Player Capsule: Christian Sam
Position: SAM (field side) linebacker
Weight: 220 pounds
2014 season quick review: Sam played several linebacker positions last year and had 16 tackles on the season, including five against Colorado playing Spur following a shoulder injury to Laiu Moeakiola, and five against USC. His versatility allowed him to be plugged into different positions along the unit even as a true freshman, which was a benefit for the team.
Co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take: "He's an athletic guy with a lot of potential. Last year we kind of threw him out there [in a pinch] before he even really knew what all he was doing and he handled it really well. He can really run and is put together. We're going to try to keep him inside (at SAM) and I think that's going to be a great fit for him and he'll push Salamo and my gosh, we have a some athletes at the position backing up our first string guys and our competitiveness across the board is going to be really good this year."
SunDevilSource.com analysis: One of the better looking freshmen on the roster last season, Sam is rare in that he has the athletic ability to play Spur, WILL and SAM. Ideally suited to be an inside linebacker, especially as he continues to add strength and size, Sam is built like a prototypical linebacker, with dense muscularity, and yet he is light on his feet. He can change directions fluidly for a linebacker and run effectively in space.
The Sun Devils are planning to put Sam at the field-side linebacker spot starting this spring, which requires the least amount of coverage range, a position he will easily be able to look good at from an athletic standpoint. He is solid at contact against the run and has shown that he can physically hold up on the inside when reached by offensive lineman reaching the second level and as an interior gap plugger. With his plus mobility, Sam has a lot of potential in this role. His challenges are mostly related to getting more familiar with the scheme and understanding the game at a high level. The mistakes he made last season were primarily being out of position or making read and react mistakes due to a lack of experience.
Projected depth chart status: Salamo Fiso will very likely be the starter at SAM and Christian Sam is one of two candidates to be the primary back up, along with junior Carlos Mendoza, who has been injury plagued to this point in his career, but is a reliable option when healthy. There's also an outside possibility that Ismael Murphy-Richardson could excel at Devil enough that ASU considers moving junior college transfer Davon Durant, a spring enrollee, to SAM in order to try to get its best athletes on the field together, a move that could make it tougher for Sam to see the field.