Eve Craig/SunDevilSource

Arizona State priority recruiting targets: Defensive Line

After losing just one starter and one backup from last year's team, Arizona State has a good core nucleus of defensive linemen returning and has already added to that group.

Arizona State will have some interesting options to explore with its defensive front in 2017. This spring should allow it to do so. 

Joseph Wicker will be a junior and could continue to start at the defensive end position he's held down the last couple seasons. But Wicker was initially recruited to play tackle, and specifically the 3-technique position that Tashon Smallwood has been a mainstay starter at. Smallwood doesn't have the frame to move to nose tackle following the departure of start Viliami Latu, but has played some defensive end when the Sun Devils have gone to a heavier defensive front.

Sophomore George Lea and junior Renell Wren played in the rotation for the Sun Devils in 2016 and each player can shift between nose tackle and the 3-technique spot, but both are better suited to play over the football at the nose position in the roll that Latu filled. ASU lost just one player who saw action last year besides the starter Latu, and that's backup end Edmund Boateng. 

With ASU's re-signing of Doug Subtyl as an early enrollment for this spring semester and the return of sacks leader Koron Crump at Devil backer, there should be more pass rush options along the front. Subtyl projects as an every down Devil backer prospect at 260 pounds, but with the emergence of Crump at Devil this year, the Sun Devils may decide they want both on the field as much as possible.

One way they could accomplish all of this without moving Smallwood would be sliding Subtyl to defensive end and bumping Wicker inside to the nose tackle position. Wicker has the frame to add the weight to play the position, but it would likely require a 20 pound increase, give or take, this offseason.

A starting front four of Wicker, Smallwood, Subtyl and Crump could become ASU's best pass rush unit since the days of Will Sutton and Carl Bradford early in the Todd Graham-era. It would also allow Lea and Wren to come off the bench as rotational defensive linemen to keep the overall group fresher. 

This assumes Subtyl is ready to go and the Sun Devils are willing to be that light up front. There are other possibilities of course, including Crump playing WILL linebacker or even perhaps Spur -- though the latter seems unlikely. 

Beyond Smallwood, Wicker, Lea and Wren, there's not a lot of athletic size. Christian Hill will be a senior next year and spent more time at tight end this year than on defense. He arrived to ASU as a raw but athletic talent who has the size to play inside. Jalen Bates has added good weight but didn't get into the rotation as a redshirt freshman. He suffered a serious knee injury and will miss spring football. 

Others, specifically senior Corey Smith and junior Emanuel Dayries, are deeper depth options. 

ASU picked up an early enrollee just before the Christmas holiday when Mesa Desert Ridge High product D.J. Davidson committed to the program. Davidson was in the 2016 class but didn't immediately qualify, leading to Central Florida going elsewhere with the scholarship. Davidson persisted and qualified this month for enrollment in January. He's 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds and will play the nose tackle position. 

The Sun Devils could use another couple young big-bodied players here to develop for the future but it may be hard to come by given their current portfolio of options. 

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