As Arizona State entered its 2016 season it appeared set at inside linebacker for the next two years but injuries, suspensions and shaky play -- particularly against the pass -- put the unit under a microscope.
Seniors Salamo Fiso and reserve Carlos Mendoza have exhausted their eligibility and are moving on from the program. Junior Christian Sam was injured in the first game of the year and never returned. He is expected to be back and starting in 2017, with ASU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson suggesting the loss really limited the defense in some respects. Junior D.J. Calhoun started all year but struggled at times in space with coverage and tackling and may need to show progress to remain an every down player.
Koron Crump moved between Devil backer and inside linebacker as his first season at ASU unfolded. With Doug Subtyl expected on campus in January, Crump could be moved to inside linebacker for the 2017 season as one potential option. There should be healthy competition for starting spots and a lot of options for the ASU staff.
Khaylan Thomas and Malik Lawal will be third-year sophomores next year. Both have a chance to be starters down the road. Thomas was recovering from a meniscus surgery during the season, while Lawal has bounced between inside linebacker and Devil backer and is somewhat similar to Crump.
ASU is expected to host four-star prospect Thomas Johnston in January. He is from Alabama and is being recruited by offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Junior Gary Johnson, the No. 3 overall junior college recruit, is an elite prospect who has a lot of suitors and already officially visited Tempe. Hawaii based Isaac Slade Matautia is considering an ASU official visit but it appears the Sun Devils are longshot contenders heading down the stretch of the recruiting season.
The Sun Devils can really use a junior college addition to give it more options with its defensive front seven, and at least one incoming freshman to develop.