Player Capsule: D.J. Calhoun
Position: WILL (boundary side) linebacker
Weight: 215 pounds
2014 season quick review: Calhoun was named a Scout.com Freshman All-American after tallying 35 tackles, including seven for loss and two sacks last season. He started the first game of his career, one of just eight players to do so in ASU history. Calhoun toggled between Spur and WILL through the season and was used quite a bit on third downs as an extra pass rusher.
Co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take: "...when you take guys like D.J., the number one thing that really really talented people have to overcome is things just kind of come easy to them. Things have come easy for D.J. in football to this point in his life. All of a sudden now there's so much more language and defense and then the offenses are doing so much more and all of of a sudden he's out there like...a little puppy running around peeing on every fire hydrant....Just gotta get him to become a student of the game so the game slows down for him. Then how he can [play naturally] with that god given natural talent.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: A undersized linebacker who plays bigger than he is, Calhoun is a bundle of energy, which is a great attribute to have when properly harnessed. He has terrific short space explosiveness, is very sudden from idle, and is a potent blitzer due to that coupled with his physical approach to the position. He aggressively attacks blockers in a way that mitigates his size and length limitations. Short arm span and a smallish linebacker frame should be a bigger problem than it is for Calhoun, but in the box he's still at risk of being absorbed by linemen and tight ends reaching the second level more easily than others who are bigger and longer.
ASU tinkered with Calhoun at two different positions last year, hoping he could back up Laiu Moeakiola at Spur, but it isn't as good of a fit for his athletic type than WILL, and he is expected to exclusively play WILL moving forward as a result. Specifically, Calhoun struggled with key read identification and covering in space on passing plays both at Spur and WILL, but the movement/range demand in this regard are less at WILL. He needs to more quickly read pass and react to carry running backs releasing into the boundary as route runners, and have better foot discipline and patience when needed against the run on the interior. Pac-12 offenses are good at using athleticism against opposing defenses with misdirection and an extra year of experience and film study should yield improvement in these areas.
Projected depth chart status: Calhoun figures to be second on the depth chart behind senior Antonio Longino at WILL, and be looked at as a third down player on passing downs in which ASU has a chance to substitute due to his potency as a physical and explosive blitzer. If he continues to progress from a mental discipline standpoint, considering he's already gained 10 pounds and is a better-suited 215 pounds now, he should be able to be relied on without much of a drop off, and seamlessly transition to a starter role in 2016.