Iowa Has ASU's Defense Thinking Run First

Although the Sun Devils play in one the most pass dominant conferences, defensive coordinator Brent Guy says that ASU's 4-2-5 alignment is geared to stop the run. This week, Guy's unit will be put to its biggest test of the season. The coach and defensive end Jimmy Verdon talk about facing the Hawkeyes on Saturday.

Coach Guy was very pleased with the way his defense played against Utah State, but knows that the contest that lies ahead, will a true barometer of his group's progress. "This is a big week for all of us on defense," says Guy. "We're gonna see some big bodies running at us. This is a running team, and we'll be challenged to stop the run. And that's always our first goal. They have very good running backs, and we're gonna be challenged in the box."

The ASU defensive coordinator exclaims that it's not just Iowa's run ability that poses a challenge to the Sun Devil defenders, but its commitment as well. "They're gonna line up and just run the ball at you," says Guy. "And then they'll keep on lining up and run the ball at you. They stick to the scheme. Unlike Utah State that had shifts and motions every snap, we're not gonna see a lot of that. I think the discipline of their program, not turning the ball over, special teams…they just play physical football and that's the most impressive thing to watch."

Last season some would argue that aside from Terrell Suggs, ASU's front four was one the weakest units on the team. How does Guy view this group thus far this season? "We have a lot of guys that played a lot of snaps from last year, so we do have experience. But you have to say that the strength of it (the defense) is the secondary." Guy continues and says that the defensive line hasn't lost its ability to get to the quarterback with the departure of Suggs, and that was evident in the seven sacks it had against the Aggies on Saturday.

Three of those sacks were credited to the defensive MVP of last game – defensive end Jimmy Verdon. Against Utah State the junior had a career day with nine tackles. "I feel real good about how we played last weekend," he says. "We looked a lot faster, and played a lot more aggressive." As skeptical as he may have been, he said that Guy did predict for him a breakout game. "Coach Guy told me last week in practice, that if I keep on practicing the way I am, I'm gonna have a good game. Sometimes you think coaches just tell you stuff like that because they're coaches (smile). But it worked." Verdon adds that he was more relaxed in the Utah State game, which heavily contributed to his success.

When asked about the 2003 version of the defensive line, and how it had changed from last year, Verdon cites the veterans up front. "We had a big playmaker in Terrell," he says. "But this year we have more experience on the line. So, I don't think the defensive line really changed." He acknowledges the fact that his group was slow to get out of the gates, and that he is: "Glad we're playing Iowa week three, and not week one like when we played Nebraska. The defensive line is playing better, and now myself and everybody else have to step up this year. We have to make more plays."

Verdon knows that the moment of truth in this young 2003 campaign will come on Saturday. "Iowa is a real good team, and they'll be a good test on both offense and defense. They have some playmakers and we do too. So let's line them up and see how it's gonna go down." This pass rusher extraordinaire realizes that that his role could be different this week, but then again it's part of the grand scheme. "Last week we knew we had to stop the pass, and this week we have to stop the run. I have to worry the most about stopping the run. When we stop the run, they gotta pass and then I'll get my chances to rush the quarterback."

Overall, Verdon likes the fact that he and the front four have rose to the occasion last week, but he doesn't come close to resting on his laurels. "Coach Koetter told us we had to step up and we did, so they were happy. We produced but we still have a lot of stuff to make up. In the second half we made some errors and we have to correct those. It's all about doing better. If we get better this week, we'll be fine."

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