Bo Wallace evaluation; Devil backer analysis

Arizona State had just two scholarship players working at Devil backer -- a key playmaking position on its defense -- during the spring. That number will at least double in the fall, with the addition of four-star Bo Wallace a late signing coup.

Devil Backer

Ideal scholarship roster number: 3-4

2015 personnel: (Alani Latu (can also play defensive end), Ismael Murphy-Richardson, Eriquel Florence (can also play defensive end), Davon Durant (status unclear following arrest), Malik Lawal, Bo Wallace)

Likely returning to position number after 2015: 3-4

2016 Commitments: 0

Remaining ideal number: 0-1

The Skinny: With highly anticipated junior college transfer Davon Durant's status in jeopardy, Arizona State moved sophomore Alani Latu back to Devil backer immediately prior to the start of spring football after Latu had physically prepared to move to defensive end during the program's winter conditioning.

Even with that move, ASU only had two scholarship players working at Devil backer in the spring, with Latu joined by redshirt freshman Ismael Murphy-Richardson as senior reserve Eriquel Florence was sidelined following knee surgery.

With incoming freshman Malik Lawal being the only predictable addition at Devil backer, and with remaining spots available, the Sun Devils understandably decided to look at adding to the position group in post-signing period recruiting for the 2015 class. When River Ridge, La., John Curtis Christian High pass rush specialist Bo Wallace hit the open market following a recent parting of ways with Notre Dame, the Sun Devils jumped all over it, aided by a good relationship between coaches at the two schools.

Wallace visited ASU before any other school once he'd received his Notre Dame release and signed scholarship paperwork just one day into his official visit despite having other high level options. The development will give the Sun Devils another young option at the Devil backer position, which is one of the biggest play-making roles in ASU coach Todd Graham's defensive scheme.

Now, the Sun Devils should have at minimum Latu, Murphy-Richardson, Lawal and Wallace practicing with the group when camp starts in August. Graham has also mentioned the possibility of junior defensive end Edmond Boateng sliding back to Devil -- a position he played at times last season -- in the event another player's emergence at end or tackle enables it. (Against pro-style teams such as Stanford, ASU has liked using a heavier defensive front.)

Wallace is somewhat like Murphy-Richardson from a size and style standpoint. Both are dynamic athletes at 6-foot-4 but played much lighter in high school than they'll have to be in college. Murphy-Richardson weighed no more than 205 pounds when he arrived at ASU on his 6-foot-4 frame and is now closer to 230 pounds. Wallace is about the same height at Murphy-Richardson and somewhere in the 205-215 pound range, depending on who is doing the listing.

Just as Murphy-Richardson had to add a lot of weight and strength upon his arrival at ASU, so too will Wallace. He earned rave reviews in January's Semper Fi All-American Game practices for his explosiveness and overall athletic ability, but was said to be challenged in one-on-one situations in which he didn't win by getting by an offensive tackle on sheer quickness.

There's a suddenness to Wallace's release off the snap of the football that really jumps out on film evaluation, especially for someone operating in a two-point stance almost exclusively. Wallace adds to the value of that impressive get off by being very willing to exploit the space created between the offensive tackle and guard due to the tackle's quick expansion in order to manage an outside speed rush.

The quick-twitch athleticism that Wallace possesses is leveraged by his comfort in taking the inside option when available to him, and tendency to be difficult for a lineman to get secure hand placement on because of how much lateral area he can quickly cover and the nice way he maneuvers his body to reduce surface area in these situations. So he is essentially moving target who covers full range as a pass rusher and has low predicability.

Adding to this, Wallace has emerging skills as a pass rusher that are clearly on display in game settings. He displaces arms with full extension of his own length, is willing to use his power via hard and well timed chops to ward off reaching hands, and prefers to use a leverage advantaging rip rather than open his body and create more surface area to block with a swim move in an incorrect application, a bad habit of a lot of young pass rushers. These moves are likely to be pretty limited from an effectiveness standpoint early in his career because Wallace lacks the size and strength to really exploit such techniques against better talent, but in time they'll increase his capability quite a bit.

Wallace doesn't quite bend the edge yet as well as he'll need to in order to get back to the quarterback in the Pac-12 and will find that good tackles are going to be able to push or expand him on his own past the point he can get back to the quarterback, so working on sinking his lead hip and shoulder are going to be points of emphasis early in his career. But he does have a good motor and can really pursue from the backside or get to quarterbacks on play extension.

The way in which Wallace willingly uses his arms to engage and disengage from blocks, especially with his length and ability to close down space quickly, gives him some upside against the run. Better pad leverage will be a necessity but there's a lot of impressive hints on film of being a full service player and not just a sub-package specialist. He should be able to manage the boundary side edge effectively due to his closing quickness and use of his length, particularly as he gets stronger.

Seldom, if ever, has ASU signed a high school player this late in a recruiting cycle with this much overall potential. While it's difficult to expect Wallace will make an immediate impact in a starter-type role, given ASU's lack of returning experience, it's conceivable he could play this season and his ceiling is quite high.


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