The DC Comics Movie Universe continues its growth with the release of Suicide Squad. In the original DC comics and on the big screens this summer, the Suicide Squad is a group of “bad guys” brought together to do “good” by fighting “evil”. Now, there are no “bad guys” on the Sun Devils in 2016. The roster is full of Todd Graham recruits who live to his traits of character, discipline, tough, and smart. On the field though, the Sun Devils developed many bad traits. Can these 2015 “bad” traits do “good” in 2016?
Mike Bercovici only had nine interceptions last season, but several were poorly timed in the losses to Oregon, Utah, and Wazzu. Whoever wins the starting quarterback job . . .Manny Wilkins, Bryce Perkins, Brady White, or Dillon Sterling-Cole will be a young rookie without one snap of starting quarterback experience. Like Deadshot, aim must be perfect for the new quarterback, and the last thing the new quarterback can do is throw interceptions. The Sun Devils must possess the ball and put up some points, even if it is field goals from Zane Gonzalez.
Nothing brings the fire to Sun Devil Stadium like big plays on special teams. Tim White and De’Chavon Hayes must bring the heat, like El Diablo, with the rest of the return team, under former NFL coach Shawn Slocum, so that kickoff and punt returns are more of an asset to the Sun Devils. With a new starting quarterback and offensive line, special teams must consistently help set up the offense this season with solid field position.
In the hidden yardage game of football, the Sun Devils kickoff returns averaged 3.9 yards less than their opponents, and the Sun Devil punt returns averaged 5.1 yards less than their opponents. Nine yards might not seem like a lot, but nine yards is enough to help win single possession games like the losses to Oregon, California, and West Virginia.
Katana and Killer Croc
“Thunder and Lightning” is so overused when it comes to running back duos. The smooth, yet powerful, defender soul stealing Katana-like Demario Richard along with the rock solid, defender eating Killer Croc-like Kalen Ballage are a dynamic running back duo who provided several memorable highlights last season. However, their performance was average when compared to the Pac-12 running backs with over 125 rushing attempts. Last season, Christian McCaffrey (5.99 yards per attempt in 2015), Royce Freeman (6.49), Paul Perkins (5.67), Myles Gaskin (5.74), Ronald Jones II (6.45), Nick Wilson (5.45), and Jared Baker (6.09) all averaged more yards than Richard (5.26) and Ballage (5.22). Juniors Richard and Ballage must increase their average yards per attempt in order to help take the pressure off the young starting quarterback and offensive line.
Simply stated, the 2015 Arizona State Sun Devils passing defense was horrible. The Sun Devils gave up 337.8 yards per game passing which was 12th in the Pac-12 and 128th overall. The Sun Devils gave up 35 passing touchdowns to their opponents which was tied for 11th in the Pac-12 and tied for 126th overall. (Editor’s Note: There are only 128 teams in Division 1 football). Those dreadful defensive results came from a secondary featuring three seniors: Jordan Simone, Kweishi Brown, and Lloyd Carrington. The good news is that a brand new secondary truly cannot do worse than last season, but the Sun Devils need the secondary to make steps forward in 2016. Cornerback/safety Armand Perry must be Rick Flag, the solidifying, steady force who constants performs in the secondary. As a true freshman in 2014, Perry stepped up and played a strong, solid cornerback, but in 2016, Perry must bring the entire unit together and improve on the poor 2015 defensive performance.
Simply put, the Sun Devil defense attacks. An attacking defense results in many sacks and Tackles For Loss (TFL), but if pressure doesn’t make the play, it leaves the secondary wide open. In 2015, linebackers Antonio Longino, Salamo Fiso, and safety Jordan Simone were the top three TFL defenders on the Sun Devils, but none of the three were defensive linemen. The defensive line needs somebody to get penetration and make plays in the backfield to lessen the amount of blitzing. Agility, strength, and beauty with a lot of crazy . . . that’s what the Sun Devils need from JoJo Wicker this year along the defensive line. Like Harley Quinn, Wicker must create chaos along the line and continually win his battles. Wicker get into the backfield to disrupt plays which will lessen the amount of blitzes and in turn, drops the amount of times the secondary has to defend one on one.
Deadshot, El Diablo, Katana, Killer Croc, Rick Flag, and Harley Quinn were able to pull together to accomplish their mission. Can the starting starting Sun Devil quarterback, Tim White, Demario Richard, Kalen Ballage, Armand Perry, and JoJo Wicker pull together the entire Sun Devil roster? The 2016 version of Todd Graham’s Sun Devils must come together, like the Suicide Squad, in order for any sort of on the field success and make 2016 and improvement on 2015.