Monday, August 28, 2006
Defensive Outlook: contrary to popular opinion, people in the Pac-10 really do care about it
The 2006 ASU depth chart has been released and once again, it looks like the Devils' success will only go as far as the defense can carry them.
Camp Tontozona took its toll on this unit, and far worse than anyone expected. Transfers Loren Howard and Trannell Morant were the supposed saviors at defensive end, but they are each listed as third-string on either side, a perplexing position considering their respective physical skills. Howard has been day-to-day for weeks now, which has many Sun Devil fanatics leary of his so-called "mild quad injury." Dirk Koetter doesn't typically like to release injury information to the public, and this is all starting to sound like Kyle Caldwell's situation a year ago. Everyone hung their hat on his play being the cure for an otherwise anemic D-line, but he was injured most of the year and probably never played at 100%. This coupled with today's news that Howard will be kept out of Thursday's NAU game and possibly next Saturday's Nevada game spells doom for the unit up front, but there is some hope.
Jordan Hill, a whipping boy for many Pac-10 OT's last year, is currently listed at 301 pounds, up 25 from last season. All of those off-season burritos should help him clog the middle against the run, especially since he probably won't see as many double teams with fellow buffet buster Mike Marquardt transferring in from BYU and lining up at the other DT spot. IF Caldwell stays healthy and Dexter can continue the consistency he has shown during Spring and Fall practices, the Devil D may be able to put together their best consistent pass rush since the days of ol' #48. With the hope that Morant and Howard can contribute, opposing offenses may have their hands full. The injuries sustained thus far are definitely disappointing, but you can't mention the D-line and disappointment without giving mention to Shannon Jones and Brett Palmer. Both have been criticized (not just by me, but the coaches too) of being overweight, lazy, and lacking the work ethic required at the collegiate level. Neither have cracked the two deep once again this season, unless we're talking about the number of calzones at Greasy Tony's.
The flesh-eating tandem of Jamar Williams and Pat Tillman Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Dale Robinson have departed for Sunday, and the void will be noticeable. The recruiting trail was hit hard this winter, and SIX LB's were signed, but the unfortunate part is that about half of them will be sorely needed. Contributing "baby-backers" include true frosh Gerald Munns, the projected starter at the SAM position and his backup, JUCO transfer Garrett Judah. Former LA Dodger Mike Nixon is named the co-starter at, appropriately enough, the MIKE position, and true frosh/Pat Tillman look-alike Travis Goethel is the #2 at the WILL position. He heh, "#2." Hopefully these new pledges won't get hazed too hard by opposing Pac-10 offenses. The only thing I can look forward to is that the linebacker position requires instinct and speed more than anything, and those things are difficult to teach. Hopefully these kids have it, because if they don't it will be a long, long season.
ASU is so loaded at safety that Derron Ware has switched to linebacker. Huh?!
Ok, so it probably has more to do with the LB weakness, but the secondary has a little bit of talent to spare. Leading tackler Zach Catanese returns as the anchor of the secondary, but a lot of the buzz coming from camp has to do with batterymate Josh Barrett, who has exploded from an injury-filled 2005 to become the D's emotional leader. True freshman Ryan McFoy probably won't redshirt this year, so hopefully very soon he'll be known for something more than being the brother of a USC football player. Ooooo, do you think he knows Matt Leinart?!
Oh, now we've reached the dregs. The best player, Justin Tryon, has never played a D-1 down. The only word I've heard used for any of the other corners is inconsistent, whether it be Chris Baloney, Grant Cunkelton, or some other guys you've never heard of, like returning senior Keno Walter-White. Chad Green supposedly has the most talent but has spent plenty of time on the injury list over the course of his career; rumor around campus is that he is allergic to the weiht room. Looks like Rudy Burgess will have to save the day again, only this time on defense. The people's MVP will be turned loose on defense, and if he has half of his game-changing ability at corner things might be all right in Tempe, but don't bet on it. It will take more than one Superman to save this secondary.
It can't be any worse than last year...can it?