Arizona State guard Randall McDaniel is an enormous talent. He stands 6'5" and weighs 265 pounds. He has a vertical leap of 36 inches, can deadlift 620 pounds and has run the 40 in 4.59. "There's not a faster offensive lineman in college football," says Sun Devil coach John Cooper. "He can flat fly."
It's small wonder, then, that half a dozen times last season Cooper inserted McDaniel at blocking back. The move was not only a boon for the Sun Devils in short-yardage situations, it also gave McDaniel some needed attention. After the Devils went 10-1-1 and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, McDaniel and tackle Danny Villa became the first ASU interior linemen ever named first-team All-America. Though Villa is gone, McDaniel and Todd Kalis have returned, and they are the best pair of guards in the country.
ASU lost linebackers Skip McClendon and Scott Stephen to the NFL. Returning, though, are linebackers Greg Clark and Stacy Harvey, who finished 1-2 on last year's squad in tackles, and three starting cornerbacks: Eric Allen, Anthony Parker and Jeff Joseph. Parker and Joseph, who split the right corner assignment, combined to make the Devils first in the nation in punt returning, with nearly 18 yards a runback.
Though Cooper has no instant successor to quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst, ASU has three proven game-breakers. Darryl Harris (933 yards) and Channing Williams (540 yards) rushed for nine touchdowns apiece last year, and split end Aaron Cox was among the best in the conference.
But the biggest game-breaker could still turn out to be McDaniel. As a blocking back, he cleared the way on two of Williams's touchdowns, and when he was playing that position the team never failed to convert either a first down or a TD. He has yet to carry the ball in a game, however, so that gives him something else to look forward to.