2010 class defensive review

An evaluation of the 2010 class defensive players, Coach Erickson's comments on each player and expectations of each newcomer.

Defensive Line

Lee Adams (Corona, Calif./Centennial HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: A powerful, aggressive lineman, Adams is cut from the same mold of his former Centennial teammate and future ASU colleague William Sutton; a high-energy athlete with the ability to cause problems from a number of spots among the front four.

Rated by Scout.com as the No. 115 defensive end prospect in the nation, the 6-2, 255-pounder came on strong as a senior in 2009, totaling 93 tackles and five sacks on the year.

Erickson on Adams: "Lee Adams is a defensive lineman from Centennial High School. Obviously we have a few players from there. He is a guy that didn't play much as a junior. He played behind Sutton. As you watched him continue as a senior and grow physically, he became a heck of a football player. He can either be a defensive end or a tackle. I think he'll grow into a defensive tackle."

Adams on ASU: "I really like the family atmosphere there. Yeah, it helps to play again with my old teammates, and they really wanted me to come there and play with them. But I also had to go to a place where I feel comfortable at. When I went to see two of ASU's games I really liked the city and I knew it was a place I could live at for the next four years, and possibly live there after I graduate. I just knew I really wanted to play there."

Recruiting Battles: Adams also reported offers from UNLV and UTEP, however when offered by ASU he did not hesitate to be the latest installment of a three-year line of Centennial Huskies to make their way to Tempe.

Early Expectations for 2010: Expectations are unclear whether Adams will arrive to Tempe in the fall or utilize a greyshirt option for this season. If he does enroll in the fall, in all likelihood he will redshirt, especially if tackles such as Corey Adams and Jonathan English can return to full health from injuries suffered in 2009. Regardless when his ASU career begins, Adams has the makings of a player to make a significant mark, much like his Centennial brethren on the Sun Devil defense.

Jordan McDonald (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: The top defensive end in the state of Arizona from a prep powerhouse that has provided ASU with several recent scholarship athletes, McDonald enjoyed an excellent senior season, collecting 79 tackles and 14 sacks.

Likely a strong side defensive end once he physically matures into the position, McDonald was rated as the No. 63 defensive end prospect in the country by Scout.com and earned All-Arizona honors by The Arizona Republic after his stellar final year for the Sabercats.

Erickson on McDonald: "To me has a huge upside. He has good height and a good body. He is going to get bigger. He is a very good athlete. He is a guy that once you get him here for a couple years; he is going to be a very good football player. He could be a great football player. That is the one thing about where we're at. We don't have to play these guys right now."

McDonald on ASU: "I can see myself playing here. I like how their defensive line plays and I like their scheme. They talked about me playing either defensive end or rush end. It just depends on my weight and my speed."

Recruiting Battles: Though schools such as Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and New Mexico offered, it was Fresno State that provided an 11th-hour full court press on McDonald to rescind the commitment he made to ASU in mid-December. Largely aided by a chance to play in a stellar ASU defense and on the same squad of many of his former high school teammates and also pursue his academic field of choice, McDonald did not sway from his pledge to ASU.

Early Expectations for 2010: With ends such as James Brooks and Jamaar Jarrett providing experience to the strong side of the defensive line, it is unlikely that McDonald will be called into duty as a true freshman. He is an intriguing prospect as he has the frame to add 30-plus pounds without losing athleticism and he has a bright future on the Devil defensive line once he adapts to college football.

Nduka (Junior) Onyeali (Denver, Colo./Mullen HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: Undoubtedly the top high school defender to sign with ASU, ‘Junior' provides sensational strength and pass rush speed to the Sun Devil defense. The proprietor of 34 sacks during his final two seasons at Mullen High, Onyeali bench presses 435 pounds, squats over 500 and was rated as the No. 56 defensive end recruit in the country by Scout.com.

Able to play linebacker or defensive end, Onyeali likely will begin competing for time at weak side end for the Sun Devils, where a void in the starting lineup is left by the departure of four-year starter and First-Team All-Pac-10 member Dexter Davis.

Coach Erickson on Onyeali: "Junior is a defensive lineman and defensive end, linebacker from Denver. He just jumps out at you when you watch him play. He had got a chance to play for us next year. He can really run. He is not real tall. He is a guy that can make plays. He was very heavily recruited and we're really excited about him. He visited USC a couple weeks ago. He is a guy that can play."

