Tabach earns starting role

Senior Max Tabach came to ASU by way of Glendale Community College in 2008. During his first season the safety made an impact immediately but was forced to the sidelines with a torn ACL after five games. Now, almost two years removed from the debilitating injury, Tabach has played well enough to earn back a starting spot.

Last Saturday against Oregon the Arizona State defense was having trouble stopping any deep vertical passes. Playing a speed based team that utilizes the flats like the Ducks forces teams to push deep safeties up closer to the line of scrimmage and Clint Floyd and Eddie Elder struggled with their increased responsibilities.

By the second half, Tabach was inserted into the lineup and the Scottsdale, Ariz. native was a big reason why the Sun Devils were able to hang around as long as they did.

Tabach attributes his performance to hard work off the field.

"Just film study and being prepared to play," Tabach said. "Knowing what the offense is doing and being confident in myself to go out there and play."

For many players, a torn ACL means the end of a career. It constricts lateral movement and athletes complain about their brain never being able to fully trust their knee to make a cut again.

"It was hard because I came in and was in the mix," Tabach recalled. "Fifth game, I got hurt and it was hard. I was just playing special teams last year because I wasn't physically ready to go. That's in the past. I'm trying to look forward and I'm excited."

Tabach agreed with the notion that the mental part of his recovery was probably more difficult to overcome.

"The Mental also leads to the physical," Tabach explained, "because if you're not mentally into it, you have to be 100 percent in it to get back in it physically. Mentally, you have to get your mind right."

When fall camp began last month Tabach was fighting for playing time. Returning players Floyd and Keelan Johnson were ahead of him on the depth chart and newly signed JC transfer Eddie Elder was also seeing the field more. Many recovering athletes state that it takes two years to fully heal from an ACL injury and be ready to play. Tabach is in line with that pattern perfectly but he is also making sure he heeds the advice of safeties coach and defensive coordinator, Craig Bray.

"He's feisty but he knows what he's talking about," Tabach confessed. "I try to pick and choose through everything that he says and move that onto the field."

This weekend the Sun Devils will face the Oregon State Beavers. The Beavers are only 1-2 on the year and have struggled to slow teams down with their defense, but their roster is full of talented players and head coach Mike Riley is a proven winner.

Perhaps this biggest challenge the Sun Devils will face in Corvallis will be Beavers' junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers. In less than three full seasons played, Rodgers has already amassed close to 3,000 rushing yards and nearly 40 touchdowns.

"(Oregon State) tests you deep with the pass game," Tabach observed, "and they test your horizontally in the run game with some flat sweeps and stuff like that. We're going to shut down the run game. I'm confident in our front seven. It's really on us four in the secondary. We know that and we'll go as far as we can take us."

The biggest question for the Sun Devils is how the team will respond after consecutive losses in the probably the two biggest games of the year for the maroon and gold. Going on the road and playing at Reser stadium isn't easy for any team and the Beavers are a squad that is every bit as desperate for a win as ASU. The good news for Devils fans is that the players still believe.

"The Pac-10 is wide open," Tabach remarked. "We know how good we are. I know we didn't get the win but we're still going. We're still as hungry as we were."

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