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Season Preview: Sun Devil football

August 06, 2008

Arizona State is preparing for its 96th season of football in 2008, coming off a 2007 season that featured a 10-3 record, a share of the Pac-10 Championship and a berth in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Head coach Dennis Erickson had a memorable first season at ASU, earning Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. The Sun Devils open the 2008 season on Saturday, August 30, when they play host to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Frank Kush Field/Sun Devil Stadium. ASU features 39 returners from last season's 10-win team, including seven starters on both offense and defense.


MAROON AND GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: ASU is celebrating 50 years at Sun Devil Stadium, home stadium of the Arizona State University football team. The Sun Devils have a 242-84-3 record at Sun Devil Stadium, including a 7-1 mark in 2007. In 1996, the playing field was named Frank Kush Field, after the legendary Sun Devil coach. Sun Devil Stadium has played host to 35 Fiesta Bowls, two Insight Bowls and Super Bowl XXX. Over 16 million fans have seen the Sun Devils play at Sun Devil Stadium.



• Senior Rudy Carpenter is putting his name in the Sun Devil record books, climbing the charts in several significant passing categories.

• Senior Keegan Herring is the 10th leading rusher in school history, gaining over 2,000 yards already in his career.

• Senior WR Mike Jones returns from a summer of Minor League Baseball to improve on his 10-touchdown campaign of 2007.


START ME UP: Returning for his fourth season under center, senior QB Rudy Carpenter has started the second most consecutive games at quarterback in college football. Carpenter has started 31 straight contests and has seen action in 35 career games. In the Pac-10 last year, only two other quarterbacks did not miss a game. But here is the most impressive nugget...when Jake "the Snake" Plummer started the final 40 games of his career that ended in 1996, ASU began a stretch in 1997 that ended in 2004 (nine seasons) in which eight quarterbacks made at least one start. Rudy took over in the eighth game in 2005 and has started every game since. He has started every game the past two seasons, as only Andrew Walter in 2003 did the same in the past 11 seasons. He is 21-10 as a starting quarterback, tied for fourth most wins as a starter in school history. Danny White holds the all-time record for wins by a starting quarterback, going 30-3 from 1971 to 1973. Dennis Sproul is second with a 26-11 record from 1974-77. Carpenter is tied with Jeff Van Raaphorst, who went 21-9-1 from 1983 to 1986.


ONE OF THE PAC-10'S FINEST: Rudy Carpenter continues to be one of the top QBs in the Pac-10 Conference. Carpenter is the active Pac-10 leader in passing attempts, completed passes, passing yards, touchdown passes and 300 yard games. Carpenter now has 65 career touchdown passes and has thrown for 7,998 yards in his three seasons at ASU. He currently ranks 20th all-time in Pac-10 history for passing yards, trailing Cal's Troy Taylor (1986-89) by 128 yards.


PASSING FANCY: Rudy Carpenter now has 65 touchdown passes in his career. He is only the fourth Sun Devil all-time to throw at least 60 touchdowns, joining Andrew Walter (85), Jake Plummer (65) and Danny White (64). The 65 career TD passes tie him with Sun Devil legend Jake Plummer for 11th most in Pac-10 history.


CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Carpenter continues to climb the ASU charts in every major passing category. Entering the 2008 season, Rudy finds himself in the top five in every category, with the top spots within his reach. He is third on ASU's career completions list with 586, 46 shy of Jake Plummer and second place. His 958 attempts are third most, 184 behind Plummer, while his 7,998 yards are 829 behind Plummer for the second spot. Andrew Walter is the leader in all of the categories.