Nduka Onyeali on ASU: "I just knew that Arizona State was the place for me. I really like how their defense plays. I can bring some rush speed to the team and I just hope I can contribute once I get there."

Recruiting Battles: For the majority of his recruitment, Onyeali was focused on ASU, Syracuse and TCU while Colorado, Colorado State, Kansas State and Minnesota also offered. Though some believed Syracuse could have an ‘in' because Onyeali's teammate, quarterback Jonny Miller, had committed to the Orange, Onyeali made his pledge known to ASU just before New Year's 2010. After Lane Kiffin was hired at USC, a late surge was made to persuade Onyeali to switch, but after an official visit in mid-January, Onyeali laid all rumors to rest and promised his signature to ASU.

Early Expectations for 2010: Onyeali has more potential to see immediate action than any high school defensive signee of the 2010 class. His main competitors for time will be ends Greg Smith and Dean Deleone, and though Deleone is a mature senior, he generally underwhelmed during his first season at ASU. There is little doubt that Onyeali will see time as a true freshman, and if in fall camp he can muscle his way past Smith, he could find himself in the starting lineup before long.

Joita Te'i (Oceanside, Calif./El Camino HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: Though he is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 129 defensive end prospect in the country, Te'i is a player that could have a lasting impact on ASU before his career is said-and-done. A tough, physical lineman with tremendous effort and persistence, Te'i, much like his signing classmate Lee Adams, has the versatility to play multiple line positions and figures to find a spot to make noise on the Sun Devil roster during his collegiate career.

Coach Erickson on Te'i: "He might be a guy in the class that might be a sleeper. He is 6'4, 260 pounds right now. He started getting pretty heavily recruited at the end. But he is a guy that has great potential. He is a guy that could play defensive end, defensive tackle. He could end up being an offensive lineman before it is all said and done."

Joita Te'i on ASU: "It's everything (that is appealing about ASU). The way they play, the environment, the way their fans are…I'm very excited to go there. It was fun and a great experience (to visit officially). The support from the school and the coaching staff was big, and I really loved the weight room. It's state of the art."

Recruiting Battles: With no other offers officially reported, the Sun Devils faced little competition to acquire Te'i's services, however if predictions prove accurate, many west coast schools will grow to regret not pursuing him.

Early Expectations for 2010: Very likely to redshirt in 2010, Te'i will only get bigger and better with a year to develop on the scout team. With Saia Falahola and Jonathan English finishing their ASU careers in 2010 and Lawrence Guy maintaining the possibility of departing early for the NFL, Te'i may have the chance to hit the ground running in a quick fashion whether as a true or redshirt freshman.

Calvin Tonga (Riverside, Calif./Arlington HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: Tonga's recruitment is the only thing light about him – the 6-4, 320-pounder got minimal attention largely because academic concerns. However, on the field Tonga is an overpowering beast that can dominate and control the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense.

Ranked modestly as the No. 124 offensive guard in the country by Scout.com, Tonga will easily be the most massive defensive lineman when he arrives to Tempe and has a very high ceiling of potential at the college level.

Coach Erickson on Tonga: "This is a big man. He is 6'4, 320 pounds and a big man. He is all of that. You watch him at defensive tackle and he is very athletic. He stays on his feet. He is a guy that could defensive tackle and a one technique over the center and take up a lot space. Or as time goes on, he could end up on the other side of the football. He is a very powerful football player."

Calvin Tonga on ASU: "I like everything about the program. Arizona State wants me to play on the defensive line and that's the position I wanted all along. They already have the best defense in the Pac-10 and I'm happy that I can come in and contribute and bring aggressiveness."

Recruiting Battles: Tonga had committed to San Diego State to play offensive line, however immediately following his visit to ASU the weekend before signing day; he switched commitments to play in the Pac-10 and on the defensive side of the ball.

Early Expectations for 2010: As long as his academics are in order, Tonga provides massive size that no active Sun Devil defensive lineman can match. If based on no other factor than brute size, Tonga could have a place in the lineup at an immediate point and blossom into a terror for opposing offensive lines for the duration of his career.

