UCLA Football: Previewing the Arizona St. Sun Devils - Part 3 - Defense and Special Teams

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

We take a look at Arizona St.'s very good, but possibly depleted defense.

Arizona St.'s offense is playing very well, but the defense has even been more impressive. As discussed in Part I of the preview, defensive coordinator Paul Randolph has done a very good job this season. Prior to the Oregon game, ASU hadn't given up more than 332 yards in a game, and is allowing only 18 ppg this year after giving up 28 ppg last year. They are ranked first in the country against the pass, giving up only 130 ypg, #13 overall with 298 ypg, but #76 against the run, where they allow 168 ypg. Randolph runs an aggressive 4-3 defense that, as mentioned above, has played well outside of the game against Oregon. In addition to the yardage statistics, Arizona St. has 27 sacks, good for 4th in the country, and 67 tackles for loss, which places them 2nd in the country. The penetrating front has helped the Sun Devils gather 10 interceptions, though 6 of them were in the first two games of the season.

Defensive Line

ASU's defensive line has been very good thus far, but there are some serious depth and health concerns this week. Tackle Will Sutton (6'2 285 Jr.) has been dominant this year, but he was injured early against Oregon and it's unclear at this point whether he'll play this week. On the year, Sutton has 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss from his interior line spot. He has unbelievable quickness and power, and is a surefire first round pick. If he cannot go, Gannon Conway (6'4 265 Jr.) will start in his place, but it would be a severe loss to the Sun Devil defense. Additionally, end Junior Onyeali (6'0 233 Jr.) is also questionable to play this week. He has 4 sacks and 6 tackles for loss this season. If Onyeali is unable to play, Davon Coleman (6'2 265 Jr.) will fill his spot. The loss of these two talented playmakers on the defensive line is an obvious loss, but ASU is fairly thin upfront and that could really hurt them if the game is as face paced as expected.

The other starters on the defensive line are Jaxon Hood (6'0 295 Fr.) at nose, and Carl Bradford (6'1 233 So.) at end. Hood is a prototypical nose, eating up blockers and holding point, but Bradford is more of a hybrid linebacker that can rush the passer as well as roam and make tackles. On the season, Bradford has 4.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 35 tackles.

Linebackers

ASU obviously lost Vontaze Burfict to the NFL, but ASU's linebacking corps may be better off without his personal fouls and propensity to play out of position. Steffon Martin (6'1 240 Jr.) fills his spot in the middle and has an unspectacular 10 tackles this year.

The star of the linebacking corps has been will backer Brandon Magee (6'0 228 Sr.). Magee has 50 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions on the season despite missing a game. He has excellent athleticism and can make plays space.

The other linebacker is sam backer Chris Young (6'0 232 Jr.), who leads the team with 52 tackles. He is also a good athlete and makes a lot of plays in the backfield with 12.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

ASU may not have a lot of depth along the defensive line, but they have plenty of good linebackers. Expect Anthony Jones (6'1 214 Jr.) and Grandville Taylor (6'0 213 Jr.) to see plenty of action. They are both light and play very well in coverage, but they can match up with backs out of the backfield.

Secondary

ASU returns both starting corners, Osahon Irabor (5'11 180 Jr.) and Deveron Carr (5'11 193 Sr.), from last season, as well as FS Alden Darby (5'10 185 Jr.), who also plays nickel corner. Opposing teams are only completing just over 50% of their passes this season, but only Darby has registered an interception this season with two.

Taking over at SS is Keelan Johnson (6'0 201 Sr.), who saw plenty of action last season as a reserve. Johnson has 46 tackles and an interception this season.

Special Teams

ASU broke in two new kickers, but the kicking game has struggled somewhat this year. K Alex Garoutte (6'1 190 So.) is only 6/11 this year but he has converted all 32 of his XP's. P Josh Hubner (6'4 230 Sr.) is doing much better, averaging over 46 yards per punt.

The ASU return game has been very good in recent years, and they definitely have athletes to do damage. Jamal Miles and Richard Ross are both explosive return men capable of scoring on any return. Miles is primarily returning punts this season, but his numbers are down from previous years, averaging only 7 yards per return. He has returned 4 kicks for scores in his career, however, and UCLA will have to cover him well. Ross has been very good returning kicks, averaging over 27 yards per return with a score.

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

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