Bigger shoes than you think: Arizona State

Second of a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.

Arizona State

Everybody is talking about: While the Sun Devils have many holes to fill, the competition between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and sophomore Brock Osweiler at quarterback will produce the most headlines.

Bigger shoes than you think: Strong side linebacker Travis Goethel

Goethel was the only Sun Devil who ranked on our post-season list of the Pac-10's top-30 players. He wasn't flashy but, playing on a unit that ranked first in the Pac-10 in total defense (297.8 yards per game) and second in scoring defense (21.1 points per game), he tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss and ranked third in total tackles with 57. He also was particularly effective at neutralizing an opposing tight end.

Who's stepping in? Shelly Lyons, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, had 36 tackles as a true freshman and 17 tackles last year, so he's not completely green. He's not as big as the 6-3, 237-pound Goethel, so he may be challenged by big tight ends. The Sun Devils must replace two of their three starting linebackers: Goethel and veteran Mike Nixon. With talented but mercurial sophomore Vontaze Burfict back in the middle, and junior Brandon Magee expected to step in for Nixon, the crew in 2010 will be more athletic but less experienced. It will be interesting to see where senior -- and former starter -- Gerald Munns fits in.