Q&A with Chris Ball

Much like every position on the Arizona State defense, the Sun Devils' secondary is also facing the challenge of replacing several starters and figuring out its depth chart among several inexperienced players. Devils Digest caught up with ASU's defensive backs coach, Chris Ball, to assess his group going into the 2014 season.

DevilsDigest: Let's start with reviewing the newcomers at safety Armand Perry and Dasmond Tautalatasi…

Chris Ball: "Armand has some good cover skills and is physical too. Good thing about him is that he could also play corner and he's a dual guy that can play either safety spot. Das will be a free safety. He's a very physical and smart player. Great ball skills. He was a running back to in high school so he has a lot of toughness."

DevilsDigest: Wanted to also touch on the additions at the Spur (hybrid safety /linebacker) position Jamal Scott and Christian Sam..

Chris Ball: "Jamal has great athletic ability, great size. He's 6-2 and will be 215 lbs. Runs well, has good hips, good cover skills and can blitz. He really is the whole package. Christian Sam is very similar. Played corner his sophomore and junior year in high school, so he has very good cover skills which we need for the Spur position. Both those guys have a chance of playing this year."

DevilsDigest: When you look back at the secondary's performance in the 2013 season, how would you rate it?

Chris Ball: "I thought the secondary played well. Coming into the season we lost two starters, but we still played well and guys were able to step in. I have been pleased with this group, they work hard, and they are smart players that can handle a lot of things. I think we have a chance again to be very good in the secondary."

DevilsDigest: During fall camp and for the first part of the season, Todd Graham was talking about the need to find a consistent free safety. Once Damarious Randall healed from his groin injury he started there down the stretch. Do you feel based on his performance last year that this position is now rock solid?

Chris Ball: "I do. I feel very good about Damarious. He's very athletic and versatile. He's an extremely smart player and it's nice to have him back and be the leader in the secondary. He's doing a good job of leading the younger guys now. I think he will be a very good player for us in the fall. When he was injured he couldn't do anything for a long time and being a new player and with how our system operates it's hard to come in and get used to everything right away. But he did a good job of adjusting once he was healthy."

DevilsDigest: You probably get this question from time to time, but are there any plans of moving Randall to cornerback?

Chris Ball: "No plans. We would have to retrain him to play there and we would lose experience at safety. Having an experienced guy at safety is a huge benefit for us."

DevilsDigest: At bandit safety outgoing senior, Alden Darby, leaves a big void behind him. Who are the players you expect to get the initial looks at this role?

Chris Ball: "Ezekiel Bishop will get the first opportunity. He's an older guy that brings experience and being in the system for a couple of years he really understands it. We'll also have James Johnson and Marcus Ball play there. Marcus brings a lot of size that we didn't have last year, and also a lot of athletic ability. James can be either a free or a bandit and also a guy that is very athletic. A very smart and all-around good football player. He was on red alert to potentially not redshirt. We talked about this every week. But we fought it off and I think it's good we redshirted him.

"So all three of them will get a shot."

DevilsDigest: Where do guys like Jayme Otomewo and Luke Williams fit in, as well as walk-on Jordan Simone?

Chris Ball: "Luke will probably play Spur. Jordan will back up Damarious. We'll see out of all of these guys who can play bandit too."

DevilsDigest: Graham went on record during his Letter of Intent Day press conference talking about how important it was recruiting players for the Spur role, and as we know this was a position that had its troubles last season. Can you elaborate on the importance of this position in your defense?

Chris Ball: "It's a position that is the edge of our defense and is a big play position for us. Because we blitz a lot it plays a lot of man to man. You have to be a really good football player to play a very tough position. Sometimes you have to get into the box and make a play and sometimes you have to be in man to man coverage. Sometimes you blitz…there are just a lot of different things that go into this position.

"It's a high playmaking position and if you play it right your stats can be off the charts. We have good players coming in, we have Laiu Moeakiola coming back and he can be a good spur for us. Carlos Mendoza can play there as well as one of the safeties (Williams) we have. All those guys will be fighting to play."

DevilsDigest: Spring practice is a perfect time to experiment different looks and personnel. Because you have to replace so many starters in the secondary and at Spur, do you see yourself doing a lot of moving around of players throughout the 15 practices?

Chris Ball: "You want to get the best 11 on the field. You want a great player backing up another great player at starter. You have to find a way to get those guys on the field. I think we have done a very good job evaluating our talent and putting them in the best position to make plays on the field. Moving Chris Young from Spur to WILL is an example of that."

DevilsDigest: With so much new personnel and inexperience do you see yourself adjusting the scheme to fit the personnel or do you stay the course here?

Chris Ball: "I feel that our players do understand it (the scheme) and do a good job studying it. So we can stay with our scheme and plug in our best guys and put them in the position to be the most successful. We don't feel that the scheme will be hard for those guys who didn't play to understand. They traveled with us to games and they understand the communication progression, our pressure packages and coverages. So we're not going to slow it down too much. We are going to put them out there and let them go."

DevilsDigest: Moving to the cornerbacks what do you see in terms of a skill set from newcomers DeAndre Scott, Chad Adams, Kweishi Brown?

Chris Ball: "Deandre will also have a shot at bandit, as well as boundary corner. One of the best players in Pennsylvania. Great physical player that will have a lot of chances to play as a true freshman. Chad Adams is very fast and another guy who can play bandit. Has great skills. Kweishi is a guy I'm expecting big things from. He's a good size kid who we need at the corner position and we just need him to learn the system quickly."

DevilsDigest: You're replacing two starters at corner. As far as returning players are concerned Lloyd Carrington has the most experience and is a lock to start at one position, but who do you see starting on the opposite side?

Chris Ball: "Lloyd brings a lot to the table as far as length and being physical. We just need him to be more consistent and understand the philosophy of the defense. I think Solomon Means is someone who is really going to shock some people. I'm expecting big things out of him. Then you have Rashad Wadood and it's time for him to step up and be the guy and I think he has the ability to do so. There is going to be some pressure on him to earn that starting spot."

DevilsDigest: With so many relatively new and/or inexperienced players, would it be fair to say that having all these players gelling right away and having good chemistry is probably the biggest goal for this unit going into spring?

Chris Ball: "It is. But we have very smart kids with high character so I think our chemistry is there already. Now they just have to go out and play and get some experience in the spring, get a lot of reps and go play football. Experience is hard to replace. You can be very talented, but in this league if you are inexperienced you will struggle at first because of the learning curve.

"It's important that when we come out of spring that we all understand our scheme and our philosophy defensively and you get that by getting a lot of reps."


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