The story of J.R. Redmond was one of the few that went untold
during the magical fall of 1996, when the Sun Devils came within
19 seconds of winning a national title. That season the
spotlight belonged to Derrick Rodgers, the former high school
trumpet player turned All-America defensive end; left tackle
Juan Roque, the gregarious son of Mexican immigrants who also
was All-America; and Jake Plummer, the charismatic quarterback
and Heisman Trophy finalist. But even then cornerback Courtney
Jackson could foresee a time when Redmond would be attracting
just as much attention as that trio. "I remember J.R. standing
at midfield as we were breaking down into position drills toward
the end of a summer practice in '96," says Jackson. "He had been
working out at a bunch of positions, and he was a little
confused because he had six coaches asking him, almost begging
him, to join their group. You could see it coming back then: the
day when people would be talking about J.R. Redmond as one of
the special players in college football."
That day is here. Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder has no doubt
that Redmond can play six positions. This year, however, he will
ask the 6-foot, 205-pound junior to play only four--tailback (a
team-leading 865 yards, 6.1 yards per carry in '97), wideout (15
receptions, 186 yards last fall), kick returner (21.6 yards per
kickoff return, 9.8 per punt return last year) and his newest
position, safety, where Snyder plans to deploy the Heisman
Trophy candidate in passing situations. The reasons for this
expanded role are practical--Redmond played defensive back in
high school and the Sun Devils are thin at safety--and
psychological. "The special players, the ones like J.R., make
their teammates a little better, make them stand a little
taller," Snyder says. "The more we get him out on the field, the
better this team is going to be." In short, Redmond can mean the
difference between 10-1 and a New Year's Day bowl, and 8-3 and
Christmas in El Paso.
Redmond has bought into the strategy, largely because of the
success Charles Woodson had at Michigan last season. "I don't
know if anybody's ever dominated a game like he did," says
Redmond. "He walked onto a field, on offense and defense, and
just said, 'I'm taking this game over.' And look how Michigan
But Redmond, like Woodson, is not a one-man show; the other
talented Sun Devils should assure that Arizona State ends up in
the thick of the national title race, which will conclude,
seductively enough, in Sun Devil Stadium as the Fiesta Bowl
plays host to the national championship game. This is Snyder's
deepest and most talented team since he arrived at ASU in 1992,
especially on offense, where he welcomes back his quarterback,
two of his three top rushers and the four most productive
receivers from last season. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Kealy
completed 54.5% of his passes and had a 2-to-1
touchdown-to-interception ratio as a redshirt freshman. With the
return of Redmond and senior Marlon Farlow (450 yards on 57
carries), the Sun Devils, who led the Pac-10 in rushing yardage
last season, will again be loaded at running back. Senior
wideout Lenzie Jackson heads the conference's finest group of
August 30, 1998
Defense, though, is a cause for concern in Tempe. After losing
players who accounted for 25 1/2 of the team's 37 sacks last
year, Arizona State will have to find new ways to generate a
pass rush. Gone, too, are three starting linemen and two of four
starting linebackers. Snyder signed three junior college
linemen, hoping that at least one of them will have an impact
similar to that of Rodgers, the juco transfer who had 12 sacks
in '96. "Who knows how they'll work out," says Snyder of his
junior college additions. "It's like investing in pork bellies."
The schedule could work out nicely for the Sun Devils. They do
not play powerful league rival UCLA, and they get Washington and
Notre Dame--most likely their toughest opponents--at home.
However kindly the schedule might seem, ASU players promise it
will not breed complacency. "Every day we're going to walk on
the field where the national championship is going to be
played," Courtney Jackson says. "What can get you pumped up more
From time to time even Snyder finds himself considering the
possibilities while staring out his sixth-floor office window,
which overlooks the stadium. Whatever the uncertainties, he
knows that he has Redmond, that exceptional player who makes
bigger things possible. Rest assured, Redmond's story will not
again go untold this fall.
