Arizona State Preview 2006 - Defense
Arizona State Sundevils
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Arizona State Sun Devils Preview 2006 - ASU Defense

What you need to know ... No one played defense in the Pac 10 last year outside of Oregon, so it should say something that ASU's D was the worst in the league allowing 469 yards per game. There's way too much speed, athleticism and depth to not be far better with a big improvement expected on the line thanks to transfers Loren Howard and Michael Marquardt. The linebacking corps has to replace Dale Robinson and Jamar Williams, but there are several interesting options to fill the void. The safeties will be among the Pac 10's best, so the pass defense should be far better if there's more production from the corners.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Zach Catanese, 107
Sacks: Zach Catanese, 2
Interceptions: Several at 1

Star of the defense: Senior S Zach Catanese
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Keno Walter-White
Unsung star on the rise: Senior LB Beau Manutai
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Loren Howard
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Catanese, 2) Howard, 3) S Josh Barrett
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, safety
Weakness of the defense: Cornerback, proven linebackers

Defensive Line
The potential is there for this to be a dominant line, but it needs the influx of new talent to come through and everyone has to stay healthy. The pass rushing woes of the Pac 10's worst sacking team should be solved with the addition of Northwestern transfer Loren Howard at end, BYU transfer Michael Marquardt in the middle, and the return of Kyle Caldwell from being hurt throughout last year. The depth in the middle should come from the JUCO ranks with 320-pound Martin Tevaseu and 286-pound Alex Fa'agai providing some size behind Marquardt, Jordan Hill and Will Kofe.
The key to the unit: More of a pass rush needs to be generated and all the great prospects and new talents have to be as good as expected.
Defensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- DE Loren Howard, Sr.
Who says a college team can't make a big free agent acquisition? The former Northwestern star has had a miserable string of bad luck over the last few seasons with a variety of injuries. When he's right, the 280-pound senior is among the nation's best defensive end with tremendous quickness and a fantastic motor.

- DT Michael Marquardt, Jr.
The former BYU Cougar was dominant on the scout team last season and should find his was into a starting tackle spot. He has always been quick, but he was a little light before bulking up this off-season to 288 pounds. Expect him to be a great interior pass rusher.

- DT Jordan Hill, Sr. - 31 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 3 broken up passes
The former linebacker has gotten huge weighing in at a big 298 pounds ... that's not necessarily a plus. He saw his pass rushing production dip last year but he still earned honorable mention All-Pac 10 honors. Even though he's likely to be more effective at around 280, he should be more of a force against the run at his new size.

- DE Kyle Caldwell, Sr. - 17 tackles, 3 TFL
While the rest of the line has bulked up, Caldwell has slimmed down to 261 pounds and should be an even quicker pass rusher. He was banged up throughout last season and was unable to build on his seven-sack 2004 campaign. When he's on, he has the ability to be one of the Pac 10's premier pass rushers.

Top Backups
- DT Will Kofe, Sr. - 23 tackles, 3 TFL
The former JUCO transfer saw plenty of action as a spot starter with great size and enough speed to play end if needed. He was limited in spring ball by a knee injury but will be a big factor all season long.
- DE Tranell Morant, Soph.
The Florida transfer has the talent to grow into a tremendous run stopper on the outside with enough quickness to be a decent pass rusher. When healthy, he has the skills to become the line's best player.
- DE Dexter Davis, RFr.
The sky's the limit for the redshirt freshman with linebacker speed and the potential to be an elite pass rusher. He'll combine with Wes Evans and Loren Howard at one of the end spots.

Call this a work in progress. The potential is there for huge things despite losing the 115 tackles and 15 tackles for loss of Pac 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year Dale Robinson and the 70 stops and three interceptions of third leading tackler Jamar Williams. Robert James is the only returning starter and is good in pass coverage, 262-pound Beau Manutai should be a stat-monster in the middle, and the hope will be for Chad Lindsey to be ready on the strongside. Several top newcomers will be the difference between an adequate corps and a great one. JUCO transfer Garret Judah is a tackling machine and true freshmen Jeff Bereuter, Travis Goethel, Jamarr Robinson, Mike Nixon and Gerald Munns will all get serious looks at immediate playing time.
The key to the unit: All the incoming prospects have to provide depth if not taking over entirely, while big Beau Manutai has to be an adequate replacement for Dale Robinson in the middle.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Chad Lindsey, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 sack
Lindsey will get the first look at the strongside after seeing a little bit of time on special teams as a true freshman. Now he has to replace Jamar Williams and his 70 tackles and three interceptions after bulking up to a still safety-sized 212 pounds.

- Beau Manutai, Sr. - 36 tackles, 3 TFL
The huge 262-pound man in the middle will try to take over for Pac 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year Dale Robinson. While he won't be Robinson, the former JUCO transfer has a few start under his belt and should be one of the team's leading tacklers and tackles for loss once he returns from an ankle injury.

