Arizona State junior safety Marcus Ball isn't afraid of delivering big-time hits on the field. In fact, it's a mentality that has been unchanged since his high school years as a quarterback out of Westerville, Ohio.
"It's funny because I played quarterback in high school," Ball said. "It's what I thought wanted to do, but I was always the quarterback who handed the ball off to my running back and was downfield trying to block for him, trying to hit. That's what I like to do. I'm a hitter, but got to keep it under control sometimes."
This season, with his chance to start multiple games at multiple positions, Ball has been showcasing his physicality and is taking advantage of his time on the field.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound player made his first career start at Bandit safety against UCLA Saturday night after four other ASU players played bandit safety in ASU's 41-20 loss to USC at the Coliseum on Oct. 1. Ball's performance earned high praises from ASU head coach Todd Graham, with Graham saying Ball "balled out" and he was proud of the junior for his improved efforts, especially in tackling.
"Great opportunity coach Graham gave me," Ball said. "Played Bandit safety this past week, just trying to re-train my focus to safety, because you got to take on a different mentality at safety. It's not all about getting those big hits that I like to do."
Ball was ejected for targeting in the third quarter of ASU's 44-13 win over Northern Arizona on Sept. 3. With the penalty, Ball also had to miss the first half of ASU's game against Texas Tech the following week.
"Unfortunately that was the first targeting we ever got here, so it sucks I got the first one," Ball said. "Coach Graham actually did an awesome job of teaching me and coaching me up after you got the targeting."
Ball said he hasn't changed his approach to tackling since the penalty, and he didn't want to be scared of going in for tackles because, "if you are scared, nine times out of ten you are going to miss."
Ball said his favorite part about tackling is when, "you hit a guy and you look at him and you say nothing to him, but he just knows that you lit him up."
Ball was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for the first time in his collegiate career. Ball recored a career-high 10 tackles in ASU's win over UCLA.
“That’s kind of what I expect my guys to do I’m glad that if they see that if they go out and play hard and physical for 60 minutes you get those accolades that everyone wants," ASU secondary coach T.J. Rushing said.
Ball had a key interception which he returned for 22 yards in the third quarter that set up senior kicker Zane Gonzalez for his NCAA record-setting 89th career field goal.
“We knew what he could do and it was all about him being healthy and getting back on the grass," Rushing said.
Ball has had an injury-prone career with ASU, breaking his collarbone as a freshman and missing other time throughout his career with various ailments. Despite the injuries, Ball said it gave him time to really study the game and improve his knowledge.
"I tried to learn as much as I could my freshman year from guys like Alden Darby back when he played, Taylor Kelly," Ball said. "I even sat in rooms with Taylor Kelly trying to learn how quarterbacks think and stuff."