The past few seasons in Tempe, fans in Sun Devil Stadium heard the calls on the PA System, "Mike Nixon with the interception," "Travis Goethel on the tackle," and "Dexter Davis with another sack."
All of those perennial All-Americans have since graduated. Now, it is time for the youthful talent that the defensive coaching staff has been raving about to make its mark.
Nixon, Goethel, and Davis are all gone. That is two starting linebackers and ASU's top sack master for the past four years all no longer eligible.
Vontaze Burfict, ASU's prized recruit from a season ago, will now be fully entrenched in the starting middle linebacker role. The question is, who will he be flanked with?
Look no further than Burfict's high school teammates Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons. Both Magee and Lyons have put in their work on special teams and showed signs of promise in reserve roles last season, but if their intensity and production is anywhere close to that of Burfict, ASU's linebackers will be just fine!
Erickson also received positive news on the status of linebacker Gerald Munns. Munns was one of the top linebackers on ASU's roster last season but left the program to deal with off the field issues.
Munns, Magee, Lyons, and the incoming freshmen will have big shoes to fill, but their ability on the field will speak for itself.
The job of replacing Dexter Davis might be a far tougher feat than replacing the linebackers. Erickson hit the recruiting trail hard to try to land five-star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, but in the end the Texas native stayed close to home and chose the Oklahoma Sooners.
However, Erickson's job was not done. Arizona State signed four defensive ends to the 2010 recruiting class, including Nduka Onyeali, a four-star defensive machine from Denver.
The buzz around the program regarding Onyeali is that he might be too small for defensive end, but he is too valuable to waste as an outside linebacker. Onyeali is 6'1", 240 pounds and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. If a newcomer is going to fill the void left by Davis, look no further than Onyeali.
The Sun Devils also have starter James Brooks returning, as well as key reserves Dean DeLeone and Jamaar Jarrett, who both saw significant game action last fall.