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Cal Football 2019 Defensive Preview: The Sun Devils

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How will they be in comparison to the other defenses we’ve played?

NCAA Football: Colorado at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We check in with the Jedi Master, JediASU about the ASU defense and what they bring to the table.

What does year 2 of the Sun Devil Defense under Herm Edwards look like? What parts have improved over 4 games? What parts have struggled to improve?

I think all of the defense highs and lows really rest at the feet of Coach Danny Gonzalez, and it has been an immediate improvement. Coach Gonzalez has brought a much-appreciated toughness that really shows when they swarm to the ball. ASU was the worst in the nation just but a couple of short years ago, so it is funny as fan expectation is much higher now knowing what this defense is capable of.

What’s the strength of this defense so far? What’s its weakness?

Strength is still the run defense. Both DJ Davidson and Jermayne Lole have been great this year, and reliable. The whole LB core have been great helping stop that run.

The weakness is the middle of the field. Short dink-and-dunk passes can be like going to the vending machine, paying for a bag of chips and somehow a kit-kat gets knocked down and you get a two for 1. MSU gashed ASU with plays up the middle. Why MSU didn’t stick with that is beyond me. If MSU stuck with passing to the middle, that game would be very different.

Merlin Robertson was spectacular as a Freshman last season. Where do you think he has improved in year 2? Has he taken that next step so far this season?

By the numbers, he “on track,” meaning he has 13 solo/10 assisted tackles this year; in 2018 he was 48/29. The one thing I we were hoping to see more of was the TFLs, getting that rush through the OLine and getting to the QB. He has 0 so far. We want him to take that leap this year, and hope it is sooner than later.

Chase Lucas is the star in the defensive backfield that everyone knows about. What makes him so effective and how do you rate his Junior season so far?

So, Chase is definitely a highlight as he is extremely passionate and you see that on the field. How is that translating to actual numbers? It appears to be lacking, but I think there is a reason for that: other teams are not “testing” him as they did in previous years and are just outright avoiding him, which means he isn’t getting those opportunities. That is a sign of him being recognized by other teams as being a threat and showing his numbers being lower so far.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Evan Fields (JR), Cam Phillips (FR), and Aashari Crosswell (SO) who’s numbers are actually eclipsing Chase’s numbers.

With the loss of Jalen Harvey, has Cam Phillips stepped in well this season?

Most definitely! Cam has been one of the most active newcomers to this defense and his impact has been appreciated in this young season. There was something with his shoulder or arm in the Colorado game, so I don’t know his status for the Cal game.

Currently the top 2 tacklers on the team are defensive backs. Is that something that worries you or has that just been how the games have gone the last 4 weeks.

I recall reading during the preseason that if your top tacklers are the DBs, that isn’t optimal. I did an analysis and the DBs account for just over half (53%) of *all* solo tackles. This is most likely due to the 3-3-5 scheme where the DBs are all over the field. I would still like the DL and LB numbers to improve, especially the Sack and QB Hurry numbers.

Jack Jones, joined the program this off season. What does he bring to the defense for the Sun Devils? Is he an element that you were missing or does he provide some talented depth?

Talented depth, first and foremost. He only has 6 solos and 1 assisted in 4 games, so I attribute that to conditioning. We are in the 5th week, so I figure we’ll see more out of him as the season progresses.