Player Capsule: Salamo Fiso
Position: SAM (field side linebacker)
Weight: 230 pounds
2014 season quick review: Fiso finished fourth on the ASU defense with 83 tackles including 11 for loss, which was second most on the roster. He also had 3.5 sacks and one interception and was named an honorable mention all-Pac-12 selection. Against Duke in the Sun Bowl Fiso had a season high 12 tackles. In his first two seasons in Tempe, Fiso has been a key run stopping cog on the interior and made a lot of plays on running backs in the hole.
Co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take: "The thing about Salamo, if you did a physical test, change of direction, speed, height, weight, body [composition], he’s not going to blow you away in comparison to a 6-foot-2, 238 pound Christian Sam. So I think the thing with Salamo is very instinctive, he has a really good feel for the game...he gets a little lackadaisical, is probably the nice way of putting it, in pass coverage. It’s his biggest deficiency right now, he’s got to continue to improve and that’s where I’ve challenged him in the offseason, is to become more active and better in pass coverage concepts and even developing a better understanding in not only what you’re doing but what everyone else is doing."
SunDevilSource.com analysis: It's become clear in his year and a half as a starter that Fiso is at his best when playing against pro-style offenses and other teams that like to run the ball downhill as the bread and butter of their ground game. Fiso tends to be especially dialed in against run-first teams that like playing the game tightly in the box and are less likely to try to misdirect linebackers with false action. Fiso loves going up against these types of offenses and is ideally suited to be a read and react gap stuffer. He is relatively quick to the hole against the run and squares up backs well and is a physical and sure tackler in such situations.
Stretch zone runs and teams that employ option pitches and alert backs can at times frustrate and induce a loss of focus and/or intensity in Fiso and he has to continue to work on operating at maximum capacity against these types of offenses. His sideline to sideline range isn't great but it is better than he has at times exhibited against offenses that use the full width of the field in the run game. Similarly, Fiso will have to continue to work on sustaining his motor and disposition against this types of run teams.
Fiso hasn't done particularly well on passing downs and has at times even been a liability in this regard due to a tendency to not get into his drops as aggressively as he needs to, or focus in on where he needs to be on the field in such situations based on reading and feeling the action around and behind him. There have been a number of times he could have been in position to make a play against a pass attempt over the middle third but was just a bit out of place due for one reason or another. As a result, Fiso is more of a base down player at this time and will need to show improvement in these areas in order to be used on nickel downs.
Projected depth chart status: A mainstay starter for the Sun Devils since the middle of the 2013 season, Fiso isn't likely to be supplanted on the depth chart moving forward but he figures to be pushed more in the next 1-2 seasons than he has been previously due to the athleticism of his backup, Christian Sam, as well as the possibility of ASU looking at Davon Durant as a SAM if Ismael Murphy-Richardson emerges as a standout.