Player Capsule: George Lea
Position: Defensive Tackle
Eligibility: Redshirt Freshman
Weight: 285 pounds
2015 season quick review: Lea was suspended and forced to redshirt after being arrested for an on-campus incident involving a BB gun and teammates. Prior to that happening he was expected, according to program sources, to play a role for the Sun Devils as a true freshman in the defensive line rotation.
SunDevilSource.com analysis (06/2016): Had Lea been able to play last season it's likely he would have carved out some type of role in the rotation because as a mid-year enrollee he'd gotten a jump on the learning curve and made a very positive impression prior to getting suspended. There was even some whispering behind the scenes that Lea could have challenged Tashon Smallwood for the starting 3-technique tackle position.
Lea and Smallwood have similarly quick, active feet and Lea has a little bigger frame and is a little more stout with impressive functional strength. As a result, he's a very good football prospect even though he's less experienced than Smallwood, which is a major factor in determining playing time. Smallwood also is at this point an unquestioned team leader who has the work ethic and overall buy in to self-improvement and team orientation, which is confidence inducing with coaches. Coming off a suspension, Lea has to demonstrate those things in order to put himself in position to take full advantage of his ample athletic gifts.
It's quite possible Lea has the best combination of pass rush potential and run stopping of all the ASU defensive tackles on the roster. He's got a powerful lower half with a stocky, low center of gravity for his height. He plays with impressive leverage and is difficult to dislodge or move off of his spot in run lanes in 50/50 situations after the snap. He may be the best defensive tackle on the roster at sitting into and eating double teams at the point of attack.
Lea also has the ability to exploit a gap with his low pad level and quick get off, which really enhances his versatility. For someone with four years of remaining eligibility, he's a very good college football prospect, and one who said he's really embraced playing for first-year line coach Joe Seumalo. It fits his personality type more than former line coach Jackie Shipp, and we'll see in time how that manifests.
Projected depth chart status: At this juncture we wouldn't be surprised to see a three-tackle rotation with Lea being able to spell Tashon Smallwood at the 3-technique position and also Viliami Latu at the 1-technique tackle spot. Lea has the versatility to be able to play either spot and thus, alongside both players. We do expect he's going to get a lot of action this season. A bigger question is whether another ASU defensive tackle, perhaps Renell Wren, will be able to make it a four-tackle rotation and allow Latu and Smallwood to come off the field at the same time and play even fewer reps to keep both as fresh as possible.