Here are 10 Arizona State football players whose performance in 2017 will go a long way toward determining if the Sun Devils will have their first winning season since 2014.
1 of 21
Jay Dieffenbach and Doug Haller discuss: Will it be newcomer Blake Barnett, or will Manny Wilkins hold on to the job? Video: azcentral sports
2 of 21
azcentral sports’ Jeff Metcalfe takes a look at some pressing issues for the Sun Devils heading into 2017.
3 of 21
Jeff Metcalfe takes a closer look at some of the top issues surrounding the Sun Devils football team. Video: azcentral sports
4 of 21
The college football season doesn’t start until the fall but it’s never too early to start looking ahead.
USA TODAY Sports
5 of 21
Wide receivers, including John Humphrey and Ryan Newsome, were the headliners Saturday at the Arizona State football spring game.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, David Kadlubowski/Arizona Republic
6 of 21
Offensive highlights from ASU’s spring game on Saturday.
7 of 21
Hyperlapse of ASU’s spring football game.
8 of 21
Here’s what you need to know before you head to ASU’s Spring Game and Fan Fest on Saturday.
9 of 21
Arizona State head football coach Todd Graham talks about his team’s second spring scrimmage on Friday, April 7. Video: Jeff Metcafle/azcentral sports
10 of 21
ASU football coach Todd Graham talks about Demario Richard, Christian Hill and more after spring practice on Wednesday, April 5.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, Nick Oza/Arizona Republic
11 of 21
ASU defensive line coach Michael Slater gives instructions to his players at Monday’s workout in Tempe. Video: azcentral sports
12 of 21
Coach Todd Graham says defense came out ahead by limiting big plays during ASU’s first spring scrimmage on Wednesday. Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports
13 of 21
Arizona State football completed its sixth spring practice Friday at Sun Devil Stadium with nine practices remaining over the next three weeks. The spring game is April 15.
14 of 21
ASU football coach Todd Graham discusses hiring Danny White and Dave Christensen as consultants. Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports
15 of 21
Quarterback Blake Barnett, a transfer from Alabama, is in his first year at Arizona State. He is competing with four returners to be the starting QB.
Credit: Jeff Metcalfe, Rob Schumacher, Nick Oza, Thomas Hawthorne/Arizona Republic
16 of 21
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham discusses the first day of football spring practice on March 14, 2017 at the Kajikawa Practice Facility in Tempe, Ariz. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
17 of 21
ASU football begins sixth season under coach Todd Graham with five new assistant coaches. (Jeff Metcalfe/azcentral sports)
18 of 21
Transfer quarterback Blake Barnett talks about coming to ASU to compete for the starting job on Wednesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
19 of 21
Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier discusses the first day of football spring practice on March 14, 2017 at the Kajikawa Practice Facility in Tempe, Ariz. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
20 of 21
ASU football coach Todd Graham talks about the challenge of hiring “good people” and losing them to other schools entering ASU’s 2017 season on Wednesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
21 of 21
ASU football – 10 players to watch in 2017
Who will be the starting QB at ASU?
ASU football: 5 areas of concern
5 observations from ASU spring football
Early preseason top 10 college football teams for 2017
Wide receivers shine in ASU football spring game
ASU shows off some offense in spring game
Sights from ASU football’s spring game
2017 ASU Spring Game & Fan Fest
Todd Graham: ‘The big thing is to get better fundamentally’
ASU coach Graham on Richard, Hill and more
ASU defensive line coach Michael Slater gives instructions at practice
Todd Graham speaks after ASU holds first spring scrimmage
ASU football completes second week of spring practice
Todd Graham on new consultants White, Christensen
ASU QB Blake Barnett on starting spring
Todd Graham on opening of ASU spring practice
ASU football opens spring practice
Transfer QB Blake Barnett on coming to ASU to compete
Billy Napier discusses first day of ASU practice
Todd Graham talks staffing challenges, 2017 season
azcentral sports’ Jeff Metcalfe takes a closer look at Arizona State’s football team.
Which newcomers are likely to have an impact this fall?
This is Part 5 of a series. Scroll to the bottom for the full schedule.
Whether Blake Barnett starts in his first season at ASU or not, his transfer from Alabama changes the quarterback dynamic and raises the level of competition.
The hard-throwing 6-5 redshirt sophomore is immediately eligible to play per NCAA ruling so depending how camp shakes out in August, he could be playing or at minimum on deck if injuries befall the position like last season.
Even if Manny Wilkins starts again, Barnett is an invaluable insurance policy.
It’s possible no single newcomer is more important and will have his work more scrutinized than 61-year-old Phil Bennett, going into his 40th season as a college coach and first as ASU defensive coordinator.
Bennett, most recently at Baylor, brought a positive vibe during spring practice to a defense ranked next to last nationally in 2016.
But much work still is ahead during fall camp particularly in integrating new defensive backs. Depth remains an issue that could derail meaningful improvement.
Billy Napier is much more seasoned than during his first offensive coordinator gig at Clemson in 2009 when he was 29.
He lost that job after two seasons then spent five of the next six years at Alabama, preparing for an opportunity like what came along at ASU when Chip Lindsey left after one season for Auburn.
Napier has a lot to work with and like on defense there is ample room for improvement (rushing offense was No. 112 nationally in 2016 and total offense No. 81).
It didn’t work out for brothers Armand and Alex Perry to be college teammates because of Armand’s early retirement due to injuries.
Alex could be good enough, though, to keep a Perry on the depth chart this year and beyond.
He is one of several key defensive back recruits in a need area and, given starting cornerback Kareem Orr‘s transfer, could be thrust into a big role as a true freshman.
Perry was a consensus four-star recruit out of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, ranked No. 1 nationally in 2016 by USA Today. “He’s a guy that does nothing but win championships,” ASU coach Todd Graham said on signing day.
Replacing Groza Award winner Zane Gonzalez is much to ask of any freshman but even if Brandon Ruiz comes close to Gonzalez’s first season (25-of-30 field goals, 63-of-63 extra points) in 2013, the kicking position will again be solid and on solid footing for years to come.
Ruiz made five 50-yard field goals including a 58-yarder as a senior at Gilbert Williams Field High School.
“He thrives and wants those opportunities,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said.
Other stories in this series
Still to come: A breakdown of the schedule