2. James Johnson (sophomore) -- As a redshirt freshman in 2014, Johnson filled in very admirably when needed, doing so without ASU suffering much if any drop off from a structural soundness standpoint on the back end of its defense. Johnson is a dedicated student of the game and takes the mental side of preparation very seriously and as a result has the wherewithal to play any of three positions -- including Spur -- in the Sun Devil defense. In terms of skill standpoint, Johnson is very sound. If he's at field safety as the replacement for first-round NFL pick Damarious Randall, Johnson will likely be more fundamental against the run. He's very assignment sound and anticipatory, which helps Johnson overcome moderate speed. It's very important he be dialed at all times because Johnson doesn't have the recovery capability or range of Randall -- few players do. Covering wide swaths of field or man assignments against more dynamic receivers in space when ASU is blitzing and doesn't impact the quarterback will be something to keep an eye on with Johnson. in the spring he moved up to play some Spur and it was seamless, as if he'd already had a lot of experience in the role. If Laiu Moeakiola gets hurt, bumping up Johnson is an option if someone else can play the field side. Preparedness Grade: 3 / Potential grade: 4
3. Armand Perry (sophomore) -- This is an incomplete evaluation because Perry didn't play safety last season and didn't practice at the position group in the spring as he recovered from off-season surgery. Our belief is he will be a solid performer and perhaps compete for playing time or even a starting nod. He's also got a chance to be ASU's starting nickel corner, a role he's has worked at previously. A hybrid defensive back, Perry is impressive length and more than enough foot speed to play cornerback in a body that can also play safety. He played safety extensively in high school. As a corner, Perry is more comfortable in press man situations than playing off coverage, so it'll be interesting to see how he performs as a field side safety unattached to receivers. Preparedness Grade: Incomplete / Potential grade: Incomplete
4. Chad Adams (sophomore) -- Though he's has plenty of potential, Adams' challenge right now is that he doesn't play nearly as at athletic as he is, and that has to do with a combination of limited experience and defensive fluency. He's not able to anticipate and react to what he's seeing as fast as others despite being quicker and faster than those ahead of him on the depth chart. Adams has really good recovery speed, which helps to mitigate this issue to some degree, but until he's able to play with the same level of understanding of the game as others, he's going to be a step behind, particularly with how players in the secondary have to do a very good job of communicating. Simone and Johnson are great at this. Fortunately for Adams, he's only a true sophomore, so this learning curve is to be expected to some degree. If he puts in the time and energy at the necessary level, he's got a chance to be a very solid player at this level, even as a undersized 5-foot-9, 180 pound field safety. He really closes space and can bring ball carriers down in space for someone his size. He's also more than athletic enough to play cornerback. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential grade: 3.5
5. Dasmond Tautalatasi (redshirt freshman) -- The spring was good to Tautalatasi, a player who redshirted last season and was able to be slowly brought along as part of the scout squad, which can be a benefit to players as it essentially provides an extra year to fully assimilate. At 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds, Tautalatasi is a true safety, with good size for the position, and a physical disposition to match. Even though he's mostly worked at the field safety spot, Tautalatasi has a similar approach to attacking the ball on the perimeter to Simone, and making plays coming forward is currently his strength. Range limitation is perhaps a bit limiting in the way it is with Johnson because Tautalatasi also isn't a loose-hipped speed merchant. But he has enough mobility to play the position without being a liability at this level and overall has the potential to a fairly solid player in the Pac-12. The spring was a step in the right direction to that end.Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential grade: 3
6. DeAndre Scott (sophomore) -- Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Scott is probably an inch or two shorter and certainly on the small side for the safety position. But don't think Scott is timid as a result of his lack of size. He's a hard-charging thumper of a player who fearlessly throws his body around. In fact, he actually needs to tone this down to some degree because he's at risk for delivering blows and not wrapping up in a way that enables contact without a tackle. Scott is a good special teams player and fills that role very passionately, so he has value. Odds are he'll be a reserve defensive back moving forward. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential grade: 2.5
Preparedness/Potential Grade Key
5: All-American level performer4: First/second team all-league level performer 3: Mid-level Pac-12 performer 2: Fringe Pac-12 performer 1: Non-Pac-12 level performer
Editor's Note: Players are ranked in terms of overall current preparedness and not based on potential.