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Renell Wren and Demonte King are at the heart of an improving ASU defense

Wren and King are at the core of a team that is injecting more defense into its identity


ASU senior defensive back and team captain Demonte King (28) warms up at the beginning of practice in Tempe, Arizona, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018.

Arizona State Football has exceeded all expectations with a defense that is substantially better than last season, but that has also proved itself to be a formidable threat against all teams they have faced. 

The defense has been impressive for a number of reasons, but two of the most significant are the defensive captains, redshirt senior defensive lineman Renell Wren and senior defensive back Demonte King. 

"They’ve done a good job so far of being leaders,” defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said. “They worked hard in the summer and most of the time, players recognize the guys that are good players and leaders. So, they were voted in by their team and that’s a huge honor.”

King and Wren have proved themselves as the great players their teammates saw them to be. 

King continues to improve each game as he continues to get more and more tackles.  In the September 13th game against San Diego State, he had six solo tackles compared to the two he had in the previous game. 

“Demonte is the primary leader back there on the secondary and he’s done a really good job so far with that.” Gonzales said. 

After King was named captain, it was questioned, as he has only been with the sun Devils for two years after transferring from a community college.

“I felt honored and I felt like it was a privilege that anybody would feel really excited about, that your peers feel that way about you,” King said. “I didn’t expect it because I didn’t really even vote for myself. I didn’t really think too much about it. We voted for it and I kind of forgot about it. I didn’t really expect it, but it didn’t take me by surprise.”

Wren was more of an obvious choice as a captain, but he had similar sentiments to King about being selected by his teammates. 

“It was definitely a blessing to be voted in by my teammates,” Wren said. “It’s not by a popularity vote… it’s being led by words and actions. Just showing them all you can do, not just by talking about it, but also by doing it on the field and weight room.”

Wren has certainly led by example this year, as he has a total of 11 tackles in three games, six of which came against San Diego State. 

“These past few games it’s been a lot with playing defense,” Wren said. “ With that being said, with low-scoring games and with me holding a pocket in the middle and everything, I have a lot on my hands. It’s up to me to just collapse the pocket and for my teammates to make plays so we can keep progressing and keep getting Ws.”

Moreover, Wren has made adjustments so he can perform on the field, as well as be a leader off of the playing surface. 

“It’s been challenging,” Wren said. “But it’s just putting your mindset to just sacrificing and just not putting yourself first, but putting your team first.”

King feels the same way, but he has utilized different processes to be the leader he always planned to be on the field. 

“It’s a workload that I’m definitely going to carry, and I think it’s something that a lot of guys on our team should do,” King said. “Everybody should present themselves as a leader…so we’re all picking each other up…That’s how I feel we are.”

For now, the Sun Devils are not ranked very highly defensively, nor are they where they want to be after a loss to  SDSU. However, the players and the coaches all have high expectations for the rest of the season. 

It total defense, ASU is ranked 51st in the country. The unit is also ranked 42nd and 85th in rushing and red zone defense, respectively. 

As for now, ASU has to focus on what could be another low-scoring defensive battle against the Washington Huskies on September 22nd. If this trend continues, the Sun Devils’ defense may become a more significant part of their identity as a team. 

"We’ve got to be ready," King said. "Almost every game going out can be a defensive battle. All of these teams are tough. They come to play and they’ve got a lot of good defenses so our mentality is that we’re embracing it. That’s how it's going to be. We expect that every game…We prepare to expect a defensive game."

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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