We can never discount the heart and character of the brotherhood..
Arizona State continues to be plagued with injuries heading into this week’s matchup with #6 ranked Washington. After a 5-1 promising start to the season, the Sun Devils found themselves digging deep into their depth chart at several key positions during the meat of the schedule.
This weekend’s game doesn’t have Sun Devil Nation with high hopes to get that sixth win that would make ASU bowl eligible. That would leave a 5-6 team having to travel to southern Arizona for a match-up that is always a toss up regardless of rankings.
On Offense, QB Manny Wilkins will start with nagging injuries that haven’t had him at 100% for the better part of the season. His skill set is highlighted by his ability to make and extend plays running the ball. Still nursing a high ankle sprain will significantly hinder any sense of elusiveness we saw in the first few games prior to USC.
WR Cameron Smith, who was being counted on prior to the season to stretch defenses with his elite down the field speed has been off the gridiron most of the season. His own set of injuries has limited his ability to take the proverbial top off of opposing defensive backfields.
The offensive line, who started the season as one of the most inexperienced lines in the country has possibly been hit the hardest this season. In last week’s game against Utah, they offered little resistance to the Utes pass rushing, and looked even more inept at opening any holes for the running game.
The Husky defense has to be licking their chops in anticipation of facing an offense that has shown little big play capability. Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey will have to dial up more trick plays and short passing plays that could get the hyper-aggressive UW defense out of position or overrunning plays.
Defensively, what was to be the strength of the ASU defense has been decimated by injuries for weeks. Inside LB Christian Sam has been lost since the first quarter of the first game. His counterpart Salamo Fiso, who is arguably the best communicator on the team along with Laiu Moeakiola, has been sidelined for several weeks. Given the Sun Devils’ woes at defending the pass, it doesn’t help that they are missing key ingredients of what would have been an above average run defense.
The bright spot on defense is the emergence of safety Marcus Ball who has solidified himself as the clear starter at bandit safety. Washington’s high-powered offense, until being held to 13 points last week against USC, has shown few signs of weakness. Perhaps Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson picked up a blue print on slowing down the Husky attack that odds-makers are setting the betting line with UW as a 26 point favorite.
Although this article has highlighted the “doom and gloom” that faces the Devils this weekend, we can never discount the heart and character of the brotherhood that exists amongst this team. It’s very difficult to look back and predict what could have been if ASU was able to take the field this season with a reasonably healthy team. It’s even more difficult to write about this matchup without focusing on just how much injuries can and will factor into the outcome of the remainder of the 2016 campaign.