There’s a reason that two is greater than one.
Heading into the 2013 season, the Arizona State football team is facing heightened expectations. After their surprising 8-5 record in head coach Todd Graham’s first season in Tempe, the Sun Devils are now one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 South and vie for a chance at the Rose Bowl.
Two of the major reasons why are a pair of dynamic Devil duos that are looking to build off of their terrific 2012 seasons.
When ASU received the news that consensus All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton was coming back for his senior year, it had every quarterback in the Pac-12 shaking in their cleats. Sutton combined with teammate Carl Bradford to post 24.5 sacks, the highest total of any pair of teammates in the FBS. With each now having spent a full year in ASU’s new defensive system, their carnage could be even greater.
On the other side of the ball, two newcomers to the team helped add a playmaking element to the Sun Devils offense. Running back Marion Grice scored an astounding 19 total touchdowns on the season, becoming a lethal threat on the ground and in the air. He was joined by true freshman D.J. Foster, who tallied 1,026 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns. With such dual-threat ability, many are considering the pair to be the best in the Pac-12
Should these two pairings continue to excel in 2013, they will join a long line of potent duos throughout the history of Sun Devil football.
Running backs Woody Green and Benny Malone
During the golden era of Sun Devil football, head coach Frank Kush’s offenses were built around a dominant running game that pounded opponents into submission. Never was that attack better than in the early 1970s, when Woody Green and Ben Malone ran over, through, and around the competition.
To this day, Green remains the most prolific running back
in ASU history. A quick scan of the record books shows him holding every meaningful rushing record: Single-season yards (1,565), career yards (4,188), career carries (675) and career touchdowns (39). In his three seasons from 1971-1973, he was never held under 1,300 yards in a season.
Stopping just him was a Herculean task for any defense, but the Sun Devils had another weapon in that same backfield. Benny Malone
, younger brother of former ASU star Art, played the same three years as Green, and was a force in two of them. In 1971, Malone ran for 917 yards, and two years later, he topped 1,000 yards and actually scored more touchdowns than Green (15 to 12). His 2,474 career yards are 11th most in Sun Devil history.
Linebackers Bob Breunig and Larry Gordon
While Green and Malone were running over ASU’s opponents, a pair of linebackers on the Sun Devil defense were laying waste to all that dared to do the same.
Bob Breunig had one of the greatest careers
of any Sun Devil linebacker, earning All-WAC honors for three straight seasons from 1972-1974. As a senior, the 225-pounder led the team with 146 tackles and earned All-American honors. He went on to play 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and was a three-time Pro Bowler.
For Breunig’s last two seasons, he played with Larry Gordon. While Breunig was culminating his career with All-American honors in 1974, Gordon burst onto the scene as a junior with 131 tackles of his own, earning him an honorable mention spot on the All-WAC team. The following year, Gordon took over the defense and made the All-WAC first team, as well as an honorable mention on the AP’s All-American team. Gordon was then the 17th overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft to the Miami Dolphins. He played seven seasons before passing away in 1983.
Defensive ends Al Harris and Bob Kohrs
While Sutton and Bradford were racking up their impressive sack total, they still fell short of catching ASU’s best pass rushing tandem.
ASU didn’t keep track of sacks until 1978, and it turned out to be the right time to start.
Al Harris had already earned a spot on the 1977 All-WAC team prior to that fateful season, but he quickly made up for lost time in the sack department. That year, he dropped the quarterback 19 times, setting a school record
that stood until Terrell Suggs set the current NCAA record with 24 in 2002. That earned Harris a unanimous All-American selection, the first Sun Devil to ever accomplish that feat.
In the highly unlikely event that Harris was unable to get to the quarterback, his fellow defensive end Bob Kohrs probably did. Kohrs racked up 14 sacks of his own that year, a mark that still ranks third in school history behind Suggs and Harris. Overshadowed by Harris, Kohrs was unjustly left off the All-WAC team that year. After Harris’ departure, Kohrs added eight more sacks in 1979, finally making the All-WAC team and a second-team spot on the All-American squad. To this day, Kohrs remains one of the most underrated Sun Devils
of all time.
Offensive linemen Randall McDaniel and Danny Villa
Football games are won in the trenches. Therefore, it’s no surprise that ASU won the 1987 Rose Bowl with a pair of All-Americans leading the way.
Randall McDaniel has often been cited as the greatest guard not only in ASU history, but in football
history. To this day, he may have possessed the greatest athleticism
of any Sun Devil athlete, and that talent helped lead the Arizona native to become a Hall of Famer at both the college and professional ranks. He was an honorable mention All-American in 1986 before earning consensus honors a year later.
During that 1986 team’s run to the Rose Bowl, McDaniel dominated the interior with tackle Danny Villa was busy earning consensus All-American honors at tackle. Together, Villa and McDaniel were the key cogs to ASU’s famous “Homeboys” offensive line.
Running backs Bobby Mulgado and Leon Burton
There was a time in the game of football where players were not “just” limited to one position, or even one side of the ball. They did it all.
No Sun Devil may have done more in different ways than team Ring of Honor member Bobby Mulgado
. A steady ballcarrier from 1954-1957, Mulgado totaled 2,003 yards on the ground during his career, and scored 21 touchdowns. But in his final year, he put in a workload for the ages.
Mulgado rushed for 681 yards and eight touchdowns, caught 16 passes for another 339 yards, kicked 36 extra points and one field goal, served as the team’s punter, and returned two punts for scores. For good measure, he led the team with six interceptions on defense.
But he was not alone.
Leading the offensive charge was fellow running back Leon Burton, who led the team in rushing in 1956 and 1957. His 1,126 yards in 1957 marked just the second time a Sun Devil had topped 1,000 yards in school history, and it would not be done again until Max Anderson in 1967. Burton’s 16 touchdowns that year gave him a team-high 96 points. He still ranks fifth on ASU’s all-time rushing list with 2,994 yards.
Specialists Luis Zendejas and Mike Black
Kickers are people too, after all, and the early 1980s were a great time to use your feet at ASU.
Already a consensus All-American after a sensational 1983 season, Zendejas came into 1984 just 49 points shy of Dorsett’s NCAA career scoring record of 356 points. He would eclipse that mark against Colorado State, establishing his place as the greatest placekicker in school history.
During Zendejas’ first two seasons, in which he also earned honorable mention All-American recognition, he was joined on that squad by teammate and punter Mike Black. Black’s powerful right leg allowed him to set many school records at the position including career yardage (9,902), and he remains the only punter in ASU history to earn All-Pac-10 honors three times.
Other notable tandems
Offensive linemen Levi Jones and Scott Peters
Running backs J.R. Redmond and Michael Martin
Linebackers Pat Tillman and Scott Van Der Ahe
Quarterbacks Rudy Carpenter and Sam Keller (well, maybe not)