The top 10 Arizona State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
What You Need To Know About the Arizona State Offense
RB Demario Richard, Jr.
Now at the halfway point of his career, Richard is determined to prove he’s one of the premier backs in the West … at least. He flourished in a feature role last, rushing for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns on 210 carries. Plus, he’s an underrated receiver, as evidenced by his additional 31 receptions for 303 yards and three scores. By most measures, the 5-10, 220-pound Richard is the quintessential every-down back that can deliver between or outside of the tackles.
LB Salamo Fiso, Sr.
Fiso entered 2015 determined to raise the level of his game. Mission accomplished. He was a dominating upfield performer for the Sun Devil D, leading the unit with 99 tackles and 20 stops behind the line of scrimmage. The 6-1, 230-pound veteran plays his position with maximum tenacity and intensity, roaming from sideline to sideline looking for someone to hit. Fiso will be active again this fall as he looks to rise above last season’s honorable mention All-Pac-12 recognition.
DT Tashon Smallwood, Jr.
ASU likes to attack from every level. Smallwood is the Sun Devils’ frontline disruptor. He’s undersized and explosive at 6-1 and 280 pounds, erupting off the snap to catch opposing blockers flatfooted. Smallwood is the kind of frenetic defensive lineman who’s having an impact even when he’s not directly making the play. As a sophomore, he picked up honorable mention All-Pac-12 with 43 tackles, 8.5 stops for minus yards, a pair of sacks and a bunch of disruptions.
DB Kareem Orr, Soph.
Arizona State went all the way to Chattanooga to mine one of the future jewels of its defensive backfield. Orr was off and running in his first season in Tempe, making 38 tackles and a team-high six interceptions. The 5-11, 195-pounder was unafraid to step in and contribute in run defense, and his coverage skills will continue to improve with reps. It won’t be long before Orr is contending for all-league honors.
LB Christian Sam, Jr.
As a sophomore, Sam took another step toward being a budding Sun Devil star by ranking second on the team with 98 tackles, including six stops for loss, three sacks and a couple of forced fumbles. He brings leadership, agility, versatility and some of the best size at the second level. In a sea of borderline safeties at the second level, the 6-1, 240-pound Sam can take on and shed opposing linemen.
FS Laiu Moeakiola, Sr.
For a Sun Devil to flourish at SPUR, he has to possess the skills of a linebacker and a safety. Moeakiola has proven to be just that guy in Tempe. He neatly fits the job description, prowling the entire field with range, smarts and fearlessness to make things happen wherever it’s necessary. While Moeakiola is only 6-1 and 215 pounds, his size has not been reflected in his output, 51 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss, two sacks and six passes defended a season ago. And he could be moving back a level this year to fill a void at safety.
RB Kalen Ballage, Jr.
Every team wishes it had a No. 2 back as talented and assertive as Ballage. Arizona State’s version of a poor-man’s Derrick Henry combines power and speed in a muscular 6-3, 230-pound frame. A year ago, Ballage served as an ideal complement to starter Demario Richard, rushing for 653 yards and four touchdowns on 125 carries. So tough and physical between the tackles, he will soften and wear down opposing defenses.
WR Tim White, Sr.
Now that Devin Lucien, D.J. Foster and Gary Chambers are gone, the staff is banking on White grabbing a starring role on the outside. He got his feet wet in his first season out of College of the Canyons (Calif.) by catching 57 passes for 633 yards and eight touchdowns. While not very big at 5-11 and 185 pounds, White possesses the speed and elusiveness to be ASU’s big-play downfield threat. So athletic and versatile, he could also play cornerback for the depleted secondary this fall.
DT JoJo Wicker, Soph.
The program is excited about the future of Wicker, and for good reason. He’s the prototypical ASU defensive lineman—not very big, but sudden and quick off the snap. Wicker laid the groundwork as a rookie in 2015, making 21 tackles, 7.5 stops for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. Now, the Devils expect their 6-3, 275-pound riser to begin blossoming into a more consistent force in the pass rush.
TE Kody Kohl, Sr.
The Sun Devils are in the market for reliable hands in the passing game this fall. Even more of a reason to utilize Kohl who returns as one of the Pac-12’s top tight ends entering 2016. ASU’s equivalent of an H-back is a 6-3, 231-pound weapon, with a habit of finding the end zone. Kohl has hauled in four touchdown passes in each of the last two seasons, making 32 grabs for 368 yards a season ago.