Onyeali standing tall for ASU's defense

In the game of football it can be said, size does matter but there is one Sun Devil that would disagree with that notion, defensive lineman Junior Onyeali. At 5'11, the sophomore is the smallest of his position group but Onyeali doesn't see his size as a disadvantage.

"I like to say I'm 6-foot," Onyeali said. "I like it, I think I'm sweet and low, I think it works perfect.

"I think it's what the person has on the inside. There are a lot of smaller guys in the NFL that are still doing it so they're my inspiration. It's between Dwight Freeney and James Harrison, I like them for different things. I like Harrison's physicalness and I like Dwight's speed and finesse."

As a freshman Junior Onyeali started five straight games, accumulating 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss which earned him the title of Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year, shocking many, including himself.

"I was a little surprised," Onyeali admitted. "My main goal was just to start and I did that at the end of the season and that's all I really wanted."

Onyeali was sidelined during spring practice due to a shoulder injury but has since returned to the field this fall feeling well rested and excited to get back to work.

"I feel refreshed," Onyeali commented. "It did suck missing out on spring watching the other guys play but I think now, I'm ready to go.

"Rehab wasn't too hard, I think it was more mental because like I said, watching everybody do stuff and I couldn't do it so it wasn't so easy but now that I can get back into things which is good."

Onyeali isn't the only one excited about his return, head coach Dennis Erickson can already see the difference it makes having the sophomore back on the field.

"Junior brings a lot of energy out there," Erickson said. "He's an Energizer bunny and flies around. That helps. We have a lot of guys on defense who are fiery and he's one of them. Having him back makes a difference."

Now two days into fall camp, the Sun Devils are beginning to get back into the swing of things and have two very high-energy sessions under their belt, which is hopefully a testament to what the rest of the season holds.

"I thought it was a good first day," Onyeali said. "Guys were flying around all that's the way it should be all fall camp."

The level of competition appeared heightened at this evening's practice session as both the offense and defense battled each other, although it was clear which side came out on top today.

"I definitely felt better and there was some smack talking between the offense and defense but I think it was a good thing," Onyeali stated. "I felt like the offense won it today, I don't really want to admit that but I think they did. Tomorrow is a different day though."

The defensive lineman unit welcomed a new addition this season, coach Scott Brown, who replaced Grady Stretz. Brown comes to the Sun Devils after coaching at Colorado State for the last four years and has already made a positive impression on his new unit.

"Coach Brown, I like him a lot," Onyeali commented. "He's been teaching me a lot of technique that I didn't learn last year so I think it's a good thing. I think it's been a very easy transition. We're not running a certain formation like we did the year before but besides that, everything is perfect."

With the depth at defensive end in previous years it allowed the line to exercise a good deal of rotating and Onyeali believes that will continue this season.

" I like rotating," Onyeali stated. "There are fresh guys out on the field all the time so we're going 100%. Guys would be getting tired and wouldn't be as good, so I think it's a good thing."

While still very early in fall camp, expectations have already been set high for the 2011 Sun Devils. Despite the pressure to live up to the accolades, the sophomore knows his teammates are prepared for the challenge. "I think we're reacting pretty good," Onyeali said. "We want it and we see what we can do so we just want to go get it."

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