TEMPE, Ariz -- Arizona State opens up their fall camp on Tuesday morning with just over four weeks to go until the season opener on September 5th against Sacramento State.
We'll be giving detailed rundowns of each position group this week, including the newcomers to watch, key camp battles, and what will constitute success for ASU in 2013.
While all fans know stars like Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster, we're kicking off 3TV's coverage of the Sun Devils' camp with a look at some of the under-the-radar offensive players whose performance is worth following over the next month.
Mike Bercovici, QB - After losing the quarterback competition last fall, Bercovici ultimately redshirted and did not see action last year. With the skills to start at some programs, Bercovici opted to return to ASU, and if his spring performance is any indication, it could be to the Sun Devils benefit.
The redshirt sophomore was a spring standout, showing off his polished passing skills while eliminating the propensity for turnovers that cost him the job last year. Bercovici also showed off improved mobility, a trait that fits into ASU's gameplan.
ASU has one of the Pac-12's best quarterbacks in Taylor Kelly, so Bercovici won't be vying for the starting job. However, a strong showing could land Bercovici the No. 2 job over Michael Eubank and give ASU fans and coaches some confidence in the event of an injury to Kelly.
Deantre Lewis, RB - Lewis' story is well known by now, but this latest chapter could be the most exciting yet.
While Marion Grice and D.J. Foster form arguably the best running back duo in the Pac-12, if not the nation, Lewis showed during the spring that the explosiveness and playmaking ability that he had during his freshman year in 2010 was on its way back following his gunshot wound in 2011.
Lewis has the speed, agility and skillset to be a dynamic threat both on the ground and as a receiver. If he can sustain that level of play—and stay healthy—the Grice-Foster-Lewis trio could become a devastating force for the Sun Devil offense.
De'Marieya Nelson, TE - Chris Coyle's record setting year in 2012 brought back the "Tight End U" moniker, and one of ASU's new additions could take it to a new level.
ASU's offense features the "3-back", their version of the tight end that is called upon to line up in various spots and perform a variety of roles. Nelson has success at the junior college as a multi-purpose weapon, and his new head coach is eager to see him in action.
"De'Marieya is tailor made for our three back position," said ASU head coach Todd Graham. "This guy can play running back. He also can play a tight end, and he can also play an inside receiver. He is one of the best chasing tight ends in the country and a guy that is going to be very impactful with what we are doing."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder has the skills to team with Coyle to provide matchup nightmares if he can assimilate the offense quickly.
Cameron Smith, WR - Outside of Rashad Ross' performance against Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, the Sun Devil wide receivers were nearly a non-factor downfield in 2012. With the addition of this true freshman from Coppell, Texas, the coaching staff hopes those fortunes change.
Smith has the kind of deep speed that can stretch a defense, running a 4.4 40-yard dash, and the ability to be a danger with the ball after the catch. He also is a quality route runner, and should be able to learn the offense quickly.
ASU's offense will always be a run-first attack, relying on the skills of their talented backfield. If Smith can keep defenses honest and prevent them from stacking the box, it should result in a "pick your poison" situation for Pac-12 defenses.
Jaelen Strong, WR - With the Sun Devil wide receivers struggling so mightily in 2012, the position was a major area of focus for this spring's recruiting class. The team brought in five players to the position, and none of them has greater expectations than Strong.
It's easy to see why.
Strong has terrific measurables, combining great size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), speed, and after-the-catch ability to form a potent, all-around threat. The redshirt sophomore hauled in 67 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns last season at Pierce College, and was ranked by ESPN as the nation's 15th overall junior college prospect.
ASU's wide receiving corps remains the biggest question mark on an otherwise talented roster, and should Strong be able to meet the high expectations thrust upon him, a good Sun Devil offense could potentially become great.