Player Capsule: Viliami Latu
Position: Defensive Tackle
Weight: 291 pounds
2014 season quick review: Recruited as a linebacker, Latu has steadily gained size and moved up, playing last year as a sophomore extensively as a defensive tackle at around 275 pounds. He was relied upon heavily due to a lack of scholarship bodies with experience inside, and finished the year with 24 tackles, five for loss with two sacks.
Defensive Line coach Jackie Shipp's take: "He's never played defensive line (before last season) and people talk about how hard other positions are. But when you walk down and put your hand down and you have bodies around you, and you're right up to the nose with somebody, and the different techniques you have to learn, and the effort and the strength, and one big pillar [endurance]. Watch his endurance, probably those last three games he averaged well over 70 plays a game and if you watch that fourth quarter of that Duke game he made some plays. Then all of a sudden you saw some of that technique coming along even better and better and he improved greatly.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: One of Latu's best attributes is his motor. He plays very hard with consistency and doesn't lose stamina as much as other defensive tackles tend to. This enabled him to play 70-80 snaps in several games last season, when the Sun Devils simply didn't have a lot of effective depth to allow for a true rotation at the position group. He's also a hard-nosed player who has high expectations for himself, and competes with an intensity of purpose. Though he was undersized last season, Latu more than held his own.
During ASU's winter strength and conditioning program, Latu gained noticeable size and now weighs 291 pounds but is still moving well. He gets off the football quite well, with impressive burst from a stance, and has naturally good pad level. That enables him to get up and under linemen and he's developing rip move that allows him to take advantage of his get off and leverage. As a result, he can collapse the pocket pretty good and his quickness off the ball has to be accounted for.
Latu is pretty tightly wound and is more linear than ideal as a result, which is a bit limiting. He doesn't have the agility or nimbleness to set up counters so his effectiveness when attacking tends to come when he wins the initial phase of a rep. He's not a change of direction player or someone who has shown a knack for getting unblocked and makes second effort sacks or pressures after good downfield coverage.
Projected depth chart status: Latu has enough versatility to play either tackle position though he's better suited for the 1-technique spot. He'll likely get most of his game action there, but Demetrius Cherry is an obstacle on the depth chart unless ASU shifts Cherry to end and Edmond Boateng from end to Devil, and Mo Latu is another option inside, though at 397 pounds and coming off foot surgery, it's hard to say what will happen there. Either way, the Sun Devils will probably have more of a rotation at tackle this year and Latu should see the field quite a bit and perhaps have a chance to start.