Arizona State Spring Cleaning: What To Watch
By William Boor
After the thrill of signing day, spring practice gives fans the first real look at their upcoming team.
Although ASU had a strong season last year, the 2013 team was mainly composed of seniors. Now the 2014 Sun Devils have a few questions marks to address as they get set to open camp.
Here's a look at some of the top story lines to watch this spring.
Finding A Second Wide Receiver
The play of Jaelen Strong often masked the fact that ASU's wide receivers were not very good in 2013. With another year in Mike Norvell's system, Strong likely will be better in 2014, but who is ASU going to line up in the other receiver spot?
Richard Smith seemed like a likely candidate a week ago, but then he opted to transfer to Boise State. Enter Eric Lauderdale. For the second straight season the Sun Devils signed an elite junior college wideout.
Although Lauderdale has to play a down of Division I football, he is expected to have a big impact. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound prospect caught 60 passes for 916 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Lauderdale also thrives making plays after the catch so the Sun Devils coaches likely are salivating at the opportunity to insert him into the offense.
Replacing Three Starters In The Secondary
Three of ASU's four secondary starters were seniors in 2013, which means there's plenty of opportunity this season. Damarious Randall is the lone returner, so it is likely he will get a spot in the defensive backfield.
As far as the rest of the positions are concerned, keep an eye on Rashad Wadood (CB), Lloyd Carrington (CB), Ezekiel Bishop (S) and Viliami Moeakiola (S).
Wadood has been in Tempe for a couple of years now and while he has seen the field on a few occasions, injuries have hampered a lot of his development. Carrington — a transfer from Pittsburgh — received a significant amount of playing time last season and may be an early favorite to win one of the corner jobs.
Bishop will be entering his fourth season at ASU and this spring is a great chance for him to finally earn that starting nod. The veteran appeared ready for a breakout season this time last year, but underwhelmed in camp and rarely saw the field. If Bishop wants 2014 to be a different experience he needs to be a standout performer this spring.
Moeakiola played a bit last season and although he came to ASU as a safety, the Sun Devils need to fill quite a few voids on defense this season in Moeakiola's size may make him a candidate somewhere else.
Finding Someone To Play 'Devil Backer'
Carl Bradford left the ASU defense with a major hole when he opted to declare for the NFL Draft. He played "Devil backer," a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position with responsibilities as a pass rusher and in coverage.
Darrius Caldwell may fill this position for ASU, but as a junior college transfer there is no way of knowing how quick he will pick up the system and adjust to ASU.
Caldwell, a transfer from Pear River Community College, is one of the gems of the 2014 signing class. Caldwell played defensive end at Pear River, but his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame, combined with his athleticism, will give the Sun Devils some flexibility in how they use him (Bradford was listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds).
In addition to Caldwell, Chans Cox will likely get some looks at Devil backer as well.