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Previewing the Sparky defense

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Let’s try something new, defense preview first this week.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Every year around the Oregon game it seems like the “Arizona State steals offensive signs” story comes back around. This is back in the headlines this week after the interesting conversation at the end of the game between Washington State coach Mike Leach and Arizona State Todd Graham. In the past we’ve seen Todd Graham use the blitz on almost every play, but this year he lets the defense play a little more straight up in order to protect his inexperienced secondary. They generally line up in a base 4-3 but like to move guys around a lot to bring different looks to the offensive line.

The leader:

In his fifth year as the Sun Devils head coach, Todd Graham leads the way for this defensive unit. After his arrival he transformed the Arizona State defense into one of the best in the country. However, in recent years we’ve seen a brief slip in the caliber of the defense. This year the slip could be blamed on lot’s of newcomers and players in different positions.

Stats:

It’s not quite as talented as a group that we’ve seen in the past. This year the Sun Devils are giving up right around 35 points per game. What’s more interesting is that this is a defense that’s now giving up 486 yards per game, AKA we’re in for another shoot out. The damage is really being done through the air, as teams are averaging 386 per game while just 99.9 on the ground.

The defense has done a solid job getting the ball back to the offense, they’ve managed seven interceptions along with 15 forced fumbles for four recoveries. The defense has been strong on third downs, holding teams to just a 36.72% conversion rate. Fourth downs have been a problem though as teams are converting 60% of the time against the Sun Devils. The red zone seems to be an area where Arizona State is really struggling as well. In the 31 trips, they’ve allowed 20 touchdowns and eight field goals.

Of course we all know the offensive explosion that was last year’s triple overtime game in Tempe. Vernon Adams Jr. led the way for Oregon with his 315 passing yards and four touchdowns. Royce Freeman had two touchdowns and 110 yards on the ground.

Three players to watch:

DJ Calhoun, #31, junior linebacker, 6' 0", 228 lbs.

Calhoun leads the Sun Devils in tackles with his 47. Also comes in second on the team with his 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Had his best year as a freshman and seems to have found a resurrection year as the leader of this 2016-17 defense.

De’Chavon Hayes, #8, senior defensive back, 5' 11", 187 lbs.

Between a very young secondary, there’s one upper classmen that really jumps out. Hayes leads the Sun Devils with his three interceptions this season. Also impressive that he’s managed three tackles for loss from the secondary position. Even more impressive, this is his first year in the position after spending his first three on campus as a running back.

Koron Crump #4, junior linebacker, 6’ 3”, 218 lbs.

Although Crump has just 20 tackles, nine of those are for loss with eight being sacks (both the team high). He’s really been playing well as of late and is coming off a three-sack game against Washington State. This is his first year with the team after transferring in from junior college.