The roaring student section, the marching bands, and the tailgating are back as college football in the desert returns on Saturday, September 1st. It’s finally time to see what Herm Edwards’ squad will look like in game action as Arizona State hosts UTSA to start the 2018 campaign. Here are a few game notes to know prior to kick off in Tempe:
- This Saturday will be the second time in history that the Sun Devils will take on UTSA in football. The first wasn’t too long ago, in 2016.
Manny Wilkins was a sophomore, and starting at quarterback for ASU. Star receiver N’Keal Harry led the Devils in catches that game as a freshman. Wilkins threw 15/31 with two touchdowns (one of which was to Harry) and an interception. However, those two were the only current members of the team who had a real impact in that game (linebacker Koron Crump had one tackle).
As for UTSA, some returning playmakers from 2016 include senior running back Jalen Rhodes, who despite not playing much during that ASU matchup, ran for 4.9 yards-per-carry on 134 attempts last year. Senior receiver Marquez McNair caught five passes against the Devils last time.
- The ASU linebackers will be brand new. Senior Jay Jay Wilson is suspended for game one for undisclosed reasons, according to multiple sources. Senior Koron Crump will be eased into the season after nursing a torn ACL which held him out for much of 2017. Crump is listed as a third-stringer on Coach Edwards’ depth chart, so there appears to be a good chance that he sits outs week one.
According to the depth chart, redshirt juniors Malik Lawal and Khaylan Kearse-Thomas as well as redshirt freshman Kyle Soelle will start against UTSA. Lawal racked up just nine tackles last year while Kearse-Thomas had 17. They were both four-star prospects coming into college but, behind a veteran linebacker core, they received little opportunities. Now, they will need to step up in order to keep this very inexperienced defense afloat.
- There are not a lot of surprises when it comes to ASU’s offensive depth chart. The notable new starters include sophomore halfback Eno Benjamin (23 rushes last year), graduate transfer left tackle Casey Tucker (previously played at Stanford) and left guard Alex Losoya, who was a role player in 2017.
The only eye-opening element to the offensive lineup is that sophomore running back Trelon Smith is nowhere to be found. He took first-team reps during the spring game, with Benjamin hurt at the time, and for much of the offseason it was expected that Smith would be the second-string halfback. Reports stated that he missed a few practices due to illness, but there has yet to be an explicit reason for his absence from the depth chart.
- Sophomore Evan Fields is scheduled to start at the “Pat Tillman” (linebacker/safety hybrid) spot. New defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales found success while using this unorthodox position at San Diego State, where he led a top-10 run defense that allowed the 15th fewest points in the country out of 130 division-one squads.
ASU’s rush defense allowed 178.9 yards-per-game, good for 82ndin the nation. As for Fields, he played in 10 games as a freshman and collected 16 tackles. At 6’1” and 194 pounds, the second-year talent is a defensive back who is capable of making hard hits. He had 81 tackles as a senior in high school in just seven games.
- UTSA’s eighth-best scoring defense from 2017 lost a lot of firepower. Defensive End Marcus Davenport put together a monster season with 55 tackles, 17.5 of which were for loss and 8.5 of them were sacks. He is gone, as he ended up a first-round NFL draft selection. The Roadrunners also lost their leading tackler and interceptor from last season, linebacker La’Kel Bass (58) and safety Nate Gaines (four).
They also lost their defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, who is now on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as the co-defensive coordinator and inside linebacker’s coach.
Whatever the facts, there’s one that matters most: Football. Is. Back.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.