ASU football's Jordan Simone a steady bastion of leadership in youthful secondary

“I’m really tired of the triple option.”

ASU head coach Todd Graham spoke candidly about the offensive scheme his Sun Devils have prepared for and vanquished the past two weeks in the aftermath of Friday’s 34-10 win over New Mexico.

The elusive option attack has given Graham and Co. much more than headaches — sophomore safety Armand Perry was again seen in crutches and forced freshman Kareem Orr to step in to the spot.

Life as a defensive back in such a predicament is far from glamorous — corners and safeties are often forced to hedge to contain the threat of a run but must still also respect the threat of a pass playing in tight coverage.

The pressure of making an open-field tackle and being the last line of protection can be an intimidating responsibility, especially for young players in the secondary.

Orr chipped in with four tackles and contributed to a two-yard tackle for loss, while redshirt sophomore James Johnson also saw time at field safety.

“The triple option is a very discipline-oriented style of offense,” Simone said. “If one guy doesn’t do what he’s coached to do, you see what happens on the long run that they had.”

The play Simone described, a 65-yard touchdown run by Tyrone Owens with 11:15 to go in the third quarter that brought the Lobos within 10 points, demonstrated what was in essence a chain reaction: Because linebacker Christian Sam jumped into his assigned gap too early, Owens split the safeties up the middle and beat them easily in a footrace.

Breakdowns happen, though more often than not they’re a product of human error, like in Sam’s case.

“I have to give them a lot of credit – their defense was outstanding,” New Mexico head coach Bob Davie said. “They gave us a lot of itch, pressure, forced us to hand the ball up in there, took away some of our bubble routes. That’s a well-coached team with a lot of good players, they did a really good job defensively.”

Conventionally, to have a safety among or at the top of tackle leaderboard isn’t viewed as a positive. But for someone as active in pursuing the ball as Simone (10 tackles, two for loss) his increased productivity is merely one of several innovations of a Todd Graham-led defense.

As one of the vocal leaders and captains of a relatively young defense, Simone's leadership cannot be overvalued at this juncture. He's walked the walk, earned a scholarship, and yet still puts in the extra work after practice as if there's something extra on the line. 

And there most certainly is. If you ask Graham, or just about anyone wearing maroon and gold, they're know they aren't anywhere close to their anticipated peak.

The Sun Devils are well aware of the heightened expectations and just how quickly the tide of public opinion has turned against them after mostly underwhelming in their first two games.

With 4:13 to go and the game well in hand, Simone collided with Orr on a diving interception of quarterback Austin Apodaca in the end zone, yet hung on as if he were the receiver – with the focus and concentration of someone who's done so dozens of times before. 

You can't coach a player to want the ball the way Simone does. It's why as ASU's veterans go, so goes their collective defensive swagger. 

Injuries and internal distractions aside, there's plenty of character and confidence to go around in the Sun Devil locker room heading into conference play. Whether or not it can all come together with the assemblage of talent on the field is the question we're waiting for them to answer.

Reach the sports editor at or follow @StefanJModrich on Twitter.

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