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ASU Football: Four Positions to Watch in Friday Night Match-up With New Mexico
James Romo
By , DieHardDevil.com
September 18, 2015 10:39 AM

Nick Ralston and Jacom Brimhall may get looks in the ASU backfield

A second underwhelming performance by the Sun Devils in as many games brings us to Friday night’s match-up with the New Mexico Lobos. I’m going to key on four ASU players or positions that I believe will have the biggest impact on the Devils’ performance and the eventual outcome of this game.

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On Offense

Running back

With Kalen Ballage out for a third straight week with mononucleosis and Gump Hayes sidelined with a hamstring injury, the depth at the position has taken an unexpected hit. D.J. Foster picked up the second-team RB slack against Cal Poly, but I’m not sure that the coaching staff wants to subject Foster to that added physical tole a week prior to the conference opener with USC.

 

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6’1″ 240lb Freshman RB Nick Ralston (photo- ASU Athletics)

 

Back-up RB’s Nick Ralston and Jacom Brimhall may get looks in the ASU backfield to compliment Demario Richard against what should be an overmatched UNM defensive front. The ASU coaching staff has not removed the redshirt from top freshman RB prospect Jaason Lewis, but additional attrition at the position may force their hand at throwing Lewis into the fire. 

The uncertainty of when Ballage and Hayes will return to action will play a major factor in how the coaching staff manages this position Friday night.

 

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New Mexico Coach Bob Davie told ESPN, “I’m fully expecting tempo. They want to get some rhythm going.” About ASU’s game with Cal Poly, “They’re a little frustrated, and I expect them to go full-speed tempo. That’s just what the game has become.”

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Wide Receiver, Tim White

The ASU coaching staff pulled off a post-signing day coup in April when they secured the commitment of WR Tim White. The JUCO transfer’s highlight reel was exceptional and from what little we have seen so far, White will make a smooth transition to playing Power-5 college football.

 

Wide Receiver, Tim White

R-Jr Wide Receiver, Tim White (photo- ASU Athletics)

 

White suffered an undisclosed hand/wrist injury in camp which kept him out of week 1 action against A&M. He was forced into the lineup last week when DJ Foster was tasked with extra carries out of the backfield.

White responded with one of, if not the most, explosive plays in this young Sun Devil season on a fly sweep which he took 59 yards down to the Cal Poly 4-yard line. He capped off the drive with a touchdown catch for ASU’s final score in the 35-21 victory.

Playing White more this week will allow OC Mike Norvell to be more versatile with Foster without sacrificing big-play potential at the slot receiver spot. New Mexico has been vulnerable against the run, so if ASU can squeeze extra production out of Foster and their younger backs, the one-on-one mismatches will present themselves in the passing game.

 

Defense

Field Safety, Armand Perry

Sophomore Armand Perry suffered a lower leg injury against Cal Poly leaving a huge question mark as to who will get the nod this week against New Mexico. 

Coming into the season, RS Sophomore James Johnson appeared to be the heir apparent to NFL First Round pick Demarious Randall. Although Johnson is an above average run-stopper, he is not as rangy in pass coverage. This gave Perry the edge and ultimately the starting spot against A&M and Cal Poly. Due to Perry’s injury, I anticipate Johnson will get the nod at field safety against the run-heavy triple-option Lobos who have averaged 282 yds rushing to this point.

NOTE: It has been reported that true Frosh Kareem Orr (converted cornerback) may get his shot at bringing his cover skills to the starting lineup. If Perry is out longer than expected, this is one of the most important spots to follow in Friday night’s match-up, especially given the Devils’ conference opener with USC next week, September 26.

 

D.J. Foster celebrates a 14-yard touchdown reception against Cal Poly (photo- ASU Athletics)

#8 D.J. Foster celebrates a 14-yard touchdown reception against Cal Poly with #81 Gary Chambers. (photo- ASU Athletics)

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The Front Seven

Cal Poly certainly had the blueprint to successfully use the Fullback dive against ASU’s Hell’s Gate defense. New Mexico is a little different in that their triple option employs both shotgun and pistol formations.

It is on New Mexico QB Lamar Jordan to read ASU’s defense each down. His first option is to give to the Fullback on a dive play if the defensive ends don’t crash down on it. If the DE’s take away the dive, he’ll either keep the ball around the end or pitch it to the tailback (“pitch back”) in the option offensive scheme. 

 

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A huge element of the triple option offensive scheme is for offensive linemen to employ “cut blocks”, or blocking defenders at the knees. Cal Poly used cut blocks to consistently rip through the middle of the Devils’ defense with it’s fullback.

The key for the ASU front seven will be to get out of this game healthy, as cut blocks can lead to leg injuries.

This season has not started the way Sun Devil Nation had hoped or expected. On paper, this game should provide the canvas for the Devils to establish more offensive rhythm as well as sort out remaining position battles on defense. However, the New Mexico Lobos will bring the fight to ASU in hopes of upsetting a formidable Pac-12 opponent.

 

#ForksUp  #WearWhite

 

 

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