ASU Preseason Roster: Defensive Newcomers
The countdown began at several months, has since been cut down to measurement in weeks, and now creeps to being identified merely by days.
The 2010 college football season is nearly here and around the country, fall camps are beginning to ensue.
At Arizona State University, though many questions exist to preface the new season, one thing that maintains a measure of certainty is the Sun Devil defense, which ranked among the country's best in 2009.
With such a strong lineup on the defensive side of the ball, most of ASU's newcomers along the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary are longer-term projects as the team can afford to redshirt the majority of its new defensive arrivals.
However, this is not to say that the recent acquisitions as junior college transfer Eddie Elder (pictured, No. 6) leads a group of high-potential performers poised to create an impact, whether immediately or in the years to come