USC Trojans: D.J. Foster
To review what the heck we are writing about: On offense, that's an elite combination at quarterback, running back and receiver. On defense, it's an elite combination of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.
South offenses and North offenses and South defenses and North defenses.
But now we want your take on whose troika is the mightiest. Who has the surest thing heading into 2014?
On offense, we like Oregon in the North and Arizona State in the South.
Oregon offers QB Marcus Mariota, RB Byron Marshall and WR Bralon Addison. Arizona State counters with QB Taylor Kelly, RB D.J. Foster, WR Jaelen Strong. That right there is a tough call.
The Ducks probably have a lead at quarterback, but you could say the Sun Devils are better at the other two spots. Or you might not.
On defense, we like USC in the South and Stanford in the North.
USC offers LB Hayes Pullard, DT Leonard Williams and S Su'a Cravens, while Stanford has LB A.J. Tarpley, DE Henry Anderson and S Jordan Richards.
That's a group of six players who figures to earn All-Pac-12 honors.
First you might choose which crew you like on offense and which one you like on defense. Then you could ask yourself which one you'd most want to play for your team.
It's nice to have star power at all three levels on either side of the ball. But your question today is whose stars shine the brightest.
On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.
On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.
First up: South Division offense three-headed monsters.
There are two "pure" offensive three-headed monsters in the South: USC and Utah. Both welcome back their leading passer, rusher and receiver, though some fans might be surprised to know that Marqise Lee didn't lead the Trojans in receiving last season.
The biggest mystery team? Arizona, which is replacing its leading passer and rusher and has several wild cards who might challenge to be the first pass-catching option. Typically we'd project a starter, but the Wildcats seem to be completely wide open at QB and RB. So they get a "?" at both positions.
Otherwise, the projections of new starters aren't terribly unpredictable.
1. Arizona State
QB Taylor Kelly, RB D.J. Foster, WR Jaelen Strong
The skinny: If you were ranking three-headed monsters nationally, this might be a top-10 troika. You have a three-year starter at quarterback who passed for 3,635 yards and 28 TDs last year, a receiver who caught 75 passes for 1,122 yards and versatile running back who's dangerous as a runner or receiver.
QB Brett Hundley, RB Jordan James, WR Devin Fuller
The skinny: Hundley starts the season as a top Heisman Trophy candidate. James started off great last year -- 116 yards rushing per game with a 6.3 yards per carry average in the first four games -- before getting hurt. While WR Shaq Evans is off to the NFL, Fuller leads a strong crew of returning receivers.
QB Cody Kessler, RB Javorius Allen, WR Nelson Agholor
The skinny: This is a strong threesome, though some see Kessler being threatened by redshirt freshman Max Browne this spring. Allen surged in the second half of the 2013 season, when he rushed for most of his 785 yards (5.8 yards per carry), but the Trojans have a lot of depth at the position. Agholor is a frontrunner for first-team All-Pac-12 honors after catching 56 passes for 918 yards last year.
QB Travis Wilson, RB Bubba Poole, WR Dres Anderson
The skinny: If Wilson is cleared medically and is 100 percent full-go, he's got a chance to be a good QB, building on what he did while healthy in 2013. Poole is the Utes' leading returning rusher, though he could face a challenge from a handful of other backs, including redshirt freshman Troy McCormick and juco transfer Devontae Booker. Anderson will be joined by Kenneth Scott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the 2013 opener.
QB Sefo Liufau, RB Michael Adkins, WR Nelson Spruce
The skinny: Liufau was solid as a true freshman starter last year. He should be much better this fall. Adkins combined with Christian Powell to essentially split 1,000 yards rushing in 2013, with Powell offering the power option. Spruce was a solid No. 2 behind Paul Richardson last year, but it remains to be seen how he will perform as option No. 1.
