Sophomore linebacker D.J. Calhoun should get a lot more opportunities to make plays in Arizona State's Cactus Bowl game against West Virginia Jan. 2.
According to multiple sources, starting Spur Laiu Moeakiola will not play in the game after having surgery last week to repair a shoulder injury that has bothered him since the Sun Devils beat Colorado on Sept. 13 of the 2014 season. Moeakiola played throughout this year battling the injury and had 38 tackles with 6.5 for loss including two sacks.
Calhoun has played primarily WILL linebacker on nickel downs for the Sun Devils this season, and still managed to collect 6.5 sacks, second most on the team. In light of Moeakiola's absence, Calhoun has shifted to Spur, where he's worked with the first-team in recent practices.
"Yes sir, supposed to be starting, hopefully," Calhoun said, when asked about the depth chart following ASU's Monday practice. "It is what it is, you know, I've got to do whatever to help the team. I like the position. I like WILL a little better because you're inside, hitting running backs and all that but it is what it is."
Last season, Calhoun started six games, bouncing between WILL and Spur, also when Moeakiola was injured. He was a Scout.com Freshman All-American, but faced a steep learning curve, particularly with handling the same types of coverage assignments he'll get in the bowl game.
It's an opportunity for Calhoun to show his growth as a base down player, something that's been clearly evident when he's been in the game with the nickel sub-package.
"Focus, read my keys, read what's going on at the line of scrimmage, watch to make sure I'm seeing what I'm supposed to be seeing," Calhoun said. "Without a doubt, my leverage, cover skills, all kinds of stuff (has improved). I think it's helped me a lot more and I'm much more prepared this season and am just going to continue with that. It's just natural, you get better the more you play, the more reps you get, the more film you watch, all of that."
Scout Team Bowl
ASU had its Scout Team bowl during Monday's practice, which was its final day of bowl preparations before a holiday break that concludes Dec. 26. According to ASU coach Todd Graham, the defense won a nail biter.
"They stopped them on a two-point play, so it was pretty entertaining," Graham said. "(Redshirt freshman Bandit safety) Coltin Gerhart was the MVP, so there were good signs there."
Graham also cited a handful of other freshmen as impressive, including wide receiver Terrell Chatman, tight end Tommy Hudson, offensive lineman Zach Robertson, running back Jason Lewis, defensive tackle George Lea and defensive end Jalen Bates.
Freshmen quarterbacks Bryce Perkins and Brady White each took about 25 snap, Graham said. Afterwards, White had to do interviews quickly because he had a flight to catch. ASU's players were heading home for Christmas.
"We talk about family all the time and how important that is," Graham said. "Giving them and having an opportunity to fly them all home and fly them all back because we're playing here, is a luxury you really only have by playing in your hometown, so that's something that's good."