1997 record: 9-3 (6-2, 3rd in Pac-10)
Final ranking: No. 14 AP, No. 14 coaches' poll
Rushing Passing Total
1997 Averages Scoring Yards Yards Yards
OFFENSE 27.9 193.8 212.6 406.5
DEFENSE 18.4 112.8 223.9 336.7
Coach: Bruce Snyder
Seventh year at Arizona State (41-27); career Division I-A
WR Lenzie Jackson Sr. 53 rec., 733 yds., 5 TDs
LT Marvel Smith So. 6 starts as a freshman
LG Scott Peters[*] Fr. Weighs 321 lbs., heaviest on OL
C Grey Ruegamer Sr. Moved from LT at midseason
RG Victor Leyva So. Agile run blocker
RT Troy Davis[*] Sr. 3 starts at RT in '97
TE Kendrick Bates Jr. 13.9-yd. avg. on 23 rec.
WR Tariq McDonald[*] So. 5 rec., 33 yds., 2 TDs
QB Ryan Kealy So. 15 TD passes, 7 int., 126.9 rtg.
RB J.R. Redmond[*] Jr. 865 rushing yds., 186 receiving
FB Jeff Paulk Sr. Gained 80 yds. on 35 carries
K Stephen Baker[*] Fr. Brother kicked at ASU, '93-94
LE Quincy Yancy[*] So. 6'8" pass swatter
LT Albrey Battle Sr. 25% of tackles were for losses
RT Junior Ioane[*] Jr. 51 tackles, 11 sacks at Snow J.C.
RE Erik Flowers[*] Jr. 97 tackles at Trinity J.C.
MLB Stephen Trejo[*] So. 22 tackles, 1 int.
OLB Joe Cesta[*] Sr. 24 tackles, 3 for losses; 1 int.
OLB Adam Archuleta[*] So. 15 tackles in a backup role
CB J'Juan Cherry[*] Jr. Int. secured win at Oregon St.
SS Christon Rance[*] So. Just 7 tackles in '97
FS Mitchell Freedman Sr. Led team with 4 int.
CB Courtney Jackson Jr. Honorable mention All-Pac-10
P Mike Gauthier[*] So. Transferred from Missouri
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from 1997 season.
What kind of impression did J.R. Redmond make while trying out
at safety during spring practice? Teammates are still crowing
about his hit that laid out tight end Kendrick Bates, who at
6'5", 250 pounds, is five inches taller and 45 pounds heavier
than Redmond.... The Sun Devils' questionable run defense will
be aided by the presence of cornerbacks Courtney Jackson and
J'Juan Cherry, whose strong single-coverage skills will enable
defensive coordinator Phil Snow to stack the line of scrimmage
with seven or eight men.... Senior center Grey Ruegamer, whose
agility belies his 304 pounds, could make a strong bid for the
Outland and Lombardi awards.... Senior Steve Campbell, who last
August was the leading candidate to start at quarterback, is
being tried on special teams, on which his 6'8" height could be
advantageous. Over the last two seasons, Arizona State has
blocked five field goal attempts, but only one extra point try
and one punt.
Schedule strength: 41st of 112
Sept. 5 vs. Washington A season-opening 45-42 win over the
Huskies in Tempe two years ago was Arizona State's springboard
to the Rose Bowl.
Oct. 10 vs. Notre Dame The revamped Irish option will be a
stern test for a defense that lost five starters from last
year's front seven.
Nov. 27 at Arizona The Wildcats have won four of the last five
meetings, including a 28-16 victory last year that knocked the
Sun Devils out of the Alliance Bowl picture.
The X Factor
Junior college transfers Erik Flowers, Junior Ioane and Jawell
Samilton must shore up a defensive line if the Sun Devils expect
to lead the league again in scoring defense.
The Bottom Line
Ten wins, one loss and a lesser Bowl Championship Series. Too
many shortcomings on defense will deny the Sun Devils their
dream of playing at home for the national title.