We picked the brain of Brad Denny of House Of Sparky to get some insight into where the Sun Devils are at this point in the offseason.
AC: Which unit performed the best and why?
BD: With a unit including a consensus All-American, it was no surprise to see the defensive line dominate on Saturday. Will Sutton had two sacks and Davon Coleman three in leading a pass rush that helped keep the offense in check all day long. Defensive tackle Jaxon Hood was stout against the run, and Gannon Conway, starting in place of the injured Junior Onyeali, continued a strong spring with a sack.
AC: Who were the individual standouts?
BD: Tight end Chris Coyle was one of the nation's most productive at his position a year ago, and should be better this year. He led the team on the day with seven catches for 86 yards and three touchdowns. ASU lost Deveron Carr, a three-year starter at cornerback, and the competition to replace him has been one of the spring's big stories. The very talented but oft-injured Rashad Wadood was terrific on Saturday, shutting down receivers all game long and is primed to grab Carr's old job.
AC: Which position group has the most room for improvement?
BD: It's a minor miracle ASU's offense was as productive as it was last season with their wide receivers being a total mess. Those question marks still remain this year, and with five new players from the 2013 recruiting class coming in August the pressure on the current wide receivers is high. The speedy Richard Smith has been dynamic during the spring and could be the team's No. 1 option, and Kevin Ozier is a solid slot option, but the other options failed to impress this spring.
AC: Which player(s) from 2012 will be missed the most?
BD: Linebacker Brandon Magee was the team's leading tackler in 2012, while adding 6.5 sacks and two interceptions. Despite that great production, his leadership will be the element missed most. Magee had become the face of the program, and his on and off-field intangibles will be impossible to replace this year.
AC: If you had to give a (way too early) evaluation of the team as compared to last season, would you say that it's going to be improved or maybe take a step backward?
BD: With the return of Sutton to anchor a dominant defense, and a talented backfield, the pieces are in place for ASU to make a run at Pac-12 South title. Whether this is a special 10-win team or another mediocre year will likely be determined early, with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame providing a daunting stretch in Weeks 2-5. If they can come out of that stretch at 3-2 or better, this should be the best ASU season in a decade.