Have you been a good Sun Devil this year? It’s an important question because tomorrow is the day of reckoning.
As a Sun Devil supporter, a DieHard fan, or a proud Arizona State Alumni, did you keep the faith after a surprisingly disappointing 2015 season, a campaign that was capped off by a heartbreaking loss in our own backyard? Have you supported our program through the thick and thin of a tumultuous off-season.
Well, tomorrow is the pay-off. Will we get a box of rocks and more heartache, or will we find that Santa has blessed us with a shiny start to a new season?
The 2016 Sun Devil football season is finally upon us. Coach Todd Graham has established an overhauled coaching staff and a slew of new starters, and there’s a collective sense of urgency to put the memory of last season behind them.
When you think WR Cameron Smith, think touchdowns.
Last year was filled with high hopes that never materialized. It culminated in a bowl game loss that has truly made for a long off season for you, the fan. This year, prognosticators nation wide have little optimism that ASU will be a player in the Pac-12 South.
If you’ve been around the program long enough, you know that some of the Maroon and Gold’s best seasons have begun with very tempered expectations. More than any season in recent memory, there is a sense of uncertainty throughout Sun Devil Nation about what this version of ASU football will look like.
Take into account that a quarterback who has never thrown a pass in a college game will start Saturday night. Take into account that there will be four new offensive linemen with fewer cumulative starts than any team in the country. Take into account that our secondary was depleted last season with injuries and will be made up of several newcomers to the position group this season.
There is no getting around any of these cringe-worthy facts.
But fear not, DieHard Devils! Coach Graham has had a more successful 4-year stretch of recruiting to Tempe in decades. Although there will be inexperience on the field, there should also be an upgrade in talent compared to, perhaps, the back-to-back ten win teams of 2013 and 2014.
We’re sure to see some growing pains early on this year, but we’re also going to see unprecedented size and speed come roaring out of Tillman Tunnel. Many blue-chip recruits who have been chomping at the bit to prove it on the Frank Kush Field will be realizing their dream this season.
This brings us to game no. 1 on a hot Saturday night in the newly, “partially-renovated,” Sun Devil Stadium. A big win against our neighbors to the north could generate a collective sigh of relief throughout Sun Devil Nation, one that we’ve needed since January. However, this year’s NAU team should be given their respect.
The Lumberjacks are picked to win the Big Sky Conference. They have a formidable offense which is filled with more talented local products than NAU teams of the past.
Don’t overlook their skill. Coach Graham’s team won’t.
Who to Watch
For everyone showing out for our student-athletes at 8:00PM Saturday night, here’s our recommendations as far as the Maroon & Gold jersey numbers to watch closely. We believe that these players will become Sun Devil household names this season:
6’0″ 203 LBS Junior Wide Receiver, Cameron Smith. Declared starting Quarterback, Manny Wilkins, has an arm. Smith has serious wheels and sure hands. He is a legitimate long-ball threat for the Sun Devils. He was hurt last year, but now he’s ready to go. When you think WR Cameron Smith, think touchdowns.
5’11” 175 LBS Senior Receiver, Tim White. White became an immediate headliner in 2015. And still, the explosive senior is poised to take significant steps forward in his final year in Tempe.
Defense, Safety #13
6’0″ 195 LB Sophomore Field Safety, Armand Perry. Perry is one of our favorite underclassman on this team. He made noise as a true freshman in 2014. Now he’s back and determined to make fans proud after an injury in game 1 had sidelined him last year.
Defense, Lineman #1
6’3″ 263 LB Sophomore, JoJo Wicker. All reports indicate that the sophomore standout Defensive Lineman (one of the strengths of this year’s defense), JoJo Wicker, is the best pass rusher on the team. He’ll likely get fans out of their seats on occasion with explosive sacks and yards-for-loss tackles in 2016.
That’s it, boys and girls. Try to get some sleep tonight, because Saturday’s a big day. Soon we’ll all find out what’s under the tree for 2016 Sun Devil Football.
An early gift from @JediASU –