Dominant trifecta of linebackers go from roommates to tackling machines

With a new season ahead, the leaders of the defense are striving for a Pac-12 title

ASU football’s trio of disruptive tacklers has turned heads at practice, but the three have yet to start and finish a full game together throughout their time at ASU. With a new season underway in the coming weeks, three roommates look to lead ASU to a Pac-12 title.

Christian Sam (Senior/LB/Jersey No. 2)

The Sun Devils defense desperately missed Sam last season after he suffered a season-ending right foot injury in week one.

Before his 2016 campaign came to a screeching halt, there was hype around Sam, who in 2015 had the second most total tackles on the team (96).

His presence forced opposing teams to double team him, which put his teammates in better one-on-one matchups.

The team had a solid defensive season against opposing rushers in 2015. Sam and the other run stuffers held teams to 126.1 RYDS/G and on average gave up one measly rushing touchdown a game.

ASU’s defense collapsed in 2016 with Sam out of the lineup.

The Sun Devils gave up 164.3 RYDS/G. Not to mention opposing tailbacks averaged five yards a carry and two touchdowns a game.

Without its defensive leader, ASU’s defense was lost.

However, Sam is back on the field leading once again.

“I just feel like when I’m on the field I want to help make an impact,” Sam said. “Be there for my team, be there for my defense, and make sure we’re on top of the Pac-12 this year.”

To get the Sun Devils atop the Pac-12 he will need the help of one of his “closest friends."

DJ Calhoun (Senior/LB/Jersey No. 3)

While Sam was recovering in 2016, Calhoun was the team’s leader in total tackles (77) and tackles for loss (11.5).

Both linebackers were a part of the 2014 recruiting class and have been attached at the hip ever since.

When ASU’s linebacker group comes up, it’s referred to as a “duo."

Although the two are set for monstrous senior seasons, they are in uncharted territory. The two have been beside each other in the lineup before, but at no point have they both been at the top of their game like they are now.

“I feel like we all fly around to the ball,” Calhoun said.

At ASU’s annual Camp Tontozona scrimmage, Calhoun, Sam and the rest of the defense looked like a new unit.

The defensive groups managed to sack the quarterback seven times, both Calhoun and Sam contributed to that total.

It seems as if getting to the quarterback is a primary focus for the Sun Devils, but when week one rolls around it won’t be Sam or Calhoun fighting for the sack title in the Pac-12. That’s senior linebacker Koron Crump’s specialty.

Koron Crump (Senior/LB/Jersey No. 4)

Despite last season being his first year playing Division I football, Crump proved to be a dominant pass rusher.

He led the team in sacks (9), doubling Calhoun’s second place total.

In 2016 Crump was a situational player, finding himself in more of a third down pass rusher role.

This season he will start at devil backer, a hybrid position between defensive end and linebacker.

There is not another player on the team with the ferocity Crump brings to the table. He is known for his animal-like screams nearly every time he steps on the field.

While some consider Crump ferocious, senior defensive back Chad Adams describes Crump as “tenacious."

The starting devil backer isn’t worried how he is described. He is focused on achieving his goals come week one against New Mexico State.

“I’m looking to accomplish that we stop the run and make them one dimensional. And get two sacks in that game,” Crump said.

When the Aggies come to town, Crump will get an opportunity to pursue his goal of two sacks a game. It will also debut the first time Crump, Calhoun and Sam get the chance to start week one and finish it as a trio of starters.

***All statistics are according to sports-reference.com.***


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.

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