ASU football notes: Possible changes coming this week on defense

Arizona State is considering defensive changes, trying to fast-track players to not only find the right personnel, but

Entering Saturday’s home contest against No. 4 Washington, Arizona State is considering defensive changes, trying to fast-track players to not only find the right personnel, but also improve depth.

Some of this is the hangover effect from Koron Crump’s season-ending knee injury suffered in Week 3. Since losing their best pass rusher, the Sun Devils have tried to find ways to compensate, but it's not easy replacing an all-conference caliber player. And ASU doesn't exactly have a lot of options.

The Sun Devils first tried former walk-on Abraham Thompson at Crump’s rush linebacker position. They later moved junior Jay Jay Wilson from offense – rotating him with Thompson – but the search for a better solution continues.

“We’ve been in a semi-quandary since we lost Koron,” defensive coordinator Phil Bennett admitted Wednesday.

For now, it appears ASU plans to shift end Alani Latu to the rush position, a move that makes sense. Latu last year started six games at ASU's "Devil" position. He entered this year prepared to play there as well, but ASU’s decision to move junior JoJo Wicker inside pushed Latu to end, where he posted 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in five games.

Wicker likely will move from the three-tech position back to end, where he played last season, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors. Senior Tashon Smallwood will remain at one of the inside positions. The only question is who will play the other. 

Junior Renell Wren and sophomore George Lea both have worked with the first team during this week's media-viewing periods. Wren is an intriguing option. At 6-5 and 295 pounds, he is built more like a power forward than a defensive lineman. After showing flashes last season, Wren this year was expected to play a bigger role, but so far that has not materialized.

Asked about him this week, both Bennett and coach Todd Graham acknowledged that Wren may play more moving forward, but neither offered many details.

“Renell, he’s played about 15-16 plays a game,” Bennett said. “I think he’s a little excited about getting more in the rotation, which he should be.”

Other changes could come in the secondary, the result of losing junior corner Joey Bryant to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. Although he worked with the offense Wednesday, sophomore receiver John Humphrey could back up sophomore field corner Kobe Williams and even play in certain packages against the Huskies.

ASU also is trying to work in freshman safety Evan Fields, who has practiced better in recent weeks after opening the season with a minor injury.

“We’re going to try and play some more guys,” said Bennett, who leaned on the same 11 for the season’s first few contests.

“We look at it, we evaluate,” the defensive coordinator continued. “Just like with Kobe. Kobe’s done some great things, but instead of 100 percent of the time, we’d like to play him 75. How much better can he be if he can come off and watch something and then come back on the field?”

Forcing turnovers

Through five games, ASU has forced only five turnovers, which ties UCLA for fewest in the Pac-12. To make a second-half push, Graham knows that has to change.

“We're not getting takeaways,” Graham said. “We're not getting a lot of interceptions. Well, why is that? How do you get more interceptions? Well, you got to see the ball to get the ball.”

During Graham's first three years, ASU ranked among the nation's best at forcing turnovers. From 2012 to 2014, the Sun Devils ranked 17th, fifth and 24th nationally. In 2015, they slipped to 59th. Last season they were 88th.

“You want to do it without being costly, (giving up) big plays,” Bennett said. “Also in the secondary, it’s confidence. You get picks playing with confidence. I still think we’re pretty high in tackles for loss and those things, we just got to get more – Todd uses the term and I like it, own the ball. We got to get the ball.”

 

 

 

Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at doug.haller@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DougHaller. Download and subscribe to the ASU Pick Six Podcast, available on iTunes.

asu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 1 Stanford Cardinal players gather after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 2 Stanford Cardinal players gather after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 3 Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw (left) shakes hands with Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham after winning the game at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 4 Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver N'Keal Harry (1) runs with the ball against Stanford Cardinal cornerback Alijah Holder (13) during the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 5 Stanford running back Bryce Love, left, runs for a touchdown past Arizona State defensive back Demonte King (28) during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 6 Stanford head coach David Shaw stands during a break in action in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 7 Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry, left, is tackled by Stanford cornerback Alijah Holder during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 8 Stanford running back Bryce Love, right, runs past Arizona State defensive back Kobe Williams (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 9 Stanford Cardinal wide receiver Trenton Irwin (2) runs with the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 10 Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham in the game against the Stanford Cardinal during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 11 Stanford Cardinal punter Jake Bailey (14) runs with the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 12 Arizona State Sun Devils running back Demario Richard (4) runs with the ball against the Stanford Cardinal during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 13 Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love (20) runs with the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 14 Stanford Cardinal wide receiver Trenton Irwin (2) runs with the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 15 Stanford running back Bryce Love (20) runs for a touchdown past Arizona State defensive back Chad Adams (21) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 16 Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins throws against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 17 Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage (7) is tackled by Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 18 Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, top, catches a touchdown next to Arizona State defensive back Kobe Williams (5) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)  Marcio Jose Sanchez, APasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 19 Stanford Cardinal running back Cameron Scarlett (22) runs with the football against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 20 Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love (20) runs with the football against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 21 Stanford Cardinal wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (19) catches the football for a touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 22 Arizona State Sun Devils fans cheer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 23 Fans cheer during the game between the Stanford Cardinal and the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 24 Stanford Cardinal safety Justin Reid (8) intercepts the football during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 25 Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love (20) runs past Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Chad Adams (21) during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 26 Arizona State Sun Devils running back Demario Richard (4) runs against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 27 Stanford Cardinal linebacker Bobby Okereke (20) celebrates after a teammate intercepts the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 28 Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) throws the football against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 29 Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) throws the football against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 30 Arizona State Sun Devils defensive lineman JoJo Wicker (1) attempts to defend against Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love (20) during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 31 Stanford Cardinal quarterback K.J. Costello (3) throws the football against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 32 Stanford Cardinal football players run onto the field with the American Flag before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 33 Stanford Cardinal quarterback K.J. Costello (3) warms up before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 34 Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Blake Barnett (8) warms up before the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sportsasu-football-notes-possible-changes-coming-this-week-on-defense photo 35 Stanford Cardinal band perform for the fans before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium.  Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports

 

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Article ASU football notes: Possible changes coming this week on defense compiled by www.azcentral.com