Tackles, sacks, interceptions -- just about all the production from Todd Graham's aggressive, blitz-happy defense will be gone next fall.
While we are relentlessly raining on Arizona State's parade -- hey, want to talk about the Holiday Bowl? -- we'll also point out that the offense won't go unscathed, as it loses five starters, including two offensive linemen, tight end Chris Coyle and RB Marion Grice.
Here's the part, however, where we type "… and yet."
While the defense almost certainly will take a step back, and might require some scheme tweaks to fit the inexperienced personnel, the Sun Devils should have the firepower on offense to pile up points in high-scoring offensive slugfests, starting with QB Taylor Kelly and WR Jaelen Strong probably being the top returning pass-catch combination in the Pac-12.
Versatile RB D.J. Foster is a more than adequate replacement for Grice, while the offensive line should be solid, led by Jamil Douglas, who seems ready for his star turn.
Further, the development of defensive end Marcus Hardison could be critical. Graham expected the touted JC transfer to have a big impact this past fall but as often happens when touted JC players arrive, he wasn't ready for the demands of Pac-12 football -- in practice or games. That said, he showed improved gumption over the latter part of the season and certainly has the physical skills to be an impact player on the line.
UCLA, which also loses some key guys from its defense but has a lot of playmakers coming back on both sides of the ball, is the clear favorite in the Pac-12 South heading into 2014. USC will be a bit of a mystery in Year 1 under Steve Sarkisian. It lost some key players but has plenty of talent, though little depth, coming back. Arizona is looking for a new quarterback and running back, but it also could be in the mix.
Where do the defending champions fit in? Hard to say. Next fall will be a good test of the recruiting for which Graham has been generally receiving good reviews. The good money is on the Sun Devils finding a way to thrust themselves into the mix, even with a completely rebuilt defense. It helps that the schedule starts out gently -- Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado -- before a a brutal four-game gauntlet -- UCLA, USC, Stanford and Washington -- that likely will determine the ultimate trajectory of the season.
Don't count the Sun Devils out, only you probably should expect a few more high-scoring shootouts in Tempe next fall.