Having only played twice in their history, and for the first time since 1999, Notre Dame and Arizona State will finally cross paths again in 2013. This time it will be on a much larger scale though, as the two teams will duel it out in Cowboy stadium on Saturday October 5th. In their prior meetings back in 1998 and 1999, the Irish won both games against the Sun Devils by an average of 25 points, as they swept the home-and-away series from their first time opponent.
The Irish and Sun Devils share very little in common, but former Irish coach, and National Championship winner, Dan Devine, actually got his start as a college head coach there, going 27-3-1 over a 3 year span. For Irish baseball fans, the Sun Devils may be remembered as the team that stole their beloved head coach and current San Diego Padre Special Assistant, Pat Murphy, back in 1995.
Since their last meeting against the Irish on the football field, the Sun Devils have gone through some significant changes, as they are on their 4th head coach, with Todd Graham as the newest one, manning the sidelines beginning in 2012. While amassing a record of 137-117 since they last met the Irish, mediocre football has been the best way to describe the Arizona State program. Fans are hoping that will change under the helm of Graham, as the Sun Devils went 8-5 in 2012, with solid victories over Utah and in-state rival Arizona.
In 2013 Arizona State will return sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, who had a tremendous year throwing for 3039 yards, 29 touchdowns, and just 9 interceptions, while rushing for 516 yards on the ground. They also return a their leading rusher in the form of Marion Grice, who only carried the ball 106 times, but rushed for 679 yards, 11 touchdowns, and maintained a very nice 6.6 yards per carry average.
On offense, the Sun Devils should be fine, but it’s the defense that will need to improve if they plan to contend for a Pac 12 Championship. Although their defense ranked 40th in the nation in points per game(24.3), it helped that they had opponents like Colorado, Illinois, and Northern Arizona. Against teams in the top 25(USC, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State)they allowed almost 40 points per game, and that’s with holding Oregon to 43 points. Graham and Co. understand that defense was a weakness this year, and made that a priority in their 2013 recruiting efforts.
Chans Cox – (4*LB) Lakeside Arizona –(6’2 – 225lb)
A physical kid, who can move, Cox will chase you down, and hit you hard enough to make sure you stay down. Although he also played fullback in high school, he has made it known that he wants to play defense at the college level.
Other offers (13 total) – Notre Dame, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Boise St. USC
Marcus Hardison – (4* DT) Dodge City Community College(JUCO)
A stout run defender with a very good frame. Hardison excels at the point of attack, and possesses a very quick and powerful first step. He plays the run and pass equally well, and still has room to get better.
Other offers (22 total) – Texas A&M, Kansas St. , Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Ole Miss
Viliami Latu – (4* LB) Rancho Cucamonga, CA (6’2 – 224lb)
A physical run stopper with very good leverage. Has great technique, and understands how to use his size and speed. Covering in zone comes naturally, but man coverage skills will need to be monitored.
Other offers(11 total) – Arizona, Boise St., San Diego St., Nevada, Houston
Priest Willis – (4*S) Signed with UCLA. Possesses good size and even better speed. Willis may not be a lockdown corner yet, but possesses the skill to become one.
Devon Allen – (3*WR) Signed with Oregon Likely will play the slot, Allen utilizes his size and speed, and has no fear across the middle
Anu Solomon – (4* QB)Signed with Arizona Lacks good size as a pocket passer, but has a strong arm, and has deceptively good running speed.
Notre Dame vs. Arizona St. Recruiting Battles
|Notre Dame||Arizona St.|
|Hunter Bivin (OL)
Cole Luke (DB)
Max Redfield (DB)
Durham Smythe (TE)
Eddie Vanderdoes (DT)
|Chans Cox (LB)
Marcus Ball (ATH)
As one would figure, the Irish and Sun Devils do not cross paths that often on the recruiting trail, but they did recruit six of the same kids this year, with the Irish coming out on top in most cases.
The Arizona State staff did a very good job on the recruiting trail this year, and succeeded in adding talent and depth to a defense that needed it. It will be interesting to see how many of these young recruits will actually see significant playing time this year out of necessity. The Sun Devils have enough talent on offense to match, or even exceed their 2012 record of 8-5. The question will be how fast can the defense improve, and that is a big question at this juncture as their first five games of 2013 look like this:
Sep 5th Sacramento State Hornets(H)
Sep 14th Wisconsin Badgers(H)
Sep 21st Stanford Cardinal (A)
Sep 28th USC Trojans(H)
Oct 5th Notre Dame Fighting Irish(N)
Not necessarily the type of schedule a coach would want when trying to break-in a group of new kids of defense. Defensive maturity and growth is truly the key to a another successful year in Tempe, and while Graham has done admirable job so far in, this is a tall order for any coach.