QB ?, RB ?, WR Austin Hill
The skinny: We honestly have no idea who will start at QB and RB next year, and the Pac-12 Blog believes that's probably not far from what Rich Rodriguez is thinking today. If we were going to go with complete conjecture at QB, we'd bet on a showdown between Texas transfer Connor Brewer and redshirt freshman Anu Solomon. Same thing at running back, where it seems likely a true or redshirt freshman replaces Ka'Deem Carey. Even Hill is a projection here based on his outstanding 2012 numbers, as he sat out last season with a knee injury. Sophomore Nate Phillips is the Wildcats' leading returning receiver.
Arizona: With Ka'Deem Carey off to the NFL, figuring out Arizona's running back situation requires a bit of guesswork. Backups Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler are out of eligibility and rising junior Jared Baker tore his ACL in the regular-season finale. That leaves no running backs who had a carry last season. Those competing for carries will be redshirt freshmen Pierre Cormier and Zach Green, and true freshmen Jonathan Haden, an early enrollee, and Nick Wilson.
California: Much was made about Brendan Bigelow's talent during his career in Berkeley, but it never materialized the way many expected it would. He was beaten out by true freshman Khalfani Muhammad a year ago, then opted out of his final year of eligibility for a shot at the NFL -- and subsequently was not invited to the combine. Getting a feel for how coach Sonny Dykes would like to use his running backs is tough considering the lopsided nature of most of the games last year, but Muhammad showed all the signs that he would develop into a good Pac-12 running back.
Colorado: Christian Powell and Michael Adkins II will both be back after combining for 1,097 yards rushing in 2013. With receiver Paul Richardson off to the NFL, there's the need for added production on offense, and while coach Mike MacIntyre showed at San Jose State he'd prefer that to come through the air, it could add up to more opportunities for Powell and Adkins.
Oregon: Does it even matter who the Ducks hand the ball to? Sometimes it doesn't seem like it, but, regardless, Oregon remains loaded with speed and talent at running back. Byron Marshall (1,038 yards rushing) and Thomas Tyner (711 yards) will both see plenty of carries when quarterback Marcus Mariota (715 yards) isn't running on his own. The team does lose De'Anthony Thomas, who opted to leave early for the NFL, but Thomas turned into a relative afterthought last season anyway.
Oregon State: It shouldn't be hard to improve the Beavers' running game after they ranked 115th in the country in rushing yards per game last season. Their top two backs -- Terron Ward and Storm Woods -- return and figure to see more use under new offensive coordinator John Garrett. There was a glimpse of what could be against Boise State in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl as the Beavers unleashed a more balanced approach. Woods ran for 107 yards on 16 carries and Ward added 54 yards on nine carries in a comfortable 38-23 victory.
Stanford:The Cardinal's running back situation is outlined here in more detail, but it should be noted that the competition between Remound Wright, Barry J. Sanders and Ricky Seale -- competing to replace Tyler Gaffney -- will also include Kelsey Young. Young was recruited to Stanford to play running back, but was switched to receiver and is now back at running back. Sanders has the name recognition, but all signs point to Wright getting the first crack at being the primary back. However it plays out, it would be a complete shock if one back was used as much as Gaffney was in 2013 and Stepfan Taylor the two seasons before that.
UCLA: If things play out the way UCLA coach Jim Mora hopes they will, linebacker Myles Jack will be just that … a linebacker. After winning Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year, the Bruins would ideally keep him on defense. For that to happen, someone needs to step up. That conversation still includes Jordon James and Paul Perkins, while Craig Lee, a four-star recruit who redshirted last year, also factors into the equation.
Utah: Another season, another new offensive coordinator for the Utes. This time it's Dave Christensen's job to invoke life in the Utah offense, which will return leading rusher Bubba Poole (607 yards) and Lucky Radley (284 yards). The Utes averaged just 4.1 yards a carry as a team last year, which is partially to blame for the change from Dennis Erickson to Christensen after just one year.
Washington: The NFL combine taught us that Bishop Sankey might have been the most physically gifted running back in the country last year. It's not as simple as plugging in another guy to replace him, but the Huskies are still in good shape. Senior Jesse Callier (48 carries, 213 yards in 2013), who was slated to be the starter before an ACL tear in the season opener in 2012, is intriguing and will compete with fellow senior Deontae Cooper (43 carries, 270 yards) and sophomore Dwayne Washington (27 carries, 332 yards).
