'Young prodigy' T Lee is setting himself up for a role this season

Freshman defensive back T Lee has received praise throughout training camp and could be someone to step into ASU's lineup early on

When he was younger, ASU freshman cornerback T Lee used to play the since-discontinued college football video game "NCAA Football 14". In the game, Lee, from Georgia, would always pick the Sun Devils — not because he had any ties to the school, but because he enjoyed the uniform combinations. 

Once the Buford High Schooler's recruiting opened, Lee never really considered ASU. But then the Sun Devils sent him an offer. 

"When I got older and got the offer and started talking to coach Herm (Edwards) and coach AP (Antonio Pierce), I was like, 'this place is really home for me,'" Lee said. 

Lee joins one of the most experienced defensive backs corps in the Pac-12 with two senior starting cornerbacks Chase Lucas and Jack Jones, and three veteran safeties with senior Evan Fields, junior Aashari Crosswell and Boise State grad transfer DeAndre Pierce

Without the use of the “Tillman” spot this year, which was a safety/linebacker rover position, the Sun Devils appear to have a more diverse set of defensive personnel packages this season. At the moment, redshirt freshman cornerback Jordan Clark is slated as a nickel back and third-starting cornerback, with Lee right behind him.

When asked which freshman stands the best chance to be a difference-maker this year, ASU’s stalwart corners went right to Lee. 

"I think T Lee is a young prodigy," Jones said. "Once he gets past all the freshman nonsense — everybody goes through the freshman nonsense, I say that from experience — once he gets past that, he's going to be a dawg, it's going to be crazy."

Lucas added: "I like T Lee. He's been doing a really good job with a bunch of positions, trying to create that role. He can be a really good ballplayer."

The team’s practice report from last week stated that Lee impressed his teammates on the field by breaking on a route to cut off a receiver for an interception. The reported said he flashed “instincts and awareness all session."

Clark himself believes Lee has been “extraordinary” in camp so far. Associate head coach Antonio Pierce agreed.

"(Lee)'s done a great job with Jordan Clark, really competing with Jordan in that nickel spot," Pierce said.

They may be battling for the same spot, but Lee said that he and Clark have a great relationship and help each other on the field. Lee even said his teammates call the two brothers. 

"Everybody calls us twins, because we are the same height, talk the same have the same hobbies," Lee said.

According to Lee, Jones and Lucas have also been a great help to him. He said he doesn’t believe any duo in the Pac-12 touches those two, and them being hard on him has made a difference. 

With their help, Lee said he thinks he will "get some good playing time this year."

Lee showed up to ASU early to get in work during the spring, but that was cut short this year due to COVID-19. Despite the limited time to adjust to a new scheme, Clark said the freshman is picking it up well. 

"He's been making a lot of plays and picking things up really fast for a new guy," Clark said. "We didn’t get that much work in the spring, but he's looked great."

Co-defensive coordinators Pierce and Marvin Lewis have devised a defense that is versatile in nature. The NFL experience between the two leads ASU to play a more pro-styled defense. But Lee said they make it easy to understand, and having the veterans who have worked with the two coaches before is a benefit of playing in an experienced secondary. 

Plus, since the whole team is adjusting to a new system with 2019 defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, now the head coach at New Mexico, Lee didn't start out so far behind. 

Last year, the secondary was the most experienced unit on ASU's defense, but freshmen like Willie Harts and Cam Phillips (redshirt) still stepped up as necessary depth. Edwards would even joke throughout the season about how the younger players were all he had to work with in certain situations. 

And as it was the case a season ago, Pierce said he expects multiple freshmen defensive backs to have roles this year. 

"I expect (Lee) to play along with Ed Woods and Macen Williams," Pierce said. "Those three should all contribute, but T Lee has put himself in a position to probably get more playing time."

Reach the reporter at alexjweiner@gmail.com and follow @alexjweiner on Twitter.

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