Linebacker

Carl Bradford (Norco, Calif./Norco HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: The lone linebacker signee of the 2010 class, Bradford brings ferocity and intensity to the ASU lineup despite the fact that he strictly played fullback during his high school career—and a good one he was, rated the No. 7 national fullback prospect by Scout.com.

A solid combination of strength and speed, Bradford has the physical tools to overcome any sort of learning curve that might surface from his position change.

Coach Erickson on Bradford: "Bradford is from Norco High School. He was a fullback but when we looked at him at fullback he was 6'2, 235. They only played him one way. We had him at camp and played him at linebacker. He was a good fullback. We feel like he can be great linebacker. We are taking a guy like that, who is very powerful, and moving him to linebacker, which I've done a lot in my career."

Carl Bradford on ASU: "I talked to my parents …and told them that I would like to play for ASU and that it would be a good place for me. I loved the campus, the coaches...just the whole setup."

Recruiting Battles: It was apparent from a very early point that Bradford wanted only to be a Sun Devil; he was offered shortly after a summer camp held in Tempe, committed on the spot and never looked back.

Early Expectations for 2010: Slated to be a middle linebacker, ASU returns high talent and experience at the position in Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Vontaze Burfict and fifth-year senior Gerald Munns. Junior Derrall Anderson also returns, though he has made little impact during his first two years on the field for the Sun Devils. Bradford could feasibly work his way into a third string spot at MIKE linebacker, and that may put him in a borderline spot to either earn time as a true freshman or redshirt.

Defensive Back

Ramon Abreu (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos de Niza HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: Abreu was Mr. Everything for Marcos during his career, which he culminated with a state championship game appearance and recently earning the Ed Doherty Award, presented to Arizona's top high school football player.

A standout running back, linebacker, punter and returns specialist, Abreu was rated the No. 63 safety prospect in America by Scout.com after collecting 141 tackles as a senior—part of his amazing career total of 416 sacks to go along with over 2,000 career rushing yards.

A highly motivated team leader, Abreu will start his career at safety for the Sun Devils.

Coach Erickson on Abreu: "Probably the best high school football in productivity in the Phoenix area, that I've seen. Played everything. We're going to play him at safety to start out with. Everybody looks at his size. When you watch that kid play football, he's really special. The thing that jumps out at me, he's been at our camp ever since he was a ninth grader. We're excited about having him."

Ramon Abreu on ASU: "I chose ASU because it's home and a place I've grown up wanting to play for. It's going to be a great opportunity for me and I am very thankful for it."

Recruiting Battles: Abreu had a handful of offers and visited Colorado and San Diego State in addition to ASU, but in the end he did as expected and stayed home to play in Tempe. Some were concerned by the length of time it took ASU to secure the Tempe product, but Abreu insists he was serving due diligence to the recruiting process prior to picking the Devils.

Early Expectations for 2010: The main knock on Abreu is his lack of size (5-10, 180), though no one who has seen him play will discredit his heart and will to compete. That being said, he could still benefit from a redshirt season to grown into a more physically ready college player and with the presence of safeties such as Clint Floyd, Keelan Johnson and newcomer Eddie Elder, ASU doesn't have a tremendously urgent need to play a true freshman safety in this year's lineup.

Alden Darby (Long Beach, Calif./Millikan HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: One of the last additions to ASU's class, Darby is far from an afterthought despite his commitment less than a week before signing day.

Much like Calvin Tonga, who visited and committed during the same weekend as Darby, Darby has had grade issues that have prevented teams from pursuing him but reportedly multiple Pac-10 teams preserved high interest in him despite a reluctance to official offer.

Boasting excellent size, athleticism and ball skills, Darby excelled at wide receiver for Millikan High School but will play cornerback for ASU after combining for a total of nearly 2,000 rushing and receiving yards during his prep career.

Coach Erickson on Darby: "Darby is from Long Beach Millikan. He will be corner for us. Kind of a sleeper, although at the end of recruiting he scored very well on his tests, so a lot of people came in on him. We knew about him. We recruited him at the end and he is a very good athlete. He can run and play corner for us."

