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ASU football's secondary is mixed with leaders, veterans and new faces

Two-time transfers now eligible, transfers settling in, ASU football getting good look at 2024 secondary


ASU redshirt sophomore defensive back Joseph McGinnis II (28) defends against redshirt junior linebacker Krew Jackson (43) during Sun Devil football spring practice at the Bill Kajikawa practice fields on Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Tempe.

In recent ASU football history, lineups have been unstable. The secondary has been no different this spring. 

Although they still have some veterans, new players have transferred in, along with players who have struggled with eligibility but can now suit up. 

Dillingham said the secondary is improving throughout the spring.

"They're listening and hearing coaching," Dillingham said. "When you are young, it's really hard. There is a difference between listening and hearing. If you hear, okay, you heard it, then you forget it. If you are listening, you are trying to apply it."

Xavion Alford is a redshirt junior defensive back who has endured a rigorous road leading up to his first snaps last season. 

He started his collegiate career at Texas as a reserve safety, where he played in four games. He then decided to test the waters in the transfer portal and committed to USC, where he found success.

As a Trojan, he spent most of his time as a strong safety and recorded 31 tackles, three deflections, and a team-high three interceptions. This effort earned Alford USC’s 2021 Co-Defensive Perimeter Player of the Year Award. 

After his impressive 2021 season, he was hindered by injuries in the 2022 season. Then, in early January 2023, he announced he would take his talents to Tempe. He could not play because he was ineligible as a two-time transfer during the 2023 fall season.

Alford said in the time he has spent off the field, he learned to trust the process.

"I learned patience. I learned great patience," Alford said. 

Alford credited his faith to his positivity toward hardship and is looking forward to making an impact this season.

He has played in different systems with different coaches, so he understands the game better. He said this exposure is one of the main things he took away from his past teams. 

"I'm just more experienced," Alford said. "Now that I'm an older guy, the game flows to me more. Obviously, I've been practicing, and having practiced for the past two years, I've been able to sharpen up all my stuff."

Head coach Kenny Dillingham said Alford is a leader on the team, brings it every day, and sets a standard for the team. 

Along with Alford, sophomore defensive back and Tempe native Cole Martin came to ASU after a strong season at Oregon as a true freshman. He played in every game as a Duck and finished with 21 tackles, two pass deflections, and an interception. 

Dillingham spoke on Martin after a recent spring practice, praising his patience and intelligence. He said, “he has some dog in him.” 

Alongside new faces and parts in the secondary are players who know the ropes like redshirt senior Ed Woods. He has appeared in 32 games for the Sun Devils and said that this year’s group has a lot of trust and togetherness. 

As a team leader, he said the best way to help the team be successful is to ensure everyone does the little things. 

"I try to push the younger guys, making sure they are on time to class … doing the right things when no one is looking, that is what really matters at the end of the day," Woods said. "Everybody is going to do the correct thing when people are looking, just making sure that they’re doing the extra stuff off the field like watching film."

With the additions of Alford and Martin and the veteran presence of a player like Woods, the new-look secondary looks to be a promising unit for the Sun Devils this upcoming season.

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan

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