Washington State: Considering quarterback Connor Halliday had three single-game passing totals that were more than leading rusher Marcus Mason ran for in entire season (429), any discussion about the Cougars' running game is tough to take seriously. Yes, there will still be running backs on the roster. No, they probably won't combine to run for 1,000 yards as a team.
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: In the AdvoCare V100 Bowl win over Boston College, Carey rushed for 169 yards on 27 carries and two scores, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. He decisively outplayed Boston College RB Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
RB D.J. Foster, Arizona State: Despite being banged up, Foster rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries -- 6.6 yards per carry -- in the Sun Devils' 37-23 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. He also caught five passes for 23 yards.
WR Marqise Lee, USC: In his career finale, Lee caught seven passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns in USC's win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
WR Nate Phillips, Arizona: Phillips, a true freshman, caught nine passes for 193 yards in the Wildcats' win over Boston College.
WR Josh Huff, Oregon: Huff caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Oregon's 30-7 win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA: Su'a-Filo led the Bruins' offensive line against a tough Virginia Tech defense. UCLA rushed for 197 yards against a top-10 rushing defense and yielded only two sacks.
OL Abe Markowitz, USC: The sixth-year walk-on stepped in at center for an injured Marcus Martin -- the Trojans' best offensive lineman this season -- and played well in the 45-20 win over Fresno State. The Trojans yielded only one sack and rushed for 154 yards. He was named the "Offensive Outperformer of the Game" by his coaches.
OL Jake Fisher, Oregon: Fisher led a strong effort from the Ducks' offensive line in the win over Texas. Oregon rushed for 216 yards and yielded only two sacks. Fisher did a good job against Texas' top defender, end Jackson Jeffcoat.
OL Micah Hatchie, Washington: Hatchie, the Huskies' left tackle, was the biggest reason BYU didn't record a sack in the Fight Hunger Bowl, a 31-16 Huskies victory. Washington also rushed for 190 yards.
OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State: Seumalo led perhaps the Beavers O-line's best effort of the season. Oregon State rushed for 195 yards and yielded no sacks.
K Travis Coons, Washington: Coons made a 45-yard field goal against BYU -- the longest Pac-12 postseason field goal -- and was good on all four of his PATs.
DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State: Crichton had three tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and pass breakup in the win over Boise State.
DL Taylor Hart, Oregon: Hart had a game-high 11 tackles, with half a sack and a forced fumble in the Ducks' win over Texas.
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington: Kikaha had nine tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in the Huskies' win over BYU.
LB Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov had nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in Stanford's 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.
LB Jake Fischer, Arizona: Fischer had a game-high 14 tackles in the Wildcats' win over Boston College. He also had a sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Arizona held Williams to only 75 yards on 26 carries.
LB John Timu, Washington: Timu had a game-high 14 tackles, a sack and an interception in the Huskies' win over BYU.
LB Jabral Johnson, Oregon State: Johnson had a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry in the Beavers' win over Boise State.
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: Reynolds had 10 tackles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the Beavers' win over Boise State. The fumble returns went for 70 and 3 yards.
DB Avery Patterson, Oregon: Patterson had nine tackles and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the win over Texas.
DB Josh Shaw, USC: Shaw held Fresno State receiver Davante Adams to nine receptions for 73 yards in the Trojans' win over the Bulldogs. He finished with six tackles and had an interception in the end zone.
DB Anthony Jefferson, UCLA: Jefferson had seven tackles, shared a tackle for a loss and had a pass breakup in the Bruins' win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies completed only 15 of 36 throws for 176 yards.
P Ben Rhyne, Stanford: With five punts, Rhyne averaged 49.8 yards per boot in the Rose Bowl.
