Arizona State’s defense introduced numerous new players this season, but it has been surprisingly strong for the most part.
There are some questions as to who will start at nose tackled this week. Jaxon Hood missed last week’s game due to personal issue and it is unknown if the junior will be playing this week.
Whether he plays or not, the guess here is that the Sun Devils will choose to go big with 6-foot-2, 360-pound junior Mo Latu in the middle. He only has eight tackles on the season, but does a nice job of plugging the interior run.
In addition to Mo Latu, 6-foot-2, 260-pound Viliami Latu will see some action. He has put up 19 tackles, including four for loss.
Freshman Tashon Smallwood will also see action on Friday and has done a relatively good job this season. He has 14 tackles with 4.5 coming for a loss, but is better than his stats would indicate.
You can also expect 6-foot-5, 300-pound junior Demetrious Cherry to see time at a few positions and he has put together 15 tackles so far this season.
Senior Marcus Hardison is easily the best player on the defensive line, especially as of late. There are not a lot of guys that have improved through the course of the season as much as he has and that shows with his 10 sacks, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles so far this season.
Redshirt sophomore Edmond Boateng will get the majority of the time at the Devil Backer position. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound junior college product has 17 tackles this season and four of them are for loss.
Arizona State’s defensive strength is often within its linebackers due to how much the Sun Devils choose to blitz with them. You can make the argument that the success or failure of this defense on Friday will largely be based on how this unit plays.
Sophomore Viliami Moeakiola gets the start at the Spur position and has 61 tackles this season. He has reached the quarterback five times and has a total of 9.5 tackles for loss.
Next to Moeakiola is 6-foot-1, 235-pound redshirt sophomore Salamo Fiso. For a linebacker, Fiso is pretty good in coverage and, again, the Sun Devils will be aggressive with him in the blitz.
Statistically, 6-foot-2, 230-pound redshirt junior Antonio Longing is one of the more consistent linebackers. He is third on ASU with 68 tackles and has added two sacks as well.
Redshirt sophomore Lloyd Carrington will get the start at boundary corner. He is yet another player that will be used in blitz packages, as he has three sacks to go along with his 51 tackles this season.
The other corner is 6-foot-0, 205-pound Kweishi Brown. On the season, Brown has two interceptions and six pass breakups.
The most impressive player in the ASU secondary is boundary safety Damarious Randall. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior leads the Sun Devils with 95 tackles and eight pass breakups.
He also has 8.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. Simply put, Randall is an extremely dangerous player for Arizona.
Lastly, 6-foot-0, 195-pound junior Jordan Simone has been a pleasant surprise at field safety. He has battled injuries as of late, but Simone has still been able to come up with 90 tackles on the season and does a nice job of finding the play.
Players to Watch:
#3, FS Damarious Randall: It’s not a coincidence that some of ASU’s biggest defensive plays this season have come because of Randall. He is strong in coverage, used in the blitz, and a solid overall player.
#1, DE Marcus Hardison: Hardison has been one of the best Pac-12 defensive players as of late. Arizona did a nice job with Utah’s pass rushers and Harrison provides another major challenge.
#4, Spur D.J. Calhoun: Calhoun is very dangerous in the blitz packages, as he has seven tackles for loss this season. The freshman is not easy to block and is another player that Arizona will have to be aware of.
Keys to the Game
Recognize the blitz: ASU blitzes plenty and Arizona needs to be able to recognize where it is coming from. Whether it is from the secondary or linebackers, the offensive line and quarterback need to be able to pick it up.
Fast pace: One of the best ways to get the ASU defense on its feels is to establish a fast pace. The best way to do this is by having success on first and second downs and the faster, the better for Arizona’s offense.
Successful first downs: Having long situations on second and third down is a nightmare against ASU’s attacking defense. Arizona needs to make sure it avoids those situations as much as possible.