The John Thompson 2012 defense will be a fast, attacking 4-2-5 group that will need to be the yang to Gus Malzahn's ying. This defense will take one of the linebacker positions and turn it into a hybrid position that will help defend against teams that are more spread oriented. Along with the free safety and rover (strong safety), the Wolf position will be the hybrid that will allow ASU's best athlete to use his speed to attack the offense.
Don Jones (6'1 210 RSR) will be the Wolf! He is the Red Wolves' best chance to keep the consecutive NFL draft pick run going. Jones started at A-State as a running back but after having academic issues and a brief detour to junior college, he blossomed as a safety for the Red Wolves in 2011. Jones finished with 54 tackles in 2011 and seemed to be all over the field at times. Jones, who is the fastest player on the squad, may be the answer to replacing DeMario Davis' production from last season. Jones around and get used in a variety of roles allowing John Thompson to disguise his defenses.
Sterling Young (6'2 185 RSO) was forced into action at Free Safety early last season when A.J. Hills decided football wasn't his main interest. Young may have been my choice for most improved player last fall (One of a number of awards we will name at the end of 2012 in our RedWolfNation Award Series). Young actually finished the season with 51 tackles and even had a pick six. Young should be a grizzled veteran this fall as a sophomore and will help Jones lead a very young secondary.
Kyle Coleman (6'1 215 SO) will be in the lead for the Rover when camp opens this fall. Coleman may not have the overall speed that Don Jones has but is very similar in that he could be a guy that can play a safety or a linebacker position. Coleman has excellent bloodlines as his dad was a NFL linebacker for a number of years. Kyle will provide very solid help in the run game and has the athleticism to be a good defensive back but will be vulnerable in the pass game until he becomes more comfortable in his role.
Post Spring Twos - Depth will be the issue at the safety positions. Coming out of spring practice the number 2 guys at all three roles were walk-ons. Wolf - Charleston Girley (6'1 190 FR), FS - Jonathan Victorian (6'0 185 SR) and Rover - Cole Lorigan (5'10 170 RSR) will all see significant competition when the incoming recruits show up this fall. Girley showed several big time hits throughout spring and has good size and speed. Victorian and Lorigan are both seniors that have been around and have moved from cornerback to the safety positions. They have had the chance at CB to be a cover man, now they need to prove the ability to come up and provide support for the run defense.
Newcomers -Tres Houston (6'2 180 SO) was signed as a defensive back even though he played wide receiver in junior college. There is a bigger need at safety than wide receiver this fall and Houston can come in and compete for the free safety job right away. The goal is that Houston can provide at least solid depth but will need to prove he can be a defender after a JC year as a wide receiver and having been a quarterback in high school. Two freshmen that could step into the depth chart at the safety positions are Chris Humes (6'1 190 FR) and Todd Mays (6'0 200 FR). Both guys will need to be ready to play as soon as fall camp opens and will need good summers to prepare for the Division I level of play.
Safety will be a very interesting position to watch this fall. Don Jones, and Sterling Young are both talented and experienced guys, however the rest of the candidates for starters or depth positions are going to be very young. The talent will be there, but the question is how quickly will the young talent adjust to playing daily at Division I. Jones and Young will need to carry the load and help this young group grow quickly. One thing that could help the development of these guys is that Thompson is slated to coach the safeties for the Red Wolves and should provide excellent mentoring for a talented but young group.