Bray Happy, Yet Not Content with Defense

There would be no days off for ASU Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray during the bye week. He watched intently the Cal-UCLA match up, getting ready for the Sun Devils' next opponent. When the maroon and gold host Cal this week, Bray expects to contend with the best offense ASU has faced this year.

"Cal is extremely good and a team that should be undefeated," said Bray. "If you're that good, you're good and they have played some good teams."

The conference's in-season stats, which have the Arizona State defense is the upper echelon more often than not, doesn't faze Bray: "We'll see how it looks after 12 (games)," he remarked. Nonetheless, Bray doesn't say that to diminish the accomplishments of the defense.

"Your expectations are always high and you're always disappointed in the things that you do wrong," he explained. "But I think the thing they have done is played hard, fought through the mistakes they've made, and they've made a fair number of plays themselves."

Less complexity in the defense is a notion that as been ingrained in the ASU defense ever since spring ball, and thus far appears to be an ingredient of success. "We just try to simplify the defense, so they know where they're going and don't have a lot of gap responsibilities," said Head Coach Dennis Erickson on the subject. "When you're not thinking you play a lot faster.

The old football cliché states that when it comes to a performance of a defense – ‘It all starts upfront.' Bray wouldn't argue with that statement, as he calls the Sun Devil defensive line the "cornerstone" of the defense's success. "They've done a great job of just playing hard, doing the job they got to do," he noted. "I can't say enough about them."

The pass rush aspect of the defensive line started out slow, but picked up nicely as the season went on. "We added Dane (Guthrie) into it and that gave us three quality ends that can come off the edge," said Bray. "Dexter Davis has done a great job. Luis messed up so many times, he could probably have five more sacks, but he gives a great effort and does a great job too. We're happy with him."

One pleasant surprise the last couple of games has been the play of linebacker of Mike Nixon. Consequently, Bray expects this reserve to see more and more playing time. "He does everything right. He's a guy that when he's in there he's in control, doesn't make mistakes, he gets people lined up and he's a guy that should be playing more," Bray stated. "Right now he starting at MIKE (middle linebacker), he'll play a little WILL (weak side linebacker) and he'll move around. With (Gerald) Munns back we have a little depth, but he's a guy that has to be in there."

Omar Bolden is starting to entrench himself as the starting cornerback opposite Justin Tryon. This is a role that the ASU coaches were looking to fill for several weeks now. "He's getting a lot of experiences. They're not good all the time (laughs), but he's a guy that they're gonna after and he has to rise up," said Bray.

Bray knows that the Golden Bears this week pose a dangerous challenge for his defense. What does he see as the keys for a successful outing? "Play good sound football and make plays. We need to keep them away from the big play," Bray replied. "If they make a big play, that really puts us in a bind. If they have to grind it out, we'll be able to make some plays."

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