Chemistry can negate shortcomings

It's not often you see a team retain as many players as ASU did from last season, and with the loss of only one starter on the defense in Lawrence Guy, the Sun Devils figure to once again dominate on that side of the ball.

While Guy was a key piece to the Sun Devil defense the last few years, defensive tackle Will Sutton, who missed last year while academically ineligible, is expected to fill that void without much, if any, drop off.

The area the ASU defense now needs to see someone step up is in the defensive backfield with the loss of All-Pac10 cornerback Omar Bolden. As of today the player that has the burden of filling that void is sophomore Osahan Irabor who has put together a decent offseason thanks to coaching from both Bolden and oft-injured starter Deveron Carr.

"I know there's pressure," Irabor said of filling in for Bolden. "People are wondering what the secondary is going to do, but we're working hard and I think we've got a lot of talented guys, so guys just have to step up and play.

"We're a family and guys act that way. If I were hurt I'd be doing the same for Omar and Deveron so it works both ways. Guys just have to step up and play and Deveron and I understand that we'll be called upon and we're going to do our jobs."

"Family" is definitely a feel you get around this team with all the joking they do with each other, but it's especially apparent on the defensive side of the ball where all three starting linebackers have been together since high school.

"It's great because we are very close," senior linebacker Shelly Lyons said. "This is as close a team we've had since I've been here. We are very experienced, we've all been here for three or four years and it's paying big dividends for us."

When watching the Sun Devils this fall you can see the camaraderie between not only the defenders, but between both sides of the ball. Routinely you will see players praising members of the other side of the ball for good plays and after being around this team the last few years, that is something I'm not used to seeing.

"Our offense has made it a very balanced practice now," Lyons mentioned. "When I first got here it was heavy on defense. Defense would win, defense would win, defense would win, maybe offense would get a day in there but now especially this year it goes back and forth, offense, defense, and that's great for us because our defense is making the offense better and vice versa."

This balance has generated some buzz around the program recently, resulting in plenty of players being on pre-season awards watch and a pre-season top 25 ranking. With all the expectations for this group it would be easy to let it get to their heads, luckily that doesn't seem to be the case.

"Obviously there are a lot of expectations and you want that," Irabor announced. "But you also have to temper that and understand that it's not just going to happen. We've got to put in work on the practice field. I think last year in the beginning of the season we kind of fell into that trap and didn't practice as hard or focus as much as we needed to and that kind of hurt us, so I think as a unit we need to learn from that. I think everyday in camp so far we've gone really hard and tried to get better, so that's good.

"We're not deaf or anything," Lyons added. "But we hear it so we respect that people realize and conceive what we have here both talent-wise and that we have what it takes to get it done, but we don't really going into it too far because we still have to play, and that's what it comes down to."

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