At tackle, there's no doubt about the starters as junior Lawrence Guy and senior Saia Falahola formed a very talented duo as the primary first-stringers last season. While both players could vie for all-conference honors this season, the remaining depth at tackle could showcase some fierce battles as the position's pecking order continues to settle.
By most accounts, sophomore William Sutton (pictured) figures to be the top alternate after playing in all 12 games with two starts as a true freshman a year ago.
Formerly a five-star prospect while at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro High School, Adams may have been a victim of the nearly unattainable expectations that accompany elite recruits. Rated as the No. 46 overall prospect in the Class of 2009, Adams played in eight games last year with four total tackles before missing the final four contests due to a back injury and in general, his name has quickly been lost in the shuffle among the primary impact defensive players. Adams' recuperation has thus far been successful as he lightly participated in spring drills and is expected to return for the fall.
Adams will be expected to be a standout starter, likely in 2011 after Falahola exhausts his eligibility and depending on whether Guy returns for his senior season. A strong 2010 season will do wonders for his future prospects, however any further setbacks may stunt his development and impact both this season and beyond.
Junior James Brooks, though he missed time in the spring due to personal reasons, is fully expected to work his way back to the starting lineup at strong side end with junior Jamaar Jarrett on his heels on that side.
After an encouraging true freshman season, sophomore Gregory Smith has the upside to be a solid starter while incoming true freshman Nduka Onyeali has the potential to be a difference maker in a pass-rushing capacity at weak side end.
Perhaps lost in the mix is senior Dean Deleone, a junior college transfer last year, who was applauded for his athleticism and ability to crash the backfield, though in 10 games with three starts last season he collected a mere 14 tackles with zero sacks and only one tackle-for-loss. With time working against him and a pair of dynamic athletes pushing him around the depth chart, the former U.S. Coast Guard member is in dire need of a strong fall camp to earn a significant roster spot and avoid being relegated to minimal duty in his final college season.
If the squad realizes its potential, few lineups in the nation will be as dynamic and athletic as ASU's linebackers. Be that as it may, the staff likely would like to see greater development from members of the middle notches of the depth chart.
Sophomore middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict is an All-American waiting to happen. Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons are immeasurably athletic and have the tools to shine as first-year starters. Gerald Munns (pictured) brings remarkable experience to the position while redshirt freshman Anthony Jones often was the talk of spring practices due to his playmaking skills.
Though only one addition, Carl Bradford of Norco (Calif.) High School, was made to the roster among the 2010 signing class, three members of Dennis Erickson's first recruiting class at ASU have yet to make much of a splash and face the second half of their college careers with work to be done to be notable contributors.
Juniors Oliver Aaron, Derrall Anderson and Colin Parker have combined for only 21 tackles in 42 collective appearances over two years after each player redshirted in 2007. Aaron and Parker have seen ample duty on special teams, while Anderson has played in only one career game. Additionally, Aaron is the only of the three legitimately in the two-deep at linebacker as he is listed behind Magee at the WILL linebacker position, while Parker ranks behind Lyons and Jones at the SAM spot and Anderson is third at MIKE linebacker behind Burfict and Munns.
Barring injury, there is no feasible way for any of the three to crack the starting lineup, but a strong fall campaign can boost their reps as reserves.
Thanks to the surprisingly spectacular play of Clint Floyd (pictured) and Keelan Johnson this spring, the safety positions have a balance of talent and youth, as redshirt freshmen Shane McCullen and Matt Tucker will battle for time at safety while recent junior college transfer Eddie Elder proved this spring to be a ball hawk and will be the top contingent at safety this year.
At cornerback, the depth is not quite as settled perhaps with the exception of junior Omar Bolden, a starter since early in his true freshman season. After missing substantial time due to injury in 2009, Bolden entered the spring with a chip on his shoulder and had his most consistent stretch of play since arriving at ASU.
Behind Bolden, senior LeQuan Lewis spent extensive time with the first-team, while sophomore Deveron Carr, though he missed the spring due to injury, played remarkably late in his redshirt freshman season and will be in serious contention to start this year and up-and-coming redshirt freshman Osahon Irabor has tremendous potential and will be one of the key reserves.
This combination places junior Josh Jordan in a position to assert himself this fall the avoid having his depth chart position fluctuate. One of the top leaders on and off the field for the Devils, his work ethic will never be discounted, but the Las Vegas product enters his junior season having totaled only 10 tackles and one pass breakup in 23 career games.
A highly competent student-athlete, Jordan has the technical skills to thrive in the secondary but will need to be relentless in his pursuit of playing time to vault into a more serious role.