Previewing the Arizona St. Sun Devils: Part II - Defense and Special Teams

Dear BigJoe- Do you really want to fire this guy up? (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Arizona St.'s offense may get the publicity, but their defense is playing very well.  As discussed in Part I of the preview, defensive coordinator Craig Bray has done a very good job this season.  The defense may give up a lot of yards, 240 passing ypg, 140 rushing ypg, but they only allow 21.5 ppg (29th nationally).  This is partly due to the speed the offense plays with and partly due to the fact that Oregon and Missouri both racked up over 500 yards of offense.  However, for the most part the defense has been good when it counted.  The Sun Devils have forced 12 more turnovers than it has given away, as well as recorded 18 sacks and 46 tackles for loss.

Defensive Line

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (6-3 252 Jr.) may get most of the notoriety on defense, but he's only able to run in space because the Sun Devil defensive line is very good at occupying blockers.  Tackles Will Sutton (6-2 285 So.) and Bo Moos (6-0 286 Sr.) form a nice tandem inside.  Sutton is quick off the ball while Moos' uses his low center of gravity to hold the point.  They'll be backed up by Corey Adams (6-3 285 Jr.) and Toa Tuitea (6-3 274 Jr.).  Gannon Conway (6-4 253 So.) is listed as Sutton's primary backup, but he is more of a pass rushing specialist.

Ends Jamaar Jarrett (6-5 260 Sr.) and Davon Coleman (6-3 250 So.) have not been as productive as last year's unit.  Last season, Jarret had 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, but has been held to 2 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss this year.  Coleman is a JuCo transfer who arrived with a lot of promise, but he has only notched 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Last season's Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Junior Onyeali (5-11 245 So.), has not fully recovered from a Spring injury.  He had 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last season.  The primary backups are Carl Bradford (6-0 247 RS-Fr.) and Greg Smith (6-3 255 Jr.).

Linebackers

MLB Burfict is the heart and soul of the defense.  The Centennial High product led the Sun Devils with 90 tackles last season, which included 8.5 for loss.  This year, he's not leading the team in tackles (45), but he is leading the Sun Devils with 6 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.  Burfict will be spelled by Kipeli Koniseti (6-3 235 So.).

WLB Colin Parker (6-1 228 Sr.) leads the team in tackles with 49.  He is starting in place of injured Brandon Magee, Burfict's teammate at Centennial High.  Magee is more physically gifted, being one of the fastest linebackers in the Pac-12, but Parker is a heady player who masks his limitations well.  He'll be backed up by a pair of undersized backers, Anthony Jones (6-2 217 So.) and Matt Tucker (6-1 197 So.).

SLB Shelly Lyons (6-2 230 Sr.), the third of the three Centennial High linebackers.  While not as fast as Magee, Lyons is a physical player who has registered 32 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and a fumble recovery.  He's backed up by Oliver Aaron (6-0 208 Sr.) and Grandville Taylor (6-0 223 So.).

Secondary

Losing Omar Bolden to an offseason ACL injury hit the Sun Devil defense hard.  At cornerback, Osahon Irabor (5-11 180 So.) and Deveron Carr (5-11 193 Jr.) are both capable starters, but there is a lack of depth.  FS Alden Darby (5-10 185 So.) was moved to NB, and the only other CB on the two deep is Rashad Wadood (5-10 180 Fr.).  The starters are all talented, but the depth is a concern.

Taking over at FS for Darby is Clint Floyd (5-10 198 Sr.).  He has played well with 38 tackles and 3 interceptions.  Keelan Johnson (6-0 201 Jr.) will back him up.

At SS, Eddie Elder (5-10 186 Sr.) returns and has 45 tackles this season.  He plays much bigger than his size and was third on the team with 64 tackles last year.  He's backed up by Shane McCullen (6-2 200 So.).

Special Teams

Arizona St. is breaking in two new kickers, and the results so far have been good.  K Alex Garoutte (6-1 190 RS-Fr.) is 9/12 on FG and 34/35 on XP.  P Josh Hubner (6-4 230 Jr.), a JuCo transfer, is averaging 41.40 yards per punt.

The Sun Devils' return game is very good.  Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks are both explosive return men capable of scoring on any return.  Miles has already returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns this year, and Arizona St. scored on 4 returns last year.  

That concludes the preview of the Pac-12 South leading Arizona St. Sun Devils.  Fire away with any additional comments.    

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