-Jr (5-10, 182)
S Troy Nolan-Sr (6-2, 204) Max Tabach-So (6-2, 205)
S Rodney Cox-Sr (6-1, 219) Jeremy Payton-Sr (6-1, 210)
P Thomas Weber-So (6-1, 202) Zach Richards-Fr (6-2, 188)




The national standard for field goal kicking has to be Tom Weber, who only missed one try in his debut season. He’s an ace-in-the-hole for Erickson (possibly for three more seasons); 2008 looks good when ASU is in closer games. Weber also did much of the punting, though, without another foot on the roster (Johnson graduated), his health seems paramount for State to remain viable. Letting him punt again could be a serious problem if left unaddressed, for his punting numbers are OK, but Weber alone against incoming rushers cannot be the continued destiny for last year’s Groza winner. The return game just has to find compliments to Kyle Williams for PRs (possibly Bolden or one of many fast newbies), or just let the capable open-field runner loose on those, too.