Calhoun enjoying Devil backer work

D.J. Calhoun has gained 30 pounds and looks much more the part of a linebacker in camp this year. Now he's getting a look at Devil backer for the first time.

It looks like someone different is wearing the No. 3 white defensive practice jersey at Arizona State's preseason camp this year, but nope, it's the same guy.

Linebacker D.J. Calhoun, a four-star signee in the 2014 class out of El Cerrito, California, lied on high school highlight film, listing his weight as 215 pounds. He was really 189 pounds and looked more like a safety.

Now, Calhoun is listed at 220 pounds, and he he said it's accurate. He's gained 30 pounds in the last year, a change that serves the physical bull of a 6-foot-0 linebacker quite well.

The physical changes are obvious but Calhoun thinks his biggest improvement going into his sophomore season has been his approach to the game off the field.

"Really my mindset (is different)," Calhoun said. "Last year I didn't watch so much film. This year, coaches have talked to me and everything, all the potential I have. Ever since I've been watching film, it's all natural. Because I'm a real natural player, and once you watch film, you see everything, so you just go attack it."

Calhoun started six games last season and had 35 tackles, splitting his time between WILL and Spur. But with senior Antonio Longino returning and playing well at WILL and junior Laiu Moeakiola a returning stater at Spur, ASU coaches have taken a look at using Calhoun's attack mentality at the Devil backer position.

"We put him at the Devil spot, that outside spot and he's looked really good," ASU coach Todd Graham said Monday." We're just trying to get our best 11 on the field."

Calhoun's happy to be doing it.

"To be honest, I like Devil (best), it's fun," Calhoun said. "You get to blitz every time, around the line of scrimmage, the trenches where it gets down and dirty, so I love it. "The last three days I've been paying WILL, Spur and Devil. WILL, that's where I'm naturally at. Then coach Graham wanted me to try Spur, so I was good at that. Then he said, 'I want you to rush off the edge as well,' so he put me down at Devil. Yesterday I just did whatever I had to do to get to the quarterback and running back and that's what I did."

Graham said the Sun Devils will use junior Edmund Boateng as more of a defensive end type Devil in a four-down lineman base package. When when he wants a pure and physical attacker to rush the quarterback, Calhoun is an option out of a 2-point stance. Sophomore running back Kalen Ballage has also been tinkered with in the role, and redshirt freshman Ismael Murphy-Richardson has a lot of potential but is still developing.

For Calhoun, it's about whatever he can do to get on the field and serve the team.

"My goal is just to play for the seniors. Its their year, it's not my year," he said. "I have to do whatever I can to help them out. If it's personal goals, just try to be the best linebacker possible, win the Butkus Award, whatever. But that's not my main goal, it's to help the seniors and try to win a National Championship."

Perry gets first-team look

Even though sophomore James Johnson returned to the practice field in full a day after leaving practice early with a shoulder issue, sophomore Armand Perry took the first-team reps at the field safety position.

Johnson, who got hurt while playing the Spur position, where he is competing for the No. 2 spot behind Moeakiola, worked with the second-team at Bandit Monday.

"Damarious went to play corner in the league, so our [field] safety has to have cover skills," Graham said. "Armand has got to become more of a quarterback verbally, but a phenomenal athlete and has looked really good there.

"You've got to have a lot of cover-ability because of our scheme and what we do."

The way ASU likes to frequently blitz, it leaves its field safety in man coverage with no help. Junior running back De'Chavon Hayes showed how tough of an assignment that can be Monday when he beat Perry on a deep post for a touchdown.

Having enough speed on the back end of the defense is something ASU coaches are closing monitoring in camp as they try to put a unit on the field that yields fewer explosive plays.

"Damarious went to play corner in the league, so our free safety has to have cover skills. Armand has got to become more of a quarterback verbally, but a phenomenal athlete and has looked really good there."

Notes

  • Sophomore tight end Grant Martinez suffered a left ankle sprain and was in a walking boot and crutches during the Monday evening practice.

  • Four-star freshman running back Jason Lewis has been certified by the NCAA Clearinghouse and should start practicing as soon as Tuesday according to Graham.

  • Senior offensive lineman Christian Westerman was in a green non-contact jersey for an undisclosed injury and didn't practice. Junior Stephon McCray took his spot with the first-team at left guard.

  • Senior linebacker Antonio Longino traded his Pat Tillman practice jersey for a green non-contact injury for an unknown reason.

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