Pre-Season Preview - Defense

Defense Wins Championships. <BR><BR> History has proven to us on numerous occasions that Championships are won with defense. Whether you look to the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens of the NFL or the 13-2 triumph of the Oklahoma Sooners over Florida State in last years National Championship game the theme is always the same.

Whether you look to the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens of the NFL or the 13-2 triumph of the Oklahoma Sooners over Florida State in last years National Championship game the theme is always the same.

This years Sun Devil team will rely upon their defense early on to help the offense establish themselves in the conference as something to be feared, but until then its up to the likes of Terrell Suggs; Pac-10 freshman of the year last year, and Solomon Bates to lead this team to the promised land. But will they be able to adjust to the new defensive scheme of Defensive Coordinator Brent Guy who brings an attacking 4-2-5 nickel scheme into the fold.

With any defense you begin with the war in the trenches the big dogs up front who are your initial line of defense. This years talented front four is lead by the aforementioned Suggs whose impact was immediately felt in the league last year most notably by the UofA in which he seemed to be a coat on the UofA QBs shoulders. Suggs in an incredible athlete for a Defensive End with speed off the corner that makes people's collective jaw's drop. His motor is constantly running and his enthusiasm for the game is contagious. He has a unique ability to strip the ball and is capable of a game turning play with every snap of the ball. Surely he will follow in line of other former great Sun Devil Rush Ends like a Shante Carver, Derrick Rodgers or Erik Flowers all of whom have played in the NFL. The other rush end spot will be driven by a competition between two talented individuals in Brian Montesanto and Ben Fox, also look for Jimmy Verdon, Chad Howell and Jared Wolfgramm to figure into the mix at Defensive End.

The Defensive Tackle position is deep and talented with some hard-nosed men with veteran experience in Pac-10 play. Kurt Wallin and Tommie Townsend figure to be the starters but with such a deep and talented pool of returning players with experience don't be surprised to see Paul Glass, Danny Massianni, and James Beal to rotate to keep the big boys fresh.

Next you come to the Linebackers where the deepest position on the team. Whether ASU still played with three Linebackers on the field at one time or the new look of two backers this position would still be deep. The one sure thing will be talented Jr. Solomon Bates who has a nose for the ball and was second on the team last year with 99 tackles. His athletic ability seems to be in the mold of a great Linebacker and his look on the field is like that of another college great, Lavar Arrington of Penn State. "Solo's" tenacious style of play is what is necessary to be the man in charge of this unit. He could very easily follow in the footsteps of other great Sun Devil Linebackers such as Derek Smith, and Pac-10 defensive players of the year Pat Tillman in 97 and Adam Archuletta from last year. The other position will be a dogfight between returning senior playmaker Eric Fields and the up and coming Mason Unck. Bother players have paid their dues and look to fortify a front that will be as formidable as any in the Pac-10. Behind the starters are a fine crop of young hungry bulls that are ready to prove they are worthy of playing time. Each in their own right is capable of being a solid contributor to this team whether its keeping the veteran's fresh or on special teams where new Coach Tom Osbourne has to like his players ability.

After the front six you come to the secondary where the athletes must be able to stop the oppositions big play capability. Leading the charge in the secondary will be two veteran tested safeties in Willie Daniel and Alfred Williams. They have experience against the best in the conference and their leadership will be needed to help the other green parts of the secondary gel into a solid unit. The new roving safety position looks to be filled by redshirt freshman Riccardo Stewart. His talent was evident in the spring game where on more than one occasion he made a big play. At the corners you have young and inexperienced players. With the loss of the talented Machtier Clay the corners will be manned by in all likelihood freshman, not the situation you'd like in the pass-happy Pac. The worry is somewhat offset by the talent that is brought to the table by the likes of R.J. Oliver and Emmanuel Franklin. Without a doubt the Corner jobs will be up for grabs with the addition of the talented OJ Hackett a junior college transfer who could step in right a way or the talents of incoming local product Lamar Baker. Baker seems to be in the mold of other greats to come out of the area who have played in the defensive backfield. Whether its NFL Hall of Famer Mike Haynes or future Hall of Famer Eric Allen the list of Sun Devil DBs is long and distinguished. You undoubtedly can call ASU a defensive back factory because of the amount of talented men that dot NFL rosters presently. The tradition will be upheld with the likes of the talented incoming players but the question will be how long until they gel?

Overall the defense seems to have the ability to lead the Sun Devils to a solid record perhaps even compete for a Pac-10 Championships. The questions will be mostly answered in the next couple of weeks with the start of Camp Tontozona. Who will step up in the secondary and make the big plays to keep up from getting burned? Who will step up on the D-Line to keep Suggs from being double -teamed time and again? The competition will be fierce and it will be determination among all the players is evident by their summer workout commitments. Look for the defense to be one of the best in recent memory.

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