‘J-Shy' Anything But Reserved For Oregon Game

The ASU safeties have been a big reason for the overall improvement in the Sun Devils' defense this year. While Riccardo Stewart and Al Williams have been grabbing the much of the spotlight, fellow safety Jason Shivers is quietly having another solid season. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, we talked to the current season's leading tackler about the year he and the defense are having, and his thoughts about the upcoming game in Eugene.

The sophomore who was one of the best players coming out of the Phoenix area high schools in 2001, is on a mission to repeat his surprising success from last season, where he lead the team in tackles. Against Oregon State, Shivers co-lead all ASU defenders with seven tackles, to go along with three pass breakups and a forced fumble. This effort awarded him a game ball, and he thinks it's indicative of his recent play. "I think my season is really starting to pick up, and I think it will snowball from here. I'm really feeling good about the way I'm playing, and they way the defense is playing."

Most College Football coaches will tell you that the most noticeable improvement in a player occurs between his first and second year. In the free safety's case that rings true, since he's on pace to break his 89 total tackles mark from last season. Shivers mentions the mental aspect as the biggest cause for this positive trend. "I had to learn to bounce back quicker from mistakes, and not beat up on myself like last year. This year, I just refocus and come back for the next play. That has been a key thing for me." Last week's game ASU featured the traditional 4-3-4 defensive alignment, which is a deviation from the 4-2-5 scheme that has been employed ever since last season. This adjustment probably should have been tougher on Shivers, who never played at this level in the more traditional system, which employs two safeties instead of three. However, the former South Mountain high school standout took this adjustment in stride. "It was just like playing a 4-2-5. I'm just out there playing defense. Your reads and plays are the same - it's just like high school." One reason for that defensive wrinkle in ASU's game plan was the absence of injured safety Riccardo Stewart. The sophomore hopes Stewart's absence is a short-lived one. "Me and Al held up pretty good, but it's good to know that we may have him back this week. I miss having my buddy out there talking crazy (smile). With all three of us on the field, it just feels comfortable."

With extremely thin depth at cornerback, the speedy Shivers has been rumored earlier this season to possibly undertake a role change from his current position. For now, fellow safety Brett Hudson has been the one changing roles, and ASU's leading tackler is more than content with that situation "I don't know if I'll make that move - maybe so maybe not. Brett (Hudson) is doing a good job going back and forth (between positions), and we don't need too many people doing that. We need everybody to be stable right now. Brett is doing such a great job, that I don't have to worry about it or say anything about it. As long as Brett keeps on playing well, the more power to him." If the free safety were to ever make that move, he agrees that he may want to work on his interception skills (currently he has no interceptions). Shivers has taken quite the ribbing from coaches not capitalizing on his chances and registering some picks to his name. "I did let a few slip away (smile). Last week I had one knocked out of my hands. But as long as I practice hard on that, and get my pass breakups (he's second on the team with eight) – I know I will pick one and take it to the house (smile)."

Playing such an explosive and balanced attack like Oregon's doesn't create any feelings of apprehension in the Shivers' mind. "It's just another Pac-10 game. Last year I had a great game up there, and this year I'm looking forward to having another big game. They like to score on big plays, and that's what we have to work in practice to prevent. I think we'll get that accomplished because we're rolling in with confidence being 2-0 in the Pac-10. Winning there would be great. I'm ready to go up to Oregon. I know we can go up there and shock them." The word surprise has been synonymous with all of Shivers' feats last year, so why not add another one…?

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