Becoming more athletic on the back end of the of defense is something we have talked about Arizona State needing to accomplish for several years and its failure to do so manifested as one of the worst pass defenses in the country the last two seasons.
The Sun Devils lose three cornerbacks of its 2016 roster, De'Chavon Hayes, Bryson Echols and Eric Lauderdale. Only Hayes played a significant role at the position. It does not lose any of the current options at field safety. Even so, these positions are far from replete with talent.
At cornerback, Kareem Orr will be a junior and is the only player ASU can look to as a sure-fire starter out of its current group. 2016 junior college transfer Maurice Chandler was splitting time with Hayes this year and is probably the early leader to start opposite of Orr next year.
Freshman Robbie Robinson saw time early in the year as a nickel down player but his reps were few and far between as the season wore on. 2016 signee Chase Lucas redshirted and figures to compete at cornerback or field safety next season, with a chance to become a starter.
J’Marcus Rhodes was a highly touted junior college transfer last year. He mainly played safety and started at bandit safety but did not perform to expectations. He most likely will remain at safety but could move back to cornerback.
At field safety, returning starter Armand Perry will be a junior next year. He may be more ideally suited to start at Bandit or even Spur, but it remains to be seen if ASU has the personnel to enable the move, or even if it wants to do so. Perry is good making plays in front of him.
Currently ASU only has one commit at cornerback/field safety, with a goal of adding at least a few players into the fold. Four-star prospect Alex Perry, the younger brother of Armand, recommitted to the program in December. He has a chance to play immediately at cornerback.
The Sun Devils are in the mix for multiple other high profile defensive backs and have done a good job being involved with a lot of top reruits. Junior college cornerback Jhavonte Dean officially visited in December. He is considered a soft commit to Alabama but because of SEC academic requirements is looking at ASU and Miami.
Four-star prospect Greg Johnson had been committed to Arizona for months before opening things back up recently. He is planning an ASU visit in January. Utah commit Jaylon Johnson is considering an ASU visit as is Oklahoma commit Tre Brown. Louisiana recruit Brad Stewart and Texas defensive back Tyon Merchant are scheduled to visit ASU on Jan. 13, in what's shaping up as a huge recruiting weekend.
The Sun Devils are looking to add at least two more commits from this group to its class. It is arguably the most important area for ASU this cycle and if ASU misses on its remaining targets expect more names to emerge.