Career Completions
  Player Years Comp.
1 Andrew Walter 2001-04 777
2 Jake Plummer 1993-96 648
3 Rudy Carpenter 2005-P 633
4 Jeff Van Raaphorst 1984-86 505
5 Ryan Kealy 1997-00 373


Career Pass Attempts
  Player Years Att.
1 Andrew Walter 2001-04 1,416
2 Jake Plummer 1993-96 1,142
3 Rudy Carpenter 2005-P 958
4 Jeff Van Raaphorst 1984-86 868
5 Ryan Kealy 1997-00 859


Career TD Passes
  Player Years TD
1 Andrew Walter 2001-04 85
2 Jake Plummer 1993-96 65
  Rudy Carpenter 2005-P 65
4 Danny White 1971-74 64
5 Mike Pagel 1978-81 48


Career Passing Yards
  Player Years Yds.
1 Andrew Walter 2001-04 10,617
2 Jake Plummer 1993-96 8,827
3 Rudy Carpenter 2005-P 7,998
4 Ryan Kealy 1997-00 6,912
5 Danny White 1971-73 6,717


BUILDING HIS LEGACY: Over his three seasons at Arizona State, Rudy Carpenter has found success achieved by few who wore maroon and gold. Carpenter has started three bowl games (2005 Insight, 2006 Hawai'i and 2007 Holiday), only the second quarterback in school history to accomplish that feat. Danny White is the only other, starting the Fiesta Bowl in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Rudy also joins Jeff Van Raaphorst (1986) and Jake Plummer (1996) as ASU quarterbacks to lead the Sun Devils to a Pac-10 title.


NATIONAL ATTENTION: Carpenter isn't just highly ranked in the Pac-10, but in the nation as well. The senior signal caller ranks in the top five among active FBS quarterbacks in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. He is fifth in yards, 182 yards behind Missouri's Chase Daniel for fourth. He is second in touchdown passes, trailing only Texas Tech's Graham Harrell.


Passing Yards (Active NCAA)
  Player School Yards
1 Graham Harrell Texas Tech 10,682
2 Curtis Painter Purdue 8,763
3 Chase Holbrook New Mexico State 8,485
4 Chase Daniel Missouri 8,180
5 Rudy Carpenter Arizona State 7,998


WHO'S BACK: 39 letterwinners return from the 2007 Pac-10 championship squad, including seven starters on both sides of the ball. Rudy Carpenter returns for his fourth season as the signal caller for the Devils. Carpenter will have an experienced and talented receiving corps, led by Mike Jones and Chris McGaha. The two combined for 107 catches, 1,599 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007. Keegan Herring returns to lead the running attack, and he will be teamed with Dimitri Nance and Shaun DeWitty in the backfield. Herring enters 2008 as the 10th leading rusher in school history, gaining 2,234 yards in his career. Dexter Davis will lead a stout defense that finished as the third ranked unit in the Pac-10 last year. Davis has totaled 16.5 sacks in his two seasons in maroon and gold. Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon will anchor the group of linebackers, after the two combined for 129 tackles a season ago. Troy Nolan is the leader of the defensive backfield after intercepting six passes in 2007, returning two of them for touchdowns. 2007 Lou Groza Award Winner Thomas Weber returns on special teams, looking to improve on a 2007 campaign that saw him go 24-25 on field goals and handle the punting duties.


RUNNING DOWN HIS DREAM: From the moment he set foot on ASU's campus, senior Keegan Herring has had a smile on his face and a hunger for yards. Over his three seasons with the Devils, Herring has been one of the most dependable backs in the Pac-10. He leads all Pac-10 returners with 2,234 career yards, good for 10th most in school history. One of the quickest athletes in the conference and a home run threat on every carry, Herring has scored 17 times and has had at least one carry for over 65 yards in each of his three seasons. Arizona State's leading rusher a season ago, Herring totaled 815 yards on 154 carries, the third straight he has gained over 500 yards.


MOVIN' ON UP: With his 2,234 career rushing yards, Herring finds himself 10th on Arizona State's all-time rushing list. He is 240 yards short of Ben Malone (1971-73) for 9th on the list. Herring also has six career 100-yard games, including three in 2007. His career high for yards in a game is 197 against Northwestern in 2005.


ASU Career Rushing Leaders
  Player Years Car. Yds. Avg. TD
1 Woody Green 1971-73 675 4,188 6.2 39
2 Freddie Williams 1973-76 648 3,424 5.3 19
3 J.R. Redmond 1996-99 633 3,299 5.1 32
4 Wilford White 1947-50 505 3,173 6.3 17
5 Leon Burton 1955-58 373 2,994 8.0 34
6 Darryl Clack 1982-85 534 2,711 5.1 21
7 Art Malone 1967-69 565 2,649 5.1 28
8 Darryl Harris 1984-87 571 2,617 4.6 22
9 Ben Malone 1971-73 385 2,474 6.4 25
10 Keegan Herring 2005-P 406 2,234 5.5 17


SUMMER CATCH: Senior WR Mike Jones has been a two-sport athlete at ASU for three years, spending his springs with the Sun Devil baseball team. But this summer was different for Jones, who was drafted in the 29th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. Jones spent his summer in Tampa, Florida as a member of the Gulf Coast Yankees in the Rookie League.


