Junior college transfers look to aid D-Line

An athlete's journey can sometimes take a number of unexpected twists. Junior college transfers Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway each arrived in Tempe under different circumstances but have one goal in common, to provide depth for the Sun Devil defensive ends. After just a week of practice, it's clear that they're both up to the challenge.

Coleman starred at Cleveland's Glennville High School and earned honorable mention after his senior year, garnering plenty of national recruiting attention in the process. He was at one time a near Ohio Sate commit before eventually going the junior college route. Never fazed by the obstacles in his path, Coleman remained focus on his studies in order to become eligible by the NCAA. "I took the JUCO route because I wasn't focused in high school," Coleman said. "Going through the JUCO system really opened my eyes and made me grow up a lot."

During his brief stint at Fort Kent Community College in Kansas, Coleman registered 65 tackles along with 2.5 sacks and once again become a hot commodity again for college teams. Fortunately for Sun Devil fans, he chose to come to the desert and join a defense loaded with playmakers. So far it seems like the school and the player have been a perfect match for each other.

"I love it! I feel like I'm with the best defense in the nation," said an enthusiastic Coleman. "I really like my role in the defense. They got me dropping. I'm a good athlete, so it's a role that suits me well."

"He's very athletic, very physical," said Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson of Coleman. "I've been very impressed with him. I think he has a chance to play this year."

For Conway though, the journey to Arizona State may have come with fewer surprises, but still plenty of intrigue. A local product from Higley High School, following graduation Conway opted to attend Mesa Community College where he helped them become Valley of the Sun Bowl champions in 2008. However, following his freshman year he left school for a two year Mormon mission in the Dominican Republic. Now, after having completed his church mission, the 6-4, 255 pound defensive end says he couldn't wait to get back to football.

"I went to the D.R. (Dominican Republic) and did my mission for my church but literally the day I came back last year, I came down to ASU to start playing again," Conway stated.

Conway's eagerness to return to the game he loves landed him in Fall camp last season where he struggled to adjust to the regular grind of college football. Two years without any football activity left the lineman feeling a bit rusty and in need of some conditioning help.

"Last year's camp was difficult for me," Conway admitted. "I was getting hurt and was really just trying to get through it. But definitely the coaches have been helping me out a lot. I've been trying to become more explosive. I've been working on getting stronger and getting my strength back.

"Taking two years off, I was literally just doing push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups because you really don't work out much down there. But it definitely helped me out, and (defensive line) Coach Brown has been having me watch a lot of film."

Nonetheless, it was a process that has put both players in a position to hopefully contribute this upcoming year. A week into this year's Fall camp shows just how far each player has come, as Conway was able to register a couple sacks in Sunday's practice while Coleman (pictured) has wreaked havoc on the offense since the moment he set foot in the Verde Dickey Dome.

"I like Gannon," said Erickson. "He came off a mission so he took him a while to get squared away. He's getting bigger and stronger, this summer was real good for him and he'll end up helping us. No question about it."

"It's been real good," commented Conway. "I love the defense, especially the d-line. We got like a ton depth. Davon is tearing it up and everyone is just doing really good all around. It pumps me up and really helps me do better."

"I think we can be the number one defense in the nation," remarked Coleman. "We'll be up to the flight."

For both players, they find themselves surrounded by a group of highly talented and experienced teammates. There are players who are willing to provide insight whenever needed, easing the transition from the junior college ranks to the division one level.

"The defense has really embraced me," remarked Coleman. "The whole defense, Vontaze (Burfict) especially, and just the whole defensive line. If I mess up, they show me and let me know how to get better."

For both Conway and Coleman, and the rest of the Sun Devil team, this will be their first year with new defensive line coach Scott Brown. Brown, formerly of Colorado State, has by all counts been a tremendous addition for the Sun Devil staff in the short time he's been in Tempe. Not only has he developed a reputation as being a player's coach, but also one who imparts wisdom and advice upon his pupils.

"He's calm until you, like, really mess up," said Coleman jokingly. "But he hasn't flipped out or anything. I really like him. He has been teaching me a lot of techniques."

"I like coach," Conway agreed. "He definitely makes us better."

One of the tasks at hand for Conway and Coleman will be replacing some of the talent that the Sun Devil defense recently lost. Both Lawrence Guy and James Brooks didn't return for their senior campaigns thus creating opportunities for other players.

"I'm ready. I'm ready to go," Conway implored. "It sucks that James is gone because I loved him, but Davon's here. I'm ready whenever I can just to get better and play my hardest, do my best for the time so that we can get going."

"I feel like I can take on the role," Coleman claimed. "Those were excellent players, but I think I'm a good player as well. I look forward to the challenge."

Thankfully for the Sun Devils, the team still is loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball. It's a big reason why both players decided to come play for Arizona State. With all the raw talent and experienced gain over the past few seasons, both Conway and Coleman feel confident about their team's potential for success.

"There's no ceiling for this team," stated Conway. "When we're doing the best and playing our hardest, there's nothing that can stop us. I can't put a cap on it, but that's definitely going to happen this season."

"We return a lot of seniors and have good leadership," said Coleman. "I love it. I think we can be the number one defense in the nation! We'll be up to the flight."

For now, Coleman and Conway know that they still have work even harder in order to solidify their spot in the rotation. With more than three weeks until the season kicks-off, a lot can change and opportunities can be seized or lost.

"I'm just trying to get better everyday," said Conway. "I just want to get in the game and get going. It's been three years since I last played in a game, so I really just want to get back into it.

"My goal is to get better so I can get in the rotation, help out this defense and help out the Sun Devils."

"I want to work for a starting job, of course," added Coleman. "But if I'm backing up somebody, that doesn't bother me at all." For fans and players alike, the Sun Devil season opener can't get here soon enough. With hype mounting every week and expectations being raised both internally and externally, this team is ready to perform. And for both Conway and Coleman, experiencing Sun Devil Stadium is something they both look forward to. "I'm so pumped," said Conway. "It's definitely a dream come true. It's going to be awesome."

"I've been waiting for it for a long time. I've just got to get better until I get there."

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