Flexibility and Humility Fuel Verdon's Success

With the spotlight shinning brighter than ever on his defensive line cohort Terrell Suggs, no one could blame Jimmy Verdon for feeling slighted. The recipient of one of the Washington game balls on defense tends to see only positives in this situation. Furthermore, he knows that Suggs' accomplishments this year have done nothing but help himself have his best year as a Sun Devil.

As the fifth leading tackler on the team, suffice to say that Verdon is making the most of his starter's status. He acknowledges the transformation he went through since last season. "My strength and speed have improved from last year. I know how to use my physical abilities when I rush the passer. I have more awareness than before. I just feel I'm doing a better job over all with my skills. As a starter I have to know a lot more because I have more responsibilities now. The sophomore is part of an emerging defensive unit, which came into the season with several question marks. The defensive end says that the difference in this year's line compared to last year's is quite simple. "As a defensive line all of us run the ball more this year. Last year it was like we were stuck in blocks. We're just hungrier, and we just chase the ball down. We're just a better group as a unit running down the ball."

The undisputed leader of this resurgent defensive line is Terrell Suggs. With the phenomenal year he is having, it would be easy for Verdon, having a fine season of his own; to feel slighted by the media. However the sophomore tends to seek the positives in this situation. "Terrell deserves all the credit he gets, and we're very happy for him. We were real happy that he tied the record last week, but we all know he will shatter the record. We know we get recognized too when we play well." Naturally, the extra attention Suggs commands on the field, does nothing but help Verdon, who's second on the team in sacks with four. "His play makes me better. We're both helping out each other when we rush the passer. When team single up on him, he can make a play. When they double up on him, I know I have to make a play. No doubt he helps me get loose a lot."

One would be hard pressed to find a player on the Sun Devils' roster who went through more transformations than Verdon. When you hear his story, it's almost hard the fathom the success he's having at defensive end these days. "In high school we had a lot of talented players, and I could play a lot of different positions. I played defensive back, and even kicker. When I came to ASU I was like 250, so I went ahead and played linebacker. After a few games, I hurt my back squatting and I couldn't practice until the spring. So, I gained a lot of weight (smile). Then (defensive line) Coach Monachino came in, and I liked the way he coached. I told him I wanted to play defensive end, and he was real happy about it." Now that he's' playing defensive end, he doesn't plan to switch positions anytime soon. "I like the position because you're closer to the ball, and you attack more. You don't just sit back and wait. I play defensive tackle in our cobra package, but I like playing defensive end better."

When you switch positions as often as Verdon has, having good luck is a pre-requisite for success. During Camp Tontozona, the defensive end was feverishly battling Brian Montesanto for a starting position. A position move initiated by the coaches helped both players establish themselves as first teamers. "It was hard battling Montesanto for the starting defensive end position. I was relived when he got moved to defensive tackle, but I also knew there was pressure on me because I had Nick Johnson and Ricky Parker back there. I knew that if I didn't perform the position would be up for grabs. Brian really pushed me to play better, even after he moved to defensive tackle."

Verdon is one of a handful of Bruce Snyder defensive recruits that are making a noticeable impact under Coach Koetter. The defensive end talks about the transition between both reigns. "Honestly, I liked Coach Snyder and his staff. But when Coach Koetter came in, I clicked real easy with him and the other coaches. I knew I came here to play ball, and that's what I was gonna do. It was just one of those things where you just have to put everything aside, and focus on playing well." Speaking of focus, he claims that the recent success the team is enjoying breeds self-assurance, not complacency. "With all the stuff that the players have been through last year, we can't be cocky. We probably don't know how to be cocky (smile). We're being confident because everybody is playing together. We just go out there and play hard. There's a difference between being confident and cocky. We're just confident."

Up next for Verdon and his teammates is a showdown at Pullman for first place in the conference. Naturally, emotions are running high for the sophomore. "I'm ready to go up there and play them. I have a friend (safety Hamza Abdullah) up there that I was talking to. We were complimenting each other saying ‘you guys are looking good'. But we also told each other that we were ready to play. I know it's gonna be a good game." Jimmy Verdon is undoubtedly one of those Sun Devils that is helping his team "look good." He's emerged as a threat on the line of scrimmage that doesn't always need a double team on Suggs to excel. His journey to success may force him to be humble, but that notion hasn't detracted from his accomplishments so far, and those that are yet to come.

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