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Three Sun Devils to Monitor as Training Camp Approaches

Who are some possible Sun Devils to keep a closer eye on as training camp approaches?

Daniyel Ngata

Ngata appeared to be Arizona State's de facto No. 1 running back heading into 2022 after the departures of Rachaad White and DeaMonte "Chip" Trayanum to the NFL and Ohio State, respectively. That was the case until the arrival of Xazavian Valladay (Wyoming) via the NCAA transfer portal. Upon Valladay's arrival, Ngata's role suddenly became a little murkier.

While Ngata certainly has the edge over Valladay in terms of experience with the Sun Devils (2022 will be his third season in Tempe), Valladay's impressive resume' as a starter for the Cowboys stands out, especially in the receiving game where Ngata has yet to prove his value.

Arizona State will likely be leaning heavily on its run game in 2022 following the departure of several key figures in the passing game, including No. 1 receiver Ricky Pearsall (Florida). Three-year starting quarterback Jayden Daniels (LSU), as well as the aforementioned running backs, all of whom contributed heavily to the rushing attack are gone, meaning there are a lot of touches available for Ngata to seize. 

There is absolutely a chance here for Ngata to truly stand out and earn himself a hefty role in the backfield, but he likely has aspirations of being "the guy" for this ground game. A strong training camp could earn Ngata the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, but more important, it could guarantee him a large role in the offense. There are several other players on the roster who will also be competing for touches, such as Deonce Elliot and freshman Tevin White. Ngata will need to prove the talent that he has shown off when given his touches to secure a major role in this Sun Devils' offense and training camp is the perfect place to do this.

Ro Torrence

Similar to Ngata, Torrence will have stiff competition for playing time in the Sun Devils' secondary; perhaps even more so. In Torrence's case, however, there could be a good opportunity to start if he stands out in training camp.

Torrence, a transfer from Auburn, is a massive 6-foot-3 cornerback with press skills to match. Among the rest of the Sun Devils' defensive backs, he stands out (no pun intended) in a good way. Few Arizona State defensive backs are as tall and lanky as Torrence, which could prove to be a trump card.

While Torrence struggled to get consistent playing time for the Tigers, his opportunity with the Sun Devils could be quite the opposite. Both outside starters from 2021, Chase Lucas and Jack Jones, are now in the NFL, which naturally leaves two open starting spots. Torrence will compete for one of two spots outside with Kejuan and Keon Markham, Timarcus Davis, Jean Boyd III, T Lee, and several others.

If Torrence can prove to Arizona State that he is capable of a large role in the secondary, there is very little stopping him. A big training camp has an opportunity to make Torrence a full-time starter in the secondary.

D.J. Taylor

Taylor significantly struggled as a return man in 2021. Taylor's 13.6 yards per punt return was outstanding, but his 21 yards per kickoff return is borderline unacceptable when you consider a touchback puts the ball at the 25-yard line. Additionally, Taylor was prone to fumbles as a return man, which simply cannot happen routinely.

The frustrating part is that Taylor was lightning in a bottle as return man his freshman year, averaging 34.9 yards per kickoff return including a 100-yard touchdown against Arizona (25.6 yards per return excluding the touchdown). Considering how much the Sun Devils struggled with special teams as a whole in 2021, they certainly want to see that guy again.

With Taylor's struggles in 2021 and his lackluster 2022 spring practice showing, the opportunities as a return man are anything but guaranteed. While there aren't necessarily a lot of strong suitors to challenge Taylor, that doesn't mean he can't be replaced.

A bounce-back season would be huge not just for Taylor, but for the team. Taylor has shown the ability to break "the big one," and a return to this form (sorry for all the puns) would be more than welcome.