ASU football defensive backs battle for playing time

Video by Evan Webeck | Sports Reporter

With the loss of nine defensive starters from 2013, the ASU football team has position battles going on in every facet of the unit.

Last season, the Sun Devils featured first-team all Pac-12 defensive backs Alden Darby and Robert Nelson, in addition to second-team cornerback Osahon Irabor, all of whom have graduated.

As good as their unit was, Graham knows there were things that need to be fixed heading into 2014.

“The main thing we are looking for at those positions is not giving up vertical lines,” Graham said. “The worst thing we did last year was give up big plays. We had three all-conference Pac-12 defensive backs who led the Pac-12 in interceptions, but we gave up way too many one-play touchdowns and so that’s going to be the big focus there.”

After Monday’s practice, coach Todd Graham discussed the current defensive back depth chart.

“I think (redshirt junior) Lloyd (Carrington) is solid there,” Graham said. “I think (redshirt junior) Solomon (Means) is probably, right now, in the lead at the other cornerback spot.”

While Carrington and Means are currently leading the competition, Graham thinks highly of junior Kweishi Brown.

“I think he better not rest on his laurels because Kweishi is coming on and he has physical tools and he’s more physical than any other corner we’ve got,” Graham said. “Once he learns, it’s all new to him, so once he learns what he’s doing he’ll be a lot better.”

Graham ranked the top five cornerbacks as of now: Carrington, Means, Brown, freshman Armand Perry and freshman Tyler Whiley, who is being converted from a receiver to a cornerback.

“Obviously we’ve got (redshirt senior) Damarious (Randall), who’s solid back there and as good we’ve had,” Graham said. “Then you’ve got (redshirt freshman) Marcus Ball and (redshirt freshman) James Johnson who are probably leading right now at that free safety position with (redshirt junior Jordan) Simone there. We might even look at Simone at the Spur position.”

Graham revealed that freshman Christian Sam will be the Sam linebacker.

“Christian’s a guy that I feel like knows what he’s doing,” Graham said. “He just needs to master what he’s doing and he’s going to be a factor and Will linebacker and at Sam.”

Graham believes most of the competition will take place in the defensive backfield and on the defensive line.

Junior Jaxon Hood, freshman Renell Wren, redshirt sophomore Edmond Boateng, and senior Marcus Hardison were all mentioned by Graham as possible starters on the line.

While the Sun Devils have a lot of players vying for a starting job on the defensive line, the group is inexperienced. While the issue is troubling to Graham, he believes his team can overcome it.

“Our deal is that I feel like we have good depth at the tackle position and a lot of inexperience,” Graham said. “We just need to continue to rep those guys. Inexperience is the only issue I’m concerned about, but you can make up a lot of inexperience with great effort and our guys are giving great effort.”

Reach the reporter at mtonis@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Tonis_The_Tiger