Q: People who follow college football closely have felt Arizona State is a sleeping giant for quite some time. After back-to-back 10 win seasons, what are expectations like around Tempe for 2015?
A: Expectations are pretty high around Tempe, I would say anything less than a Pac-12 South title would a disappointment. One of the reasons for such high expectations is Todd Graham himself has been saying all fall how this is his best team both physically and from a maturity standpoint. They bring back nine starters on defense, a fairly experienced quarterback and plenty of weapons of offense. The pieces are there for a historic season it is just going to be about how they fit.
Q: Arizona State has a lot of different weapons on offense led by quarterback Mike Bercovici. What kind of approach are you hoping for on that side of the ball Saturday night?
A: Weather they are trying to pound the football or air it out, one thing that is for sure is that ASU will try to play very fast. Over the past three years with Taylor Kelly, ASU has run a good amount of zone-read, I would expect less of that this season. Mike Bercovici has a very strong arm and I would look for more throws down the field. Also, like Texas A&M, ASU has great athletes on offense (albeit less highly touted athletes). Look for OC Mike Norvell to get the ball to guys like D.J. Foster, Demario Richard and DeChavon "Gump" Hayes in space.
Q: Your program has played neutral site games in Texas before with the game at Jerryworld against Notre Dame being the most recent. With the wealth of talent here and Todd Graham's ties to the state, how to Sun Devil fans view these neutral site match ups?
A: I think the fans enjoy them. ASU traditionally starts the season at home against an FCS opponent so their preparation has been a bit different, but Graham has stated he has liked how the team has responded. ASU has had a difficult time getting teams to come to Tempe, Notre Dame tried to get out of the 2014 game and obviously A&M won't be coming to Phoenix. Graham has also said that they are preparing for a road environment and there is nothing "neutral" about this game. When you combine the caliber of opponent with the new uniforms ASU is playing with, there is a lot of anticipation for this game.
Q: The Devil D was a little erratic in 2014. Lack of depth in the grueling Pac South seemed to take its toll. What kind of steps does the defense need to take in 2015 for you to compete for a conference championship?
A: It was an interesting year for the defense in 2014. You are right that playing Arizona, USC, UCLA, Stanford and even Utah can take its toll but it is nothing different than Texas A&M playing in the SEC West. The defense had to replace nine starters last season. They lost their two best players, Carl Bradford and Will Sutton, and their leadership was tough to replace. This season pretty much everybody returns, Jordan Simone broke out as a star at safety and the linebacking corps is an area of strength. Keep an eye out for Laiu Moeakiola, he plays SPUR linebacker and is asked to do a lot of different things on defense. He had a knack for getting injured last season and ASU lost every game he left/missed because of injury.
Q: Who are two players on defense we should keep an eye on Saturday?
A: Well I noted two above so I will go with two new players for this answer. True freshman JoJo Wicker will start along the defensive line (he's the only true freshman that should see playing time). Graham has raved about his work ethic and character and he was a 4-star recruit coming out of HS that committed to Graham at 2 a.m. on National Signing Day. The other player I would say to look out for is Kweishi Brown. A former JUCO All-American, Brown was ASU's best cornerback down the stretch last season and has looked great in fall camp. We know about the playmakers for A&M on the outside and ASU's secondary is going to be very important Saturday.
Q: What are the Top 3 reasons to hate the University of Arizona?
A: Tucson, T.J. McConnell, Tucson