Spring Practice Primer: Arizona State Sun Devils
Todd Graham's Arizona State squad should challenge for Pac-12 South title.
College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Arizona State Sun Devils and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins: March 19
Spring game: April 18
2012 record: 8-5
Returning starters: 15 (seven offense, eight defense)
Coach Todd Graham came to Tempe after just one year at Pittsburgh and did a commendable job of making the Sun Devils respectable again. ASU improved considerably on both sides of the ball and went from being one of the most undisciplined teams in the country to the least-penalized team in the Pac-12. A victory over rival Arizona and a convincing win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl put a cap on the season. There's no doubt about it: The Sun Devils are on the rise.
The Least You Should Know About Arizona State This Spring
-- The run defense must improve. Last year's defense was active, ranking first nationally in tackles for loss and second in sacks. Despite that, ASU ranked just 81st against the run. With run-heavy teams Wisconsin, Stanford and Notre Dame on the schedule this fall, the Sun Devils will be tested. Graham wants to use the spring to toughen up his defense.
-- Ball security is going to be stressed on both sides of the ball. ASU was in the middle of the pack when it came to holding on to and taking away the football last season. The focus during spring drills will be on securing the ball on offense and stripping it away on defense. Improvements in both categories could result in the Sun Devils challenging for the Pac-12 South title.
-- The offensive focus will be on the power run game. The Sun Devils had no problem moving the ball last season, especially through the air. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly was outstanding in his first year as a starter, throwing 29 touchdown passes with just nine interceptions. But ASU struggled in the red zone and on short yardage, so Graham wants to develop a power run game to solve that problem. Tailbacks Marion Grice and D.J. Foster both worked hard in the offseason to become the kind of physical runners Graham is looking for.
-- Team leaders must emerge. Graham made good strides toward changing ASU's culture in his first season. Now, he wants key players to take charge and instill the discipline needed to create a championship program. The motto for the Sun Devils last year was "All in." This year it's "Any challenge."
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