ASU football's defense anxious for more after exciting performance at spring game

The Sun Devils' defense looks ready for action after capping off a dynamic showing at spring practices

Last year’s Sun Devil defense was one of the youngest and most inconsistent units in the conference, but at its peaks it showed flashes of dominance capable of shutting down the most prolific of offenses. 

This season, the excitement surrounding the defense is palpable, and figures to be the bedrock of head coach Herm Edwards' second year on the job. With a number of key young contributors looking to take their game to the next level, the ASU spring game on Thursday provided an intriguing look at what’s to come. 

The secondary looks to be the team’s most dynamic group, showing an ability to flip the field at any moment with a jaw-dropping play but equally liable to give up the big gain. 

Junior cornerback Kobe Williams is entering his final season at ASU, and in his previous three seasons on campus he has made significant strides in his quest to assert himself as a true No. 1 corner.

Williams showed some impressive explosiveness and tactical precision throughout the drill portion of the spring game, and he nabbed the defense’s first spring interception of highly-touted incoming freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels on the final play of the game. 

“That s*** was dope,” said redshirt sophomore defensive back Chase Lucas, speaking on his teammate’s one-handed pick. “He did his thing though. We’ve been practicing that back-shoulder throw and I think he read it perfectly and looked back and caught it with one hand.”  

Lucas will pair with Williams to form one of the most electric cornerback pairings in the conference, each capable of shutting down an opponent’s No. 1 receiver on any given Saturday. 

Lucas possesses all the natural gifts required to become one of the best defensive backs in the country. The question for Lucas has always been whether he can put it all together, and after an up-and-down sophomore season, he will look to take the crucial next steps towards what some project as a future career in the NFL. 

“I just want to be the best,” the grinning Lucas said. “And with me under Herm’s wing, it’s going to get really, really fun this next year.” 

The performance from Williams and Lucas will only be enhanced by the progression of freshman safety Aashari Crosswell, who finished last season with four interceptions, tying for fourth in the country among freshman

“There were some good things out here. We saw a couple interceptions, that’s good because we have to get more turnovers next year,” defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said. “We’re excited, I wish we had another month of spring ball. The next 14 weeks are the most important for this program.” 

Gonzales embraced freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson following Thursday’s game, a man Gonzales has mentioned on multiple occasions as someone he considers a son. Gonzales stressed how important good judgement is as the Sun Devils prepare for a week off, and how he expects a team leader like Robertson to “do things right all the time.” 

Expectations could not be higher for Robertson following a sensational freshman season where he led ASU in total tackles (77), sacks (5), and tackles for loss (8.5). Robertson's ability to build off his stellar first year may become a defining characteristic of this Sun Devil season, and it could alleviate some of the concern surrounding the linebackers around him. 

Linebacker and soon-to-be-graduate student Tyler Whiley comes into 2019 after missing all of last season with a broken right ankle. Whiley was putting on an impressive spring performance this time last year, showing off an advanced understanding of Gonzales’ 3-3-5 scheme before suffering from a devastating combination of lower extremity ailments. 

Whiley now appears fully healthy and ready to return to form and capped off a solid spring with an outstanding interception of incoming freshman quarterback Ethan Long

As a whole, the ASU defense looked sharp throughout the Sun Devils' spring game, capping off what has been a productive few weeks of practice. 

As the season inches closer, excitement within the team is growing as the potential of this year’s defense begins to show itself. With a certain level of uncertainty on the other side of the ball, the Sun Devil defense looks primed to take the next step forward in its pursuit of a Pac-12 championship. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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