Wren Eyeing Immediate Playing Time

It’s no secret that the number one priority for Todd Graham and the Sun Devils is to rebuild a defense that is looking to replace nine starters from last season it hopes to defend its Pac-12 South title. One newcomer looking to fill a role along the defensive line is freshman Renell Wren, who along with a couple of his fellow classmates, earned high praise from Graham after his first practice.

“My first practice, I think it was good. You’ve got to have relentless effort,” said Wren after practice on Friday night. “The intensity was great. Every snap, I just gave 100 percent . You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s just the game.

“For this being my first time at a college football practice, I’m just getting into the flow of the game and doing everything to the best of my abilities to get that playing time.”

Playing time.

It’s what is on every player’s mind as the four week grind towards the season opener against Weber State on August 28th officially got underway on Friday. No matter the level of experience - from a redshirt senior to a true freshman - the opportunity to contribute in 2014 remains a strong possibility, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“I have that confidence but we play as a family,” said Wren. “You know, Sun Devil brotherhood, we’ve just got to work hard and play to the best of our ability and just see what comes in the long run. Redshirt or not, I just play to the best of my ability.”

At 6-5 and 280 lbs, Wren was rated as a four-star prospect by Scout.com and the number 36 defensive end in the nation last season when he starred at Lutheran North High School in Saint Louis, Missouri. As a junior, the talented lineman totaled 43 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, and three sacks.

He earned First Team All-State honors as a senior while reportedly receiving scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Purdue, amongst others, but ultimately committed to Arizona State last December, giving the Sun Devils three freshmen defensive linemen to build around for the future, along with Tashon Smallwood and Connor Humphreys.

“Coach Graham is a very good head coach and the football program is just outstanding,” answered Wren when asked why he opted for the desert over the Midwest. “The football players, they treat me like family already and I enjoy the coaching and love it out here.

“The Sun Devil defense is great. I play good within the set that we have. I just have to work hard each step.”

Wren reported to Tempe in June along with many of the other Sun Devil newcomers to begin both summer school and the team’s summer strength and conditioning program with Shawn Griswold. The freshman joined the rest of the newcomers three times a week for strength training and boasted a max bench press of 315 pounds and 265 pounds for both his power clean and front squat.

“They trained me hard but I liked it. We leave no doubt, he said.”They had me doing benching, front squats, power clean, dumbbell rolls, and dumbbell benching. They just kept me in shape and made my body stronger so that I can compete against some of the big guys I’ll see this season.”

“But being big isn’t everything. You’ve just got to have the heart to go out there and play. Like Coach Shipp told me, it’s all mental. It’s all in your head. You’ve got to go out there and say you’re the best guy and give it all you got.”

On Friday, Wren got his first chance to make an impression on Shipp and the rest of the Sun Devil coaching staff what he’s capable of as the newcomers practiced inside the dome for nearly two hours without pads.

“Coach Shipp is a great guy,” Wren said. “Quiet guy and intense, but you know, he’ll tell you things right up front. He won’t lie to you. He’ll just tell you whether you’re going to play or whether you’re not going to play. I just like that he keeps it real.”

While much still needs to be resolved before the start of the season, Graham indicated that he was pleased with the effort of Wren and the rest of the ASU defensive line when speaking with the media afterwards.

“The young guys up front I liked,” said Graham. “Those young defensive linemen who are running off the field right there, they’re going to be in the two-deep and they’re going to be playing.”

And as for Shipp’s take on Wren’s first practice session?

“He said I’m going to play,” said Wren.

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