CATCH IT: Arizona State boasts one of the top returning wide receiving corps in the Pac-10. Mike Jones, Chris McGaha and Kyle Williams all return for the Sun Devils, giving Rudy Carpenter and ASU a combined 136 receptions, 1,959 yards and 17 touchdowns call coming back in 2008. McGaha led the 2007 team with 61 catches for 830 yards, while Jones was the scoring leader, finding the end zone 10 times. He had 46 receptions for 769 yards to go along with the 10 TDs. Williams caught 29 passes for 360 yards and six scores.


DISRUPTIVE DEXTER: Junior defensive end Dexter Davis enjoyed one of the most sensational freshman seasons by a Sun Devil defender in school history in 2006, earning Pac-10 All-Freshman honors and honorable mention freshman All-America recognition by The Sporting News. The Phoenix, Ariz., native recorded a team-best and Pac-10 freshman season-high 6.0 quarterback sacks, the third-most by a Sun Devil rookie in school history.

He was just as impressive during his sophomore campaign, posting a team-leading 10.5 sacks, third most in the Pac-10. He was a Second Team All-Pac-10 selection after recording 33 total tackles, including 13.5 for loss. He also forced three fumbles and recovered another. Davis has started all 26 games in his Sun Devil career, totaling 73 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks.


TOM THE TOE: Sophomore kicker Thomas Weber returns in 2008, hoping to duplicate one of the greatest seasons by a kicker in Arizona State history. The winner of the 2007 Lou Groza Award, presented annually to the nation’s top placekicker, a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press and a First-Team All-Pac-10 honoree, Weber was sensationally consistent during his freshman season, connecting on 24-of-25 field goals (96.0 pct.), with a long of 53 yards. A three-time Pac-10 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week in 2007, Weber set numerous Sun Devil records in only his first college season, including a record streak of 17 made field goal attempts to begin the year (also a nation-leading streak for the season) and a nation-high accuracy rating. The Downey, Calif., product ranked first in the Pac-10, fifth in the nation and tied the Sun Devil single-season record for points by kicking (118) set by Mike Barth as a senior in 2002, while also placing sixth in the country with 1.85 made field goals per game. A sharpshooter off the kicking tee and in the classroom, Weber added First-Team Pac-10 All-Academic honors to his list of accomplishments as a rookie in 2007. In addition to his near-perfect kicking reputation, Weber took on the added challenge of taking over punting duties midway through the season and averaged 39.3 yards on 47 punts for the year.


HOME SWEET HOME: For the second straight season, Arizona State will begin the year by playing their first four games at Sun Devil Stadium. Last season, ASU went 7-1 at home, winning their first six. They are the only team in the Pac-10 to open with four straight at home, and one of only five teams in the nation to play their first four games on their home field. Duke, Louisville, Indiana and Nebraska are the others. Nebraska opens the season with five straight home games.


WATCH LISTS: Several Sun Devils are on preseason watch lists for national awards. Senior Safety Troy Nolan, who led the team team with six interceptions a year ago, is on the watch lists for the Bednarik Award, the Nagurski Trophy, the Thorpe Award and the Lott Trophy. Seniors Rudy Carpenter and Keegan Herring are both on the Maxwell Award watch list, while junior Dexter Davis joins Nolan on the Nagurski Trophy watch list. Carpenter is also on the Davey O'Brien Watch List, given to the nation's top QB.


PRESEASON HONORS: Kicker Thomas Weber has found his named on a number of preseason All-American teams. Weber is a First Team selection by The Sporting News, Athlon Sports and Playboy, while Phil Steele has him on the Third Team.


OPENERS: The Sun Devils will open the 2008 season on Saturday, August 30 when they face the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.