Player Capsule: Salamo Fiso
Position: SAM (field side linebacker)
Weight: 250 pounds
2015 season quick review: Fiso led the entire Pac-12 last season in solo tackles with 78 in 13 games and also finished fifth overall in total tackles. He earned honorable mention all-conference honors. He led the Sun Devils in total tackles and finished second in tackles for loss with 20.0, and also third in sacks with 4.5.
2014 season quick review: Fiso finished fourth on the ASU defense with 83 tackles including 11 for loss, which was second most on the roster. He also had 3.5 sacks and one interception and was named an honorable mention all-Pac-12 selection. Against Duke in the Sun Bowl Fiso had a season high 12 tackles.
Co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take (before spring football) on Fiso: I've challenged him going into his final season. You took a step forward, I'll give you that, got beat up toward the end of the season. On the same hand, I don't want the same Salamo we had the first three years. We want the best version of Salamo, so I've challenged him in some ways that he can raise and elevate his game. To continue to improve your approach in the way you train. He's 250 pounds. I'm saying, I want you to continue to improve in understanding pass concepts and not just being a run stopper. Reading plays, studying, knowing what's coming. Sometimes he just gets out there and drifts a bit against the pass in zone coverage, ho-hum. I want him to have the same sense of urgency when we're pressuring and stopping the run in pass coverage. If he does that he'll become a better and more complete player."
SunDevilSource.com analysis (05/2016) Fiso enters the 2016 season as one of Arizona State's most established and experienced players and one of the Pac-12's best inside linebackers, particular as it relates to stopping the run. There's no question that Fiso has great patience and play diagnostic skills at this stage of his college career, and he lives for blowing up interior run lanes either violently attacking would-be lead blockers in the gap or heat seeking the running back. He has a good understanding of play concepts and when and how to be most disruptive operating between the tackles.
We've seen annual progress with Fiso's consistency of effort and focus, which had lapsed at times in the past when he was asked to do things he probably isn't as well suited to do nor enjoys as much, particularly managing zone coverage drops or chasing the full width of the field. By showing improvement in these areas Fiso has rounded out his game quite a bit in a way that helps make it easier to see how he'd translate to the NFL level after the 2016 season. He's going to warrant serious draft consideration as a MIKE linebacker in 4-3 schemes as an inside backer in 3-4 defenses. If he's able to continue to progress as much this year as he did in 2015 he should be a first or second-team all-league player.
(03/2015) It's become clear in his year and a half as a starter that Fiso is at his best when playing against pro-style offenses and other teams that like to run the ball downhill as the bread and butter of their ground game. Fiso tends to be especially dialed in against run-first teams that like playing the game tightly in the box and are less likely to try to misdirect linebackers with false action. Fiso loves going up against these types of offenses and is ideally suited to be a read and react gap stuffer. He is relatively quick to the hole against the run and squares up backs well and is a physical and sure tackler in such situations.
Stretch zone runs and teams that employ option pitches and alert backs can at times frustrate and induce a loss of focus and/or intensity in Fiso and he has to continue to work on operating at maximum capacity against these types of offenses. His sideline to sideline range isn't great but it is better than he has at times exhibited against offenses that use the full width of the field in the run game. Similarly, Fiso will have to continue to work on sustaining his motor and disposition against this types of run teams.
Fiso hasn't done particularly well on passing downs and has at times even been a liability in this regard due to a tendency to not get into his drops as aggressively as he needs to, or focus in on where he needs to be on the field in such situations based on reading and feeling the action around and behind him. There have been a number of times he could have been in position to make a play against a pass attempt over the middle third but was just a bit out of place due for one reason or another. As a result, Fiso is more of a base down player at this time and will need to show improvement in these areas in order to be used on nickel downs.
Projected depth chart status: One of ASU's best overall players and a multi-year returning starter, Fiso is going to be on the field for all base downs so long as he's healthy. He's an essential player in ASU's interior run stopping capability and is responsible for all the on field calls and adjustments. On passing downs Fiso may come off sometimes in favorite of a lighter nickel grouping.