Alden Darby on ASU: "It feels great to commit to Arizona State. I really felt welcomed on my visit. Coaches, players all treated me like family there. They all accepted me and I had a great time. It was my first time there and I never felt weird or anything like that. I liked the weather and everything else out there. I already feel like part of the team. I knew I was going to commit to Arizona State and the visit just made it official."

Recruiting Battles: Due to his academic uncertainty, few teams expressed distinct interest in Darby to the point of providing an official scholarship offer. As has been proven in the past, the Sun Devil coaches in conjunction with the student-athlete development staff have the ability to help high school players be aware of what can be done to help them be academically eligible.

Early Expectations for 2010: If he makes his way to Tempe, Darby could have an opportunity to see action at an early point. With starters Terell Carr and Pierre Singfield departing from last year, as well as injuries suffered by Omar Bolden, Deveron Carr and Osahon Irabor, there is quite a bit of potential but disorganization among the depth at cornerback. Bringing size unmatched by his fellow ASU cornerbacks, Darby could be a dark horse candidate to see action as a true freshman.

Eddie Elder (Sacramento, Calif./College of San Mateo)

Signing Day Evaluation: Through all the hype that has followed Elder's switch from being an Arizona commit to an ASU signee, the fact can't be lost that he is a high-quality, four-star talent that has the ability to make a big-time difference in the secondary at ASU.

The owner of 14 interceptions during his two seasons at the College of San Mateo, Elder has the skill set to bring a ball hawking presence to the safety position that ASU missed last year after having Troy Nolan picking off passes at safety from 2007-08.

Coach Erickson on Elder: "Eddie Elder is a junior college transfer that is a safety. San Mateo Junior College. One area where we did lose some people at was safety. Although we have some good young safeties coming back that played quite a bit. Because of injury we ended up playing those seniors at the end. Eddie can come in and help us right away. We recruited him out of high school so we know quite a bit about him."

Eddie Elder on ASU: "When I talked to my family and coaches they just felt that Arizona State was going to be (the best) for me. I was really surprised to see how everyone on the team was very family oriented because you don't get that a lot. I feel that this is very important for a team."

Recruiting Battles: Elder's switch from Arizona to ASU was highly publicized, as he found a more academically compatible situation in Tempe compared to Tucson – though the belief exists that once Marquis Flowers committed to the Wildcats that Arizona was looking for an escape route from signing a two-year safety. After deciding not to relocate to Tucson, ASU and Utah were Elder's primary options and the Sun Devils quickly capitalized and Elder was able to enroll quickly to join the team for spring drills.

Early Expectations for 2010: Elder is groomed for immediate duty at safety—and also has the athleticism to play cornerback—and will battle players such as Clint Floyd and Keelan Johnson for first-string duties at safety.

Elder's desire to enroll for spring football drills is a very sound philosophy; the extra practice time will give him the opportunity to use every day to work toward a starting position or at worst serve as the top reserve at a number of defensive back slots.

Devan Spann (Gardena, Calif./Serra HS)

Signing Day Evaluation: Rated the No. 109 cornerback in the nation, Spann had the unique honor of practicing against perhaps the nation's top group of receivers at Serra High, including top 2010 recruits Robert Woods (USC) and Paul Richardson (UCLA) as well as 2011 standout George Farmer.

As a consistent starter in the secondary of one of California's top teams, Spann notched 64 tackles, 12 pass deflections and three interceptions as a senior.

Coach Erickson on Spann: "He is a corner out of [Junipero] Serra High School, which is an outstanding private high school in the Los Angeles area. He is also a track star who has done really well. He has great feet."

Devan Spann on ASU: "The all-around academics (at ASU), the football team, the track program, all of that stood out. Everything seems to be in line, they'll make sure I graduate before anything else."

Recruiting Battles: Though no official offers were reported to compete with ASU's, San Jose State was listed as having interest in Spann, though about a week after Spann's December visit to Tempe, a commitment was given to the Sun Devils.

Early Expectations for 2010: Spann is likely not quite as readymade for duty as his classmate Alden Darby, so in all likelihood he will redshirt in 2010. He has the physical tools and the speed not to be lost in the shuffle in the long run, but his best bet for duty likely will be in 2011 when cornerbacks such as Omar Bolden and LeQuan Lewis depart, leaving two holes in the primary depth at the position.


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