Vasquez, Defense Ready to Step Up

For defensive end Luis Vasquez it has been a long and difficult journey to get where he is now. Vasquez originally signed with Purdue out of high school, but transferred after one year to Arizona Western College where he became one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the junior college ranks. Now with only year left of college football, the senior is feeling a bit of a sense of urgency.

"There is (a sense of urgency). I wasted a lot of time trying to get back to division one so this is my final shot," said Vasquez.

Vasquez came to Arizona State with great expectations and even earned a starting spot on opening day of the 2007 season. However, he had a relatively slow start thanks in large part to an ankle injury early in season. It was only a matter of time before the talented defensive end exploded onto the scene and the second half of the season he did just that. He capped off 2007 with a solid performance against Texas in the Holiday Bowl recording five tackles and a sack, one of the few Sun Devils to perform well in that game.

"That high ankle sprain during fall camp slowed me down a little bit. I was probably too aggressive trying to get on the field faster than I probably should have," admitted Vasquez. "I took it all in stride. I got better as the season progressed and right now I feel like I'm on top of my game."

The defense has been following the defensive end's lead so far this summer and is looking better than any other defense Sun Devil fans have seen in a while. Vasquez expressed confidence in the defense but believes there is still room for improvement.

"I think defensively as a whole we've progressed a lot since spring ball really," he said. "We had a lot to build on coming off of a 10-3 season. We knew we had a lot of talent coming back. Individually I feel I can still get better. You can always get better. But I think I'm a spot where I put myself in a good situation to perform well this season."

A big reason why the defense has turned things around the past couple years is the defensive end playing opposite of Vasquez, Dexter Davis. The junior from Phoenix has progressed steadily in his first two years donning the maroon and gold and led the team in sacks in 2007. He has started every game since his freshman season and has been playing well all camp.

"(Dexter Davis) is a key to this season," Vasquez stated. "He's a top playmaker who had a lot of sacks last year. We're hoping he has a lot more this year. I follow his work ethic. He works real hard both on and off the field and we feed off of each other."

Vasquez also believes that some of the younger players on the defensive line will be instrumental in the success of the Sun Devils' defense.

"James (Brooks) is going to be huge this year," Vasquez stated. "He really is just a freak of nature. Long arms, long legs, once he learns how to get and stay low he's going to be great. Lawrence (Guy) is pretty new to the system but he is a quick learner. He learned a lot already that takes most guys a while to pick up."

Vasquez was also quick to point out how important the Sun Devil coaches have been to him ever since they started recruiting him back in 2006.

"(Defensive Line Coach Grady Stretz) has helped me a lot," said Vasquez. "He helped me a lot since recruiting actually. He has been on top of me, helping me to improve. Coach Erickson is a guy I really look up to as far as what he brings to the game and how he approaches it. They're both good mentors."

With the 2008 season about a week away Vasquez claims that, like always, it is time for the defense to rise to the occasion.

"I think the defense always has to step their game up," he claimed. "Offense puts points on the board but if the other team can't score any points you're still going to win. The offense always wants to think (the game) rests on their shoulders but when it comes down to it, it's on (the defenses) shoulders."

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