Team of the week: Arizona State’s home victory over USC was an announcement to the rest of the country that the Sun Devils deserve to be ranked, and the country responded by putting ASU back in the Top 25 at No. 22. More important than national perception, however, is that the Sun Devils didn’t fall to 0-2 in conference play, which would have been devastating for the team’s season-long goals. They picked up a South Division win and are still in control of their destiny in the division. One last nonconference game next week against Notre Dame and then it’s all league games the rest of the way -- including a pivotal Oct. 19 game against Washington and the all-important No. 23 game at UCLA.
Best game: In a week where the average margin of victory was 29 points in the five games, the “closest” was Washington’s 18-point victory over visiting Arizona. But there was a sense Washington was in control all 60 minutes. Oregon was fun to watch simply for the fact that not even Mother Nature could play defense against the Ducks. Stanford was fun to watch because the Cardinal looked explosive. Oregon State was fun to watch because it was a complete performance. But the ASU-USC game probably had the most drama. We had an idea of what was at stake, and even when USC cut it to 48-34 with 9:54 left in the game, there was still that lingering thought that maybe it wasn’t over. Of course, ASU scored two more touchdowns to put it away. And the end result was Lane Kiffin’s dismissal.
Offensive standout: Tough to ignore the kind of numbers Sean Mannion is putting up. After matching a school record two weeks ago at Utah with five touchdown passes, he surpassed the record by throwing for six touchdowns and 414 yards in the blowout win over Colorado. He did have an interception, but only because his receiver’s hands and chest got in the way and it was tipped in the air. Mannion now has 21 touchdowns on the year to just two picks.
Defensive standout: Has to be Darby, who totaled seven tackles to go with his two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Defensive standout 1B goes to Stanford’s Trent Murphy. Is there any outside linebacker with better hands? Or does he only show them off at CenturyLink Field? Saturday he intercepted a point-blank pass in the backfield from Austin Apodaca and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. If that looked familiar, he did the same thing last year at the CLink against Washington.
Special teams standout: With four games in the Pacific Northwest Saturday, weather was dominant storyline when it came to special teams. We saw numerous fumbles, bad snaps and weather-induced wackiness. But there was nothing wacky about Oregon’s Bralon Addison, who returned two punts for touchdowns. The first was a 75-yard return in the second quarter that was pure sideline speed. The second, a 67-yard return, required a little more dancing and cutting -- and avoiding being knocked down by his teammate before the play even got started.
Smiley face: The Pac-12 once again has five teams ranked in the Top 25 in both polls with ASU’s victory over USC. And Oregon State is receiving votes in the coaches poll.
Frowny face: Injuries always get a frowny face -- and Saturday saw two of the league’s superstars go down with injuries. Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas was injured on the kickoff and didn’t return. And USC wide receiver Marqise Lee suffered a knee injury that hopefully looked worse than it really is.
Thought of the week: The Beavers are back, sort of. Oregon State finally strung together a game where its defense matched the offense. And Colorado is a much-improved team from last season. Are the Buffs bowl bound? Probably not. But they aren’t the Buffs of last year, which gives a little credence to Oregon State’s dominating performance. The initial thought was that the Beavers would be 7-0 or 6-1 heading into their Oct. 26 showdown with Stanford. And they might still be (though Washington State isn’t going to make it easy). Not suggesting you go all-in on the Beavers. Remember, they are only a week removed from a miraculous win over San Diego State. But don't sell just yet, either.
Question of the week: The Trojans have a bye week to patch holes and put “Operation: Changing Lanes” in action. Do they look to an NFL name or a college name? UCLA is showing that a former NFL coach can have success in Los Angeles, even if he’s not an alumnus. USC is an attractive gig, and you can bet there were a lot of back-channel phone calls going out over the past 72 hours.
Scoring: 38.3 points per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 35 overall)
Rushing: 108 yards per game (No. 9 Pac-12, No. 107 overall)
Passing: 361.3 yards per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 8 overall)
Total: 469.3 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 43 overall)
Directing ASU’s up-tempo, spread attack, Kelly is a precision passer who can also make things happen on the ground when he has to. He has completed 82 of 137 passes for 1,019 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions in 2013, and he ranks No. 9 nationally in total offense (354.7 yards per game).