- Robert James, Jr. - 36 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 1 interception, 5 broken up passes
The only returning starter to the linebacking corps, the 225-pound junior showed off his safety-like pass coverage skills but didn't make enough plays against the run. He's great at getting all over the field from the weakside and could be used more as a pass rusher if needed.

Top Backups
- Derron Ware, Sr. - 8 tackles, 1 interception
The former safety is learning on the fly on the weakside. The former Michigan State transfer is a 6-4 rangy defender with great speed, but he'll go through some growing pains.
- Mike Nixon, Fr.
While technically a true freshman, Nixon is mature after spending the last three seasons playing minor league baseball. At 216 pounds he's by far the lightest of the middle linebacker options. 
- Adam Vincent, Soph. - 13 tackles
Vincent will battle for playing time in the middle after seeing time behind Dale Robinson last year. At 239 pounds he's a bigger option than fellow backup Mike Nixon.
- Garrett Judah, Jr.
The 232-pound JUCO transfer will get every shot at playing time to use his fantastic pass rushing talents and great range. Don't be shocked if he steps into a starting spot right away and becomes one of the team's leading tacklers.

Defensive Backs
The secondary had major problems last season with no consistent pass rush to pressure opposing quarterbacks and shaky play from the corners. It's a fast, athletic group, but more big plays have to be made and there can't be so many deep balls allowed. Zach Catanese and Josh Barrett are good safeties who hit like a ton of bricks, and they occasionally cover like they're stuck in cement. Keno Walter-White appears to be a lock for one corner spot with the other up for grabs between JUCO transfer Justin Tryon, Chad Green and Littrele Jones. Wide receiver and running back Rudy Burgess could also see time at corner. Expect lots of tinkering and several depth chart changes before opening day.
The key to the unit: Coming up with a starting lineup that produces and stick with it. There's too much speed, size and athleticism to be as bad as last year.
Secondary Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- CB Keno Walter-White, Sr. - 26 tackles, 3 broken up passes
The former JUCO transfer stepped in and became the team's best corner showing off tremendous speed and good hitting ability. What he didn't do is make enough plays against the pass with no interceptions and only three breakups. He was out all this spring trying to get healthy and will be back as the main man this summer.

- FS Josh Barrett, Jr. - 37 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes
The 6-2, 220-pound junior became a decent all-around playmaker and a great hitter. Now he has to make more plays when the ball is in the air and needs to be more of a leader. He has all the measurables to grow into an All-Pac 10 performer and top NFL prospect if he can be more consistent and come up with more big plays.

- SS Zach Catanese, Sr. - 107 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes
The former JUCO transfer is a fantastic hitter who blows up ball-carriers and doesn't miss many chances to pop. He turned in an honorable mention All-Pac 10 season after finishing second on the team in tackles while also showing off good speed in pass coverage. Now he has to be the leader of the back seven and has to be more intimidating as a pass defender.

- CB Justin Tryon, Jr.
The star JUCO transfer is really, really fast. He won the 2002 California state championship as a sprinter
running a 10.6 100-meters, a 21.2 200-meters and a 47.25 400-meters. He'll take a few lumps and will get beat by the more experienced Pac 10 corners, but he has the skills to grow into a top cover corner.

Top Backups
- CB Chad Green, Jr. - 6 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Green will see playing time, but he'll have to battle hard to get a starting spot. He's the team's most experienced corner even though he has spent most of his career as a banged up reserve. He's strong and should at least be a more productive reserve.
- CB Chris Baloney, Jr.
Baloney is a top JUCO transfer who signed last year and is just now joining the team adding good size and the potential to be an immediate starter.
- SS Jeremy Payton, Soph. - 25 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 broken up passes
The 208-pound sophomore served as the nickel back last season and showed he can be a big hitter. He can play anywhere in the secondary and even saw a little bit of time as a wide receiver. He could step into a starting role at either safety position without a problem.

Special Teams
The ASU special teams will be among the best in America if the punting situation can be sorted out. Jesse Ainsworth can handle all the kicking duties, but the hope is for Chris MacDonald to get back his freshman season form while improving his mechanics enough to take back the gig. Ainsworth has All-America potential as a placekicker. Terry Richardson is one of the nation's best return men averaging 15.3 yards per punt return with two scores and 27.3 yards per kickoff return. The coverage units need to be far better after allowing 13 yards per punt return and 20.9 yards on kickoffs.
The key to the unit: A little more pop on long field goals would be nice and steady production in the punting game would be a big plus.
Special Teams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK/P Jesse Ainsworth, Sr. - 9-11 FGs, 53-53 extra points, 21 punts, 734 yds, 35 average, 9 inside the 20
There's no questioning Ainsworth's ability as a placekicker hitting 37 of 54 career field goals and becoming automatic inside the 40, but he'll have work to do to stay on as the punter with Chris MacDonald looking to get back the job. MacDonald has the much bigger leg, but he got four kicks blocked and wasn't as accurate as Ainsworth was.

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