Moeakiola setting high standards

ASU's defensive struggles through spring practice have been well documented, and just a couple days ago members of that group heard harsh criticism from Head Coach Todd Graham. Ultimately, those words didn't fall on deaf ears as several players, including Spur linebacker Laiu Moeakiola had their best session yet on Thursday.

"Laiu had his best day today, best day," said Graham. "You've got to play with passion and that's what those kids did today and that's what defense is all about."We've got to get where we're bringing it everyday but today was a good day."

The 6-0 210-pound Laiu Moeakiola however is not content with his own play. The linebacker is certain that he can play at a much higher caliber and that it is his responsibility to do so. His teammates have been preaching consistency with their performances and Moeakiola is no different in that aspect.

"I think my performance so far has been average," Moeakiola admitted. "I haven't really brought it everyday. I'm guilty of that because my teammates have been holding me accountable to that so I feel like I need to bring it more everyday and just keep it consistent like Coach Graham says. Do everything right and then if I do everything right the team wins so I'm just trying to do my job.

"My standards are really high because the standards here are really high at ASU so I'm really trying to just make a difference and win a national championship. That's the main goal here for our defense, to just be the best defense that we can be. The only way we can do that is by playing disciplined football, everyone just doing their assignments. Every thing is alright, we've just got to improve."

Having played in ten games during the 2013 season, Moeakiola gained not only experience but also perspective on how to better himself in light of the lofty goals the team has for the upcoming season.

"What I took away from last year is consistency, that's the main thing," Moeakiola remarked. "Some games we're hype like playing UCLA and some games we're not as hype playing another team. I think just consistency, bringing it every day, challenging everybody and holding each other accountable to bring the best out of everybody is the main thing.

"The main thing is just focus, intense focus; cause your doing so many things throughout the game. You're demanded to set the edge, demanded to go out in coverage, demanded to blitz. It's just being focused. You want to make plays but doing it within the system, not operating outside of it, trying to stay within the confines of the team and not trying to do your own thing. I think that's the main thing that I was trying to do my freshman year is just trying to makes plays but doing it outside the system, trying to do it my way."

Moeakiola gives credit where credit is due. He is quick to compliment the team's front four of making his responsibilities manageable, and did point out one lineman in specific who is standing out in that department.

"I think we have good defensive ends that help make my job easier, throughout the spring," Moeakiola noted. "We had Marcus Hardison setting the edge; we tried out some new fronts this spring. I think it made it easier for me to stand back there and just react cause three seconds and the play is already ended. Marcus Hardison is making the job way easy for me."

ASU lost nine starters on defense but they are beginning to gain confidence as spring practice progresses. While the group dominated last Saturday's scrimmage and had an outstanding session today, their newfound buoyancy won't turn to complacency anytime soon.

"I think everyone just wants to get better," Moeakiola remarked. "Everyone has a different mind set coming into practice now realizing we only have like three more left so we're just trying to leave knowing we're comfortable but still hungry when we come back for the summer. Reminding ourselves what our goal is to win a national championship."

A significant difference from years past that's been observed with the Sun Devils is the team bonding that takes place under Coach Graham. Camaraderie is something that is always encouraged as it is a vital ingredient for any future success the squad wishes to achieve.

"I think the relationships on this team, on defense, are much more bonded," Moeakiola described. "After football I'm still hanging out with all my teammates on defense and I feel like that's the difference between last year and this year. The team unity on this team is so much closer and tighter so when we're outside of football we're still talking about football and we're talking about each other. ‘What class do you have? I'm trying to get into that class.'

"We're just trying to build relationships with one another and I think that's the key to every defense. When you have 11 guys playing for one another that bond can't be broken. I think we're doing a good job playing as a unit."

Practicing against an ASU offense that in contrast has several key returners has naturally been challenging to Moeakiola and his teammates on defense, will only improve the Sun Devils' performance. The high pace the defense has to contend with has only sharpened their attention to detail.

"It makes us way better, from the physical aspect of conditioning to the mental," Moeakiola said. "When ever we go tempo that really tests us mentally to sprint back every play knowing that we have to get our eyes to the sideline and check the play, getting refocused through our signals and communications. I feel like to face our offense every time is just making us get better.

"Everyone has been stepping up. Everybody is doing their job. If everyone does their job we're going to be a good team."

As one of the most experienced linebackers, Moeakiola wants his play to inspire his teammates to do the same. He doesn't see himself as a vocal leader because that doesn't always match the players' effort, and his experience using that method wasn't positive.

"I'm more of an example kind of guy," said Moeakiola. "I learned growing up to let your actions speak louder than words. You can say so much but you've got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk because too many of us do that. I was a victim of that last year. It's just actually doing it and not just talking about it."

None of the Sun Devils will feel accomplished until they have won a national championship. The "unfinished business" team motto is one that is on every player's mind as they continue to prepare for the 2014 season.

"My main goal is just to win a national championship," said Moekiola. "That's why I'm motivated everyday. I'm reminded by my parents back at home, that's why I do it but the main reason is just to win the national championship. I want to do something here that has never been done and just win the national championship."

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