Running Back: No. 1 Marion Grice (6-0, 207, Sr.), No. 8 D.J. Foster (5-11, 195, So.)
Grice gives the Sun Devils’ offense a dangerous rushing option, and both he and Foster are also utilized frequently as pass-catchers. Still, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to the output of this group. As a team, Arizona State averages just 2.9 yards per rush.
Wide Receiver: No. 21 Jaelen Strong (6-3, 205, RS So.), No. 82 Kevin Ozier (6-2, 200, RS Sr.), No. 3 Richard Smith (5-9, 172, So.)
Strong, a transfer out of Los Angeles (Calif.) Pierce College, has quickly emerged as Kelly’s go-to receiver, leading ASU with 24 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. He made 12 grabs for 168 yards and one touchdown against Stanford.
Tight End: No. 87 Chris Coyle (6-3, 240, RS Sr.), No. 17 Darwin Rogers (6-4, 248, Sr.), No. 12 De’Marieya Nelson (6-3, 226, RS Jr.)
Coyle is coming off an impressive 2012 campaign in which he hauled in 57 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns. He has six receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
Offensive Line: LT No. 62 Evan Finkenberg (6-4, 298, RS Sr.), LG No. 74 Jamil Douglas (6-4, 301, RS Jr.). C No. 67 Kody Koebensky (6-3, 298, RS Sr.), RG No. 73 Vi Teofilo (6-3, 302, RS So.), RT No. 54 Tyler Sulka (6-5, 289, RS Jr.)
The Arizona State offensive line had a rough day against Stanford, allowing a constant flow of pass-rushers into the backfield, while also failing to open up lanes for a run game that had only 50 yards on 24 carries. USC racked up seven sacks against the Sun Devils in 2012, and the Trojans’ front seven is even better this time around, so this will be a key matchup to watch.
Scoring: 24 points per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 59 overall)
Rushing: 174 yards per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 77 overall)
Passing: 159 yards per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 17 overall)
Total: 333 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 35 overall)
Defensive Line: DT No. 90 Will Sutton (6-1, 305, RS Sr.), NT No. 92 Jaxon Hood (6-0, 299, So.), DE No. 95 Gannon Conway (6-4, 280, RS Sr.)
Sutton leads an aggressive ASU defense that features multiple fronts, but the Corona (Calif.) Centennial product has yet to perform at quite the same level that he did a year ago, and as a whole, the Sun Devils have struggled against the run. Hood went down with a hamstring injury against Stanford and is doubtful, so Conway will likely see time inside along with Mo Latu (6-3, 380, RS So.), while Davon Coleman (6-1, 283, Sr.) could take on a bigger role at end.
Linebacker: No. 31 Anthony Jones (6-1, 215, RS Sr.), No. 2 Steffon Martin (6-1, 231, Sr.), No. 52 Carl Bradford (6-1, 242, RS Jr.), No. 21 Chris Young (6-0, 244, Sr.)
Bradford, who plays at the hybrid linebacker/end DEVIL backer spot, can be a disruptive force -- he had seven tackles, one sack and two quarterback hurries this past Saturday. Young leads the team with 19 tackles.
Cornerback: No. 24 Osahon Irabor (5-11, 186, RS Sr.), No. 17 Lloyd Carrington (6-1, 185, RS So.)
The secondary has been one of the strengths of the Arizona State defense, evidenced by the Sun Devils’ No. 17 national ranking against the pass. Irabor, who has started 36 consecutive games, has been the star of the group.
Safety: No. 4 Alden Darby (5-11, 192, Sr.), No. 9 Robert Nelson (5-11, 169, RS Sr.)
A 2012 second-team All-Pac-12 honoree, Darby is a rangy playmaker who is also a team leader. Nelson possesses exceptional cover skills for a safety.
Punter: No. 99 Dom Vizzare (6-4, 234, Jr.), No. 26 Matt Haack (6-1, 192, Fr.)
Neither Vizzare nor Haack have looked particularly sharp. Haack assumed punting duties for the first time last weekend and averaged 38.8 yards on four punts, while booting one attempt into the back of a blocker.
