ASU’s Marion Grice, Jaelen Strong listed among nation’s breakout players

Aug 6, 2013, 3:54 PM | Updated: 3:54 pm

The Arizona State Sun Devils’ 2012 offense was very productive.

Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell’s squad ranked 25th in the nation in total offense (464.5 yards per game) and 14th in scoring offense (38.4 points per game). They achieved those ranks despite the lack of gaudy offensive numbers from any one particular player.

However, two Sun Devils are expected to have breakout seasons in 2013, at least according to ESPN’s Travis Haney.

In an Insider piece, Haney ranks his top 50 breakout players in college football for 2013, and has two ASU talents on the list. Running back Marion Grice is ranked fourth, while junior college transfer receiver Jaelen Strong comes in at number 26.

Writes Haney on Grice:

Of the 50 coaches I met with in Bristol, Todd Graham was as positive about his team and the individual players on it as any coach. Was it Kool-Aid, or should we really be aware of ASU football this fall?

I’m cautious, but it sounds as if betting on Grice seems like one of the spots that should guarantee returns. As Graham almost immediately pointed out, Grice, as a newcomer, scored a touchdown every 7.5 carries (19 total touchdowns in 144 touches) last season. So he was essentially De’Anthony Thomas without the Oregon spotlight.

Graham said Grice, the JC transfer who outran incumbent Cameron Marshall, could wind up a dark horse Heisman candidate. Big talk, right?

If the end of 2012 was any indication, Grice is capable of putting up Heisman-like numbers. The former junior college transfer racked up 315 yards rushing and five touchdowns in season-ending wins over Arizona and Navy. He averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in that span.

Haney on Strong:

(Head coach Todd) Graham might have been more excited about Strong than he was about Grice, and he was psyched about Grice.

“He will be a dynamic performer for us,” Graham said of Strong, a speedy 6-4, 205-pound junior college transfer. “He has three years of eligibility, but we’ll likely only have him for two. He will be that good.”

Strong was No. 17 on our ESPN Junior College 100. He had offers from Miami, Nebraska and a few others.

Although Strong hasn’t stepped on campus yet, he’s being looked upon as a number-one receiver type. The Sun Devils didn’t have a wideout with more than 37 catches all last season.

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