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UCLA Football Oppo Preview: Arizona State's New Defense

In Part 3 of our Arizona State preview, we take a look at the Sun Devil defense where 9 new starters are taking the field.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State is only returning two defensive starters, and it would be safe to say that most people thought the Sun Devils would struggle early in the season while the new starters got up to speed.  Against Weber St. and New Mexico, the Sun Devils did fine.  They allowed a little more yardage than they would hope, especially on the ground where Weber St. gained 152 yards and New Mexico topped 200 rushing yards, but overall the defense was fine.  Then came Colorado.

The Buffaloes gained 541 yards of offense, including 242 on the ground and 313 through the air.  They completed 45% of their 3rd down conversions.  The Sun Devils did force three turnovers, and held Colorado to 1 of 4 fourth down conversions, but that sort of output by the Buffaloes had to raise some eyebrows in Tempe.

Arizona State uses a base 4-2-5 defense, with three big lineman and an edge rusher up front.  In the middle, the Sun Devils do have plenty of experienced big bodies.  Jr. tackle Jaxon Hood (6'0 300 lbs.) is probably their most talented lineman, and he's paired with Fr. Tashon Smallwood (6'0 292 lbs.) as the starting tackes.  The Sun Devils to not lack depth at the tackle spots, with Jr. tackle Mo Latu (6'3 384 lbs.!!!), Sr. tackle Demetrius Cherry (6'6 298 lbs.), and Fr. tackle Corey Smith (6'7 282 lbs.) joining Hood and Smallwood in the middle.  At end, Sr. Marcus Hardison (6'5 298 lbs.) starts and is backed up by Fr. Edmund Boateng (6'4 267 lbs.).  Neither are spectacular, but they bring additional size to the front line.

Quite honestly, I'm not sure who the edge linebacker is in Arizona State's defense.  The Sun Devils had 6 players register 3 sacks or more last year, and 5 of them graduated.  The lone returning player with 3 or more sacks had exactly 3, and that is MLB So. Salomo Fiso (6'0 236 lbs.).  Fiso is joined by Fr. DJ Calhoun (6'0 205 lbs.) at linebacker, where the freshman has taken over the starting spot from day one.  Nobody on ASU has more than one sack, and I suspect that the edge rush position is one that is in flux at this point.

The lack of pass rush could really be a factor in the passing game due to ASU's inexperience in the secondary.  The Sun Devils return some experience in FS Sr. Damarious Randall (5'11 189 lbs.) and CB Jr. Lloyd Carrington (5'11 192 lbs.), but are otherwise breaking in a new group.  The other starters are S Jr. Jordan Simone (6'0 190 lbs.), CB Fr. Armond Perry (5'11 183 lbs.), and NB So. Viliami Moekiola (6'0 211 lbs.).  Colorado was able to break this group down on their way to over 300 yards passing, and our offense should be able to do the same if we can protect Hundley (or whoever is behind center) long enough to get downfield.

That concludes Part 3 of the Arizona State preview.  Feel free to fire away with any additional thoughts.

Go Bruins.