Player Capsule: Demetrius Cherry
Position: Defensive Tackle
Weight: 300 pounds
2014 season quick review: In the second half of last season, Cherry was a valuable contributor for the ASU defensive line once coaches went with a heavier front. He showed enough versatility to play all three defensive line positions and finished the season with 18 tackles including one for loss. Some of his best play came against a few of ASU's best opponents.
Defensive Line coach Jackie Shipp's take: "I think he's an inside guy. That's what his quickness is, it's for an inside guy. Could there be a game-plan where you move him to a five-technique in some type of situation? Most definitely. Coach asked him to play on the run and the double teams. But did he play better as the year went along? Most definitely. Could he be better? Most definitely.
"Big thing: understand the game better. Understand why you're doing something. Be better with your mental calls, just understand the mental part of the game. Understand why I'm a shade over here, well because the backer is over there. Well why am I moving this way with this kind of backfield set? How are they going to anticipate, and block me? Those types of things."
SunDevilSource.com analysis: Cherry arrived at ASU severely underweight and out of shape in the summer of 2013 and needed a redshirt year as a result. During that time he gained upwards of 50 pounds, which was much needed but required a lot of adjusting to from a conditioning and endurance standpoint in camp and early last season. As the year progressed he started to settle in more and when ASU started using a heavier front more regularly Cherry began to really show promise.
Cherry's length is a big weapon as he uses a lanky wingspan and thick legs that hold ground well for his height in an effective way. He tends to be able to maintain separation from offensive linemen in a way that enables him to close down run lanes and often will stop or slow down ball carriers coming through the A gap when aligned as a 1-technique nose tackle, sometimes with just one arm. He's best suited for this role, where his length can be disruptive to offensive centers. He's also able to be a bat down threat on passing downs over the middle and has pretty good awareness in this regard. He got a tipped pass that led to an interception last year against Notre Dame.
Though he can be a leverage challenge for interior linemen off the snap, Cherry probably lacks the explosiveness or sheer brute strength to dislodge players enough to be much of an interior sack or tackle for loss weapon, but he still has pretty good value. He can be really good against the run and anchor effectively in the middle when he's focused and committed. When he's not playing effectively it's usually because he's not dialed in and thinking the game at a high level. He'll align incorrectly based on the formation due to mental lapses, or not communicate effectively in a way that helps keep everyone on the same page along the front. If he can eliminate these things and hone in on doing his job, he'll probably be a steady mid-tier defensive player capable of starting or at a minimum being a heavy rotation player.
Projected depth chart status: It's going to be a battle through August for the starting defensive tackle positions because there's not a lot of separation with the group right now and different ways coaches can configure the unit. Ami Latu can play the nose or 3-technique tackle and ASU is also adding a junior college nose tackle, Deonte Reynolds, who will compete for the starting nod. But at a minimum, Cherry is going to play a lot if he's performing to his capability.