Elder makes presence known from the start

Though Arizona State and rival Arizona battle for many prospects, few players came as close to calling Tucson home before opting to take the high road to Tempe as did safety Eddie Elder.

Originally a verbal commitment to Arizona, merely days before he was eligible to sign the paperwork to be a midyear junior college transfer from the College of San Mateo (Calif.), information was released that Elder's college credits would not all apply at Arizona.

With that occurrence, the 5-10, 186-pound Eddie Elder faced the decision whether to remain committed to the Wildcats but arrive for fall camp or to switch his pledge and take advantage of the opportunity to play spring ball.

Ultimately, the Wildcats' loss became the Sun Devils' gain as Elder signed with ASU and immediately entered the mix for playing time in the secondary. Elder fully understood the irreplaceable value of participating in spring drills, a factor which strongly guided his decision.

"It was really important to play in spring ball," admits Elder. "It was a boost because I was able to get ahead of other people that just arrived for the fall. Especially with the competition that there is at safety, it helped me to get as much training as possible and to be able to catch on to the defensive scheme."

Naturally, the transition from the junior college ranks to a Pac-10 program created hurdles and challenges for Elder, especially the competition he faced on a daily basis. However, Elder was qualified to respond to many of the challenges placed in front of him and earned solid reviews after his first practice session as a Sun Devil.

"The overall speed of the receivers and how their routes are different made me have to adjust," admitted Elder. "They stem off their routes, they're not just running straight lines. At the JUCO level a lot of receivers just go off of athleticism and at this level they are very athletic but also very good with their technique.

Fast-forward four months and Elder enters his first season at the FBS level and the instinctive ball hawking free safety is likely to be ASU's top nickel defensive back and a primary reserve behind projected starter Keelan Johnson. Despite the fact that he likely will enter the season on the outside-looking-in at the starting lineup, Elder embraces the opportunity to compete and hone his talents in fall camp.

"Competing is always good, we push each other," states Elder. "Even though we're competing, we help each other. We won't just let someone make a make a mistake because we're competing, we are helping each other get to the next level because we all have one goal and that's to win the Pac-10."

Some adjustments have been easier than others for Elder; though he practiced against a no-huddle offense during his junior college career, joining the Sun Devils required that he become acclimated to a 4-3 defensive set as opposed to the 3-4 alignment used at San Mateo.

Throughout the months between spring and fall camps, Elder worked on his technique, strength and understanding of his assignments within the defensive scheme. Helping to smooth the transition has not only been the presence of defensive coordinator Craig Bray, ASU's safeties coach, but also the addition of former Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and NFL standout Adam Archuleta, who has joined the staff as a volunteer defensive assistant.

"That's big time right there; big advice," said Elder of working with Bray and Archuleta. "You get it from a player's perspective and a coach's perspective. (Archuleta) has been to the highest level and he knows how to help players improve their technique, pre-snap reads and all the other little things, which really helps me."

Though Elder had been through a bit of a rollercoaster ride several months before his FBS career even started, matters have calmed. But make no mistake about it, Elder has an early-December Thursday highlighted more brightly on his calendar than other days to come over the next few months.

Above all else, Elder eagerly awaits the chance to contribute to ASU vastly exceeding the low expectations that have been established for the 2010 squad.

"I think we're gonna do way better than last year," predicts Elder. "I just want to help the team anyway possible. I see myself making big plays because I see myself as a playmaker. We're going to surprise the world; we're going to be the talk of college football."

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