Verdon Vows to "Pick Up the Slack." at DE

The departure of Terrell Suggs and his NCAA-record 24 sacks would naturally create apprehension as to the success of ASU's defensive line this season. However, the junior defensive end says that the formula to ensure that the team's pass rush doesn't suffer, is just to keep on doing what he did last season and build upon it.

"Now that Terrell left I'm gonna try to pick up the slack, get off the ball faster, and do some of the things I did last year" says the Pomona HS product who totaled 48 tackles in 2002. "I just want to improve on last year, and try to do better than Terrell did." Suggs has mentioned on several occasions that much of his success last season was due to the fine play of his linemate. Does Verdon think Suggs is being too humble or just honest? "A little bit of both (smile). I took guys off him, and he took guys off me. It's always been like that when we both play. I know that with the players we have on the team and the ones coming in, teams won't be able to double team me or someone else, and get away with that."

When we talked to Verdon it was just 24 hours after Suggs' pro workout, which Verdon attended. Even though reports were that the workout was less than stellar, Verdon had a positive outlook on that event and the chances of his ex-teammate in the draft. "Everybody seems to like him, and he did real good in his drills. But it's what on film that matters. Terrell can flat out play, and he's the best pass rusher in the country. The way he plays football that's what counts, not just running 40's and stuff like that. He'll be fine in the draft, and get picked by a real good team."

Verdon, who started all 14 games last season, was eager to put on the pads for the first time this spring practice. "It's been a while since the bowl game that we got to hit somebody, so it will be nice to put some licks out there…I'm feeling real good so far. I'm a little tight after the first few workouts, but that's natural. It's just like last spring. I'm just looking forward to working hard, improving my game and help the young guys on the line."

In a season where hope springs eternal, Verdon who had four sacks last year (part of his 6.5 tackles for loss) was upbeat when it comes to the prospects of the Sun Devil defensive line. "We got Nick Johnson to fill Terrell's spot. Everybody knows what he can do. We got Conner Banks. We have Brian (Montesanto) and Shane (Jones) at tackle, and Gabe (Reininger) is playing well too. I think our D-line will be real good. Most of us were playing together last year, and we don't even have to talk to each other during the game. We just look at each other and know what we're talking about."

Taking in consideration the current depth chart, as well as the players coming in the fall, this group is dominated by young and inexperienced players. Thus, Verdon realizes that he has to step to the forefront and be a leader - a role that he willingly embraces. "I always want to be the leader. It doesn't matter if I'm the best player or not, I want to lead the guys and be a good example. A leader can be a player from any year, even a freshman. It's something that you can do if you really want it and enjoy it. I want to be someone that does the right thing, and help everybody else as much as I can." Whether it's the principal component of this unit or just another role player, Jimmy Verdon's level of play will go along ways in determining if indeed the ASU defensive line can pick up that proverbial "slack"…

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