By The Sports Xchange
8/31/2005


INSIDE SLANT

The Sun Devils find themselves in the top 25 polls and with thoughts of even a higher finish.

Even a national championship? The fans, of course, think that is a possibility with most of the team's offensive weapons returning from a 9-3 season and the heart of the defense.

"I'm awesome with that (national title talk)," quarterback Sam Keller told The Arizona Republic. "I have those expectations, too."

The Sun Devils can't get too ahead of themselves, but it might be easy to overlook season opening opponent Temple for a much more high profile game against LSU on Sept. 10.

A couple of recent poor practices has ASU Dirk Koetter already trying to put everything in perspective.

"If we don't get our heads out of our (butts) we're going to be 0-1," Koetter said. "We're very sluggish, our execution is not good enough, our concentration is not good enough. We don't know what we're doing half the time."

Could just be coach talk, as well. The Sun Devils have finished the fall workouts with a solid quarterback with Sam Keller, and even a few possibilities at tailback, the No. 1 concern heading into the regular season.

Getting Rudy Burgess and true freshman Keegan Herring going has given the Sun Devils even more optimism.

NOTES, QUOTES

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: ASU finished with a NCAA low six rushing touchdowns last year. Obviously, correcting that is the top priority despite the Sun Devils being minus their career record holding quarterback Andrew Walter. Sam Keller has emerged as a legitimate signal caller. Who's going to run the ball? Rudy Burgess was a receiver this time a year. He is now the full time tailback. After rushing for 186 yards against Stanford he has shown a glimpse of what he can do. He must now do it for 11 games.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Pass rushing defensive linemen Jordan Hill and Kyle Caldwell, along with linebacker Dale Robinson give the Sun Devils a presence behind the line of scrimmage. The ASU defense started out great last year, but tailed off some. The second year in the 4-3 alignment should make up for any lapses. Robinson is especially a key after making 93 tackles, and a team-high 13 tackles for loss. Watch out quarterbacks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't exactly pin point exactly what it is, but it's exciting. I think we're going to do a lot of great things this year." -- ASU quarterback Sam Keller.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Temple at Arizona State, Sept. 1 -- The Sun Devils are looking for another good start after winning their first five games of the 2004 season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Sam Keller -- The sophomore only has one start in his two-year career, but it showed what he could do, completing 25 of 45 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue in the Sun Bowl. Playing Temple should be a warm-up game for him with LSU a week away.

WR Derek Hagan -- The senior wide out could become the school career record holder with eight catches against Temple. He needs just 265 yards to set a second mark. He has caught a pass in 29 straight games, the second longest streak in the nation.

S Josh Golden -- The Sun Devils are restructuring their secondary, but there is no better lead man than the senior who had two picks, four pass break ups and a sack in '04.

LB Jamar Williams -- The move from weakside to strongside linebacker should be a smooth one for the team's third leading tackler who had 81 stops. 6.5 for losses.

ROSTER REPORT: Tight end Zach Miller, the 2004 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, just this week practiced for the first time full speed after off season shoulder surgery ... Junior defensive end Kyle Caldwell is still hampered by a surgically repaired knee. He has practiced less than a handful of time. Both are expected to miss the opener, and possibly the Sept. 10 game with LSU.


Previous Report: 08/05/2005