Kicker: PK No. 5 Zane Gonzalez (6-1, 162, Fr.), KO No. 25 Alex Garoutte (6-1, 209, RS Jr.)
Garoutte has been solid, drilling 14 of 22 kickoffs for touchbacks. Gonzalez hasn’t been as reliable as the team’s placekicker, however, going 4-for-7 on field goals, including just 1-of-3 from 40 yards or longer.
Kick returner: No. 1 Marion Grice (6-0, 207, Sr.), No. 3 Richard Smith (5-9, 172, So.)
As a team Arizona State averages 21.7 yards per kick return.
Punt returner: No. 9 Robert Nelson (5-11, 169, RS Sr.)
Nelson averages six yards per punt return.
- Arizona's Richard Morrison is a man of many positions.
- Arizona State RB D.J. Foster has stepped up his game.
- An unofficial California depth chart.
- Colorado coach Mike McIntyre isn't ready to say who is starting QB is.
- Oregon is strong at receiver.
- Oregon State coach Mike Riley says he'll play both Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion in the opener against Eastern Washington.
- Stanford OT Andrus Peat is ready to break out.
- UCLA OLB Anthony Barr is "doing fine," which should be interpreted as making him questionable of the opener against Nevada.
- USC's QB competition continues, but is there already a clear winner?
- Utah is expecting help from some old dudes.
- Washington's freshmen receivers are impressive.
- Mike Leach reminds reporters to not report on injuries.
“I think really I can see our defense is excited to get back out on the field,” USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. “We really obviously don’t feel that we’ve played very well really for five-and-a-half quarters. So any time that you feel like that, much like the offense did after the Stanford game, you get excited to get back out on the field and play again, so Saturday can’t come fast enough.”
Taking the blame
On Wednesday, Kiffin once again fielded question and after question regarding the defense’s inability to stop the vaunted Ducks’ offense, as the Trojans gave up a 62 points and 730 total yards of offense, both school records. And for the second day in a row, the USC head coach took a portion of the blame, stating, “The blame is on all of us.”
It was a common theme after practice as both defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and in particular, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin shouldered more than their share of the responsibility for the Trojans’ defeat.
“It starts with the coordinator, no doubt about it,” the elder Kiffin said. “And that’s why you can’t start pointing fingers and things like that. You can talk -- it doesn’t matter. We’ve got good position coaches here too, but when it’s all said and done, the coordinator controls it, you know? That’s just the way it works. You’ve got to step up -- you’ve got to go back and you talk to your squad, get them back, and you can’t be talking about last week -- you’ve just got to move on to the next game. You can’t sit around and mope around. You’ve got to go. I think that’s the tough part about coaching. I think that’s when you’ve got to step up as a coach.”
When: Saturday, November 12, 12 p.m. PT
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Radio: ESPNLA 710
Scouting ASU: Arizona State, guided by first-year coach Todd Graham, lost its third consecutive game when it fell at Oregon State, 36-26, last Saturday. The Sun Devils are ranked high in the national statistics on both sides of the ball. ASU is 20th nationally in passing efficiency (153.5, third in Pac-12) and tied for 22nd in scoring offense (37.0, second in Pac-12), while it is second in both sacks per game (4.2, second in Pac-12) and tackles for loss per game (9.1, second in Pac-12), seventh in pass defense (161.6, first in Pac-12), 13th in pass efficiency defense (105.9, first in Pac-12) and 24th in total defense (333.3, second in Pac-12).
Dual-threat sophomore QB Taylor Kelly (169 of 258, 65.5 percent, 2,161 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT in 2012, plus 97 carries for 383 yards) is 19th nationally in passing efficiency (156.8, third in Pac-12). His top receiver is junior H-back Chris Coyle (43 receptions, 501 yards, 11.7 avg, two TD), along with senior WRs Jamal Miles (23 receptions, 245 yards, 10.7 avg, plus 10 kick returns for 211 yards and 18 punt returns for 144 yards) and Rashad Ross (21 receptions, 335 yards, 16.0 avg, one TD in 2012, plus 13 kick returns for 341 yards and one touchdown.
Top runners, who double as effective pass catchers, include freshman RB D.J. Foster (72 carries, 393 yds, 5.5 avg, two TD, plus 31 receptions for 463 yards, 14.9 avg, 4 TD), senior TB Cameron Marshall (96 carries, 391 yards, 4.1 avg, six TD, plus 10 receptions, 72 yards, 7.2 avg, one TD) and junior TB Marion Grice (62 carries, 316 yards, 5.1 avg, six TD, plus 28 receptions, 331 yards, 11.9 avg, seven TD).
Key ASU defenders include senior LB Brandon Magee (70 tackles, 7 for loss, 5.5 sacks, two INT, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble), senior FS Keelan Johnson (61 tackles, one for loss, two INT), junior LB Chris Young (60 tackles, 13.5 for loss, two sacks, four passes defensed, one forced fumble), sophomore LB Carl Bradford (51 tackles, 12 for loss, 7.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles in 2012) and junior DT Will Sutton (42 tackles, 15 for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles). Sutton is the Pac- 12’s leader in sacks per game (1.2, sixth nationally) and tackles for loss (1.9, fourth nationally), while Young is 20th nationally in sacks per game (1.5, fifth in Pac-12) and Bradford is tied for 23rd nationally in tackles for loss per game (0.8, tied for fifth in Pac-12).
“It was a tough decision, I actually didn’t decide until this morning,” Foster said. “I wanted to stay close to home to be with my friends and family, that was very important to me. My dad sent me a picture this morning of him wearing a Sun Devil shirt with my sister in it and I decided right there that I wanted to be a Sun Devil.
“I really like the new staff and Coach [Todd] Graham told me to pray on this decision and that’s what I did. Cal was right there too and I had a great relationship with the Coach [Ron] Gould. I told them this morning that I would be choosing ASU, but I still haven’t told ASU yet.”
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Foster had been a strong Arizona State lean through much of the recruiting process, but a coaching change in the desert caused the 5-foot-11, 185-pound tailback to rethink his options. Solid visits to Cal and USC had many thinking he could be headed out of state. Rumors even spread during his visit to USC that he had committed to the Trojans.
In the end, the opportunity to stay home and play in front of friends and family proved too much for Foster to pass up. He becomes Arizona State’s top-ranked recruit and one of the first big-name players the Sun Devils have convinced to remain in state in recent years.
His commitment also leaves the Trojans without a pure tailback in this class, and could lead to fullback commit Jahleel Pinner (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) getting a look there this fall.
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The WeAreSC staff makes their projections of school choices for some of the top remaining recruits on the USC wish list:
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There were five transfer departures confirmed in RB Amir Carlisle, WR Brice Butler, WR Kyle Prater, DB T.J. Bryant and DB Patrick Hall. There was also an incoming transfer announced with former Florida safety Josh Shaw, who enrolled at USC in time for the spring semester.
Carlisle was the biggest surprise of the group. There weren’t any previously known issues with Carlisle, and his future was thought to be bright within the USC offense. He was a shifty runner with good speed, excellent hands and a surprising amount of toughness in his running style.
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Foster had previously tripped to Arizona State, California and Oregon. He eliminated the Ducks and had been a heavy Golden Bears lean until recently. ASU, the early leader, was out temporarily following former coach Dennis Erickson’s firing, but has made a strong late run. Heading in to the visit with USC, Cal and ASU were tied at the top of his board.
“I didn’t commit but USC definitely moved up a lot, I had a great visit there,” Foster said. “Right now, it’s really a toss up between SC, Cal and ASU, they’re all tied at the top and I have a lot of thinking to do. I think what stood out were the people I met there. The coaches and players were both really cool, the campus is beautiful and I like the offense a lot.
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1. Zach Banner – There is just something about Banner that seems to fit with the Trojans. He’s a real athletic guy in a real big body, and he would make a huge bookend at tackle if he were to be paired with Aundrey Walker some day.
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