May 29, 2007

Comprehensive spring review: Sun Devil defense

Arizona State concluded the first spring practice season under Dennis Erickson last month and ASUDevils.com recently completed an in-depth position-by-position review of where the team stands heading into the summer. Here is a compilation of our extensive defensive breakdown.

Defensive Line

Arizona State's defensive line was somewhat improved last season after an abysmal 2005 campaign, but it still left a lot to be desired from the die-hard Sun Devil faithful. With key players Kyle Caldwell, Jordan Hill and Will Kofe departing and several newcomers expected to play substantial roles, will the ASU defensive line be able to take another step in the right direction this season?

Spring football did not provide a clear answer to that question.

While it's clear that the team will feature several very solid players along the defensive front, most notably senior tackle Michael Marquardt and sophomore end Dexter Davis, there is little in the way of proven depth, and it's still a little too early to know exactly what ASU has with its mid-year junior college additions and returning redshirts.

The 2005 season saw ASU finish dead last in the Pac-10 and among the worst teams in the nation, with 468.8 yards allowed per game. The defensive line had just 8.5 of the team's 22 sacks, and the team gave up 35 sacks, a -13 differential.

The Sun Devils improved in all of these areas in 2006. They gave up an average of 327.8 yards per game, moving up to a respectable fifth in the Pac-10 in the category. That is a remarkable 43 percent improvement over the previous season, and that includes the ridiculous 680 yards of total offense ASU gave up in the Hawaii Bowl.

The team also improved its scoring defense from 29.9 to 25.1 in 2006, and had 37 sacks, as opposed to 22 the year before for a positive differential of +2. 18.5 of the team's sacks were by defensive linemen, which again, was a massive improvement over the previous season.


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