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Things that come in pairs: ASU's dynamic pass-rushing duo

The return of Koron Crump paired with the development of Jay Jay Wilson could be special


ASU then-junior linebacker Jay Jay Wilson (9) barrels into the end zone after an interception in the fourth quarter of ASU's 30-10 win over Utah on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A former tight end, an ex-San Diego State defensive coordinator and an esteemed linebacker recovering from a torn ACL walk onto the field. What sounds like the start of a hysterical sports joke is actually what sets this ASU football defense apart. 

Senior linebacker Jay Jay Wilson converted to the position once then-senior linebacker Koron Crump suffered a torn ACL during ASU’s loss to Texas Tech last season. 

In the midst of the Sun Devils’ spring practices, Wilson is capturing the title many wish to have but few claim: the leader. 

“I was born to be a leader,” Wilson said. “My father always taught me that. He always taught me to be a leader, and I’ve always had that mentality since the first time I stepped on campus. I think now that my role is bigger on the field, it’s ... easier to see that I’m a natural born leader.”

With the departure of Christian Sam and DJ Calhoun, Wilson becoming the face of the defense makes the most sense.

Coming off a season where he tallied 47 total tackles, two sacks and a pick-six, the former tight end believes improvements are evident – especially after ASU’s defeat in the Sun Bowl.

“As a whole, I feel like we’re way better than where we left off last year, coming off the NC State game,” Wilson said. “Defense is moving crazy. All over the field, everyone is running to the ball – (it's a) different type of energy.”

An energy bound to make waves across the Pac-12 is Crump's imminent return, with Crump being granted an extra year of eligibility due to his ACL injury.

“I don’t wanna sound cocky or nothing like that because I’m not, but it could be scary, because that’s a lot of speed coming off both ends,” Wilson said. “Obviously Koron (Crump) is like crazy fast. Obviously, he’s one of the best pass rushers I’ve ever seen in the Pac-12 … I just feel like we got two different type of play styles, but they fit perfectly.”

These acclamations were just large enough to warrant a sarcastic look and silly smirk from someone unfamiliar with Crump’s ability. Praised for his quickness off the edge, Crump’s goal in 2017 was to rack up at least two sacks a game. 

“I feel like each year, this game becomes slower to me, and I’m faster,” Crump said. “It should be interesting watching the season – same goals as last season."

Before tearing his ACL in the third game of the season, Crump accumulated four sacks and 13 tackles. 

“I’m tired of watching,” Crump said. “I’m going to be honest … I’m ready to get out there. I’ve seen everyone have fun and learn the playbook. It’s hard to watch.”

Just last week, Crump began to shadow redshirt junior linebacker Malik Lawal. And while his teammates look forward to his future contributions, Crump remains fixated on his return. Crump said he expects to be back in May.

Although Crump is moving past the painful consequence of the night of Sept. 16, 2017, the defensive coordinator who proved victorious seven days prior already moved on – to ASU that is.

Former San Diego State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales was one of the last major hires to head coach Herm Edwards’ staff. Nevertheless, soon after Gonzales arrived in Tempe, there was someone anxious to meet him. 

“(Jay Jay) came up right away on one of the first days I was hired, and we had a little chat,” Gonzales said. “He wants to be the guy that’s in charge, and so far through practice, the effort and everything that he’s given has shown that he can be that guy.”  

Reach the reporter at or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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