Camp's success will be defined by the defense

The reasons for pessimism concerning the 2014 Sun Devils have been seemingly rooted in the ASU defense, a unit where an abundance of inexperience can be easily found. No head coach wants fall camp to be dominated by one side of the ball, but if the scales are tilted even slightly towards the white jerseys during fall camp it can remove the cloud of pre-season doubt hovering over ASU.

The reasons for pessimism concerning the 2014 Sun Devils have been seemingly rooted in the ASU defense, a unit where an abundance of inexperience can be easily found. No head coach wants fall camp to be dominated by one side of the ball, but if the scales are tilted even slightly towards the white jerseys during fall camp it can remove the cloud of pre-season doubt hovering over ASU. You know by now all about the challenges the Arizona State defense is facing. Whether its nine starters, six of them who were named first or second-team all-conference, lost from 2013, or having academic casualties among their signees in the unit that needed the most help, defensive line, even the most optimistic maroon and gold bleeding fan has some level of apprehension going through their mind right now.

I’m also of the opinion that the offense was held back somewhat in the spring which allowed the defense to have its moments during the time. But fall camp will be an entire different story, and when the proverbial dogs will be unleashed I suspect more often than not than the ensuing results won’t be pretty.

Let’s don’t forget that the expectations for this Sun Devil offense are beyond sky high, and they certainly have extremely lofty expectations to live up to as they try to exceed an explosive 2013 season that saw them average 39.7 points and 457.3 yards per game.

The slightest sign of this group struggling versus a defense that has been quite maligned over the summer could produce even more red flags than the ones that are expected on the defense.

Yet, that is the fine line every team needs to walk during fall camp and spring practice for that matter. A fall camp largely dominated by the offense, would be predictable to say the least and fail to quiet the defense’s doubters.

On the other hand, if the tables were turned to some extent, and we saw this defense show much promise in producing an even partial containment of an offense who should be the nightmare of every opposing defensive coordinator this year, then ASU’s fall camp will produce the confidence this squad needs collectively to begin and silence the critics and maybe cause some pundits to change their season outlook.

Make no mistake about this, problems are abound on defense. None of its returning defensive linemen had a particularly strong spring, and I don’t have to rehash for you the troubles at the Devil backer role. The linebacker corps may have three underclassmen starting the season, and the secondary will have to have some its newcomers be prepared to make an immediate impact, placing much pressure of players with limited or none Pac-12 experience.

Talk about a situation that paints a strong picture of uncertainty...

Nonetheless, while I’m not optimistic that this ASU defense can come close to yielding just 26.6 points and 372 yards a game, as the heralded 2013 group did, I’m willing to take the proverbial wait and see approach during camp to determine if indeed this group will be the biggest factor in ASU’s win total dropping by two or three games from a 10-4 mark last year.

And I suspect that regardless of the total picture painted over the next three plus weeks, that the defensive performance will steadily improve as camp progresses. To what extent? That is the biggest mystery surrounding the 2014 fall camp.

Yet, as vague as the Arizona State defense’s prospects are in fall camp, it’s clear to me that it will be directly responsible to a potential feeling of buoyancy by coaches and staff over both sides of the ball . Simply put, a successful fall camp is one where the defense lives up to one of the team’s sayings this year, and leaves no doubt.


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