ASU football’s breakout 2014 defensive players

Senior safety Damarious Randall and junior defensive tackle Jaxon Hood are the only returning starters from last season on the defense. Naturally, with that many new faces on that side of the ball, there will be a lot of opportunities for a breakout season from a number of these defenders. Here are a few players to look out for who will make a name for themselves on the Sun Devil defense.

Redshirt junior cornerback Lloyd Carrington

Carrington played in all 14 games last season but only started twice, playing behind two seniors in Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor for much of the year. The transfer from Pitt finished his sophomore season with 25 tackles, two passes defended, one interception and a forced fumble.

Although his numbers don’t necessarily jump out of the page, Carrington has the ideal size you look for in a cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, as well as the instincts required for the position.

Carrington will most likely be the top corner with redshirt sophomore Rashad Wadood intending to transfer from ASU, which leaves questions on who will be lining up alongside Carrington at the boundary corner position.

Randall is the leader of that secondary, but given the inexperience of the rest of that position group, the Sun Devils need Carrington to have a big year if they have any hopes of stopping the pass.

Senior defensive end Marcus Hardison

Hardison came to ASU after his sophomore season at Dodge City Community College in Kansas rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 5 overall junior college prospect in the country by ESPN.

He played at multiple spots along the defensive line but often had to be a backup to Will Sutton, Hood and Gannon Conway. Hardison finished the season with five tackles and one sack in 13 games played.

With Hood and Hardison now starting alongside each other on the defensive line, Hardison will look more like the player who accumulated 97 tackles and seven sacks in his two junior college seasons. Even with Sutton gone to the NFL, somehow the Sun Devils got bigger on the defensive line and the 6-foot-5 Hardison is an intimidating run stopping presence.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Viliami “Laiu” Moeakiola

Moeakiola is a versatile linebacker who entered training camp last season as a safety. Laiu has shown that he can play both in run coverage as well as defending the pass, finishing last season with 21 tackles and one pass defended in 10 games played.

In his first start of the season against Sacramento State, Moeakiola recorded three tackles, two of which were solo tackles, and broke up a pass. Against Utah, he would get the starting nod again but this time as a Spur linebacker, the position he will likely play for the Sun Devils this season.

Moeakiola also didn’t shy away from the bright lights; he had his biggest games against big-name opponents. He recorded four solo tackles in ASU’s statement win over Wisconsin, had five tackles at Stanford and another four against USC in back-to-back-to-back weeks. With that in mind, Moeakiola seems primed and ready to face the challenge of being a starting linebacker.

Reach the reporter at hkossodo@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @HKossodo