Player Capsule: Joseph Wicker
Position: Defensive End
Weight: 270 pounds
2015 season quick review: As a true freshman Wicker became a starter at defensive end and totaled 21 tackles, 7.5 of which were for loss with four sacks (tied for fourth on the team) and two forced fumbles (tied for team lead). Wicker was named a third-team Freshman All-American by Athlon, and honorable mention All-American by College Football News.
ASU head coach Todd Graham's take: "He's a gifted player. Very gifted. As he matures and gets stronger -- and we found last year as the season wore on and he got more of a mastery or more of a knowledge of what we're doing, he got better and better and better. Look for him to be a catalyst up front for us. Probably right now one of our best pass rushers."
ASU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson's take: “Boy he (Wicker) has got a good upside. He’s had a good spring and the thing I like about him is the work ethic that he brings to practice every day. I mean, he just comes everyday and he’s one of the most hard-working guys on our team.”
SunDevilSource.com analysis (06/2016): When Wicker initially signed with the Sun Devils out of Long Beach Poly he was viewed as a 3-technique tackle by Graham and the ASU staff even though Wicker moved all around the line in high school. It appeared Wicker could be in line to be the Will Sutton-like player that the Sun Devils haven't had since the two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year left the program. But solid play from Tashon Smallwood at the position and promising hints of future success from George Lea, coupled with personnel questions at end led the Sun Devils to use Wicker at end, and it proved to be a good decision for the team.
Wicker has a versatile body type, which ASU has taken advantage of. He's streamlined his physique significantly in recent months and as a result was lighter and quicker in spring football than we've seen previously. There's little doubt at this time that Wicker is the Sun Devils' best pass rusher from a 3-point stance, and probably its best overall pass rusher regardless of position.
He has an explosive three step get off that allows him to exploit the edge against offensive tackles who struggle to manage his range and Wicker leverages this with rapidly developing skill. He started to display an inside spin counter that is quick and hard for linemen to check. Wicker also uses his extended arms very functionally as a pass rusher. He's proficient at attacking the arms of offensive tackles to prevent them from locating their hands on him properly. As these moves continue to become more refined he's going to be very difficult for most college teams to manage in space. Wicker's also showed improvement at run recognition and making in-rep adjustments, and using his feet better in this regard. He's one of ASU's best overall prospects and will likely be one of its best players in 2016 even though he'll only be a sophomore.
Projected depth chart status: As much as anyone on the ASU defense, Wicker is locked into a starting position. He, along with fellow defensive linemen Tashon Smallwood and Ami Latu, linebackers Salamo Fiso, Christian Sam and D.J. Calhoun, and defensive backs Armand Perry and Kareem Orr, form the Sun Devils' defensive nucleus. Wicker is the team's best edge pass rusher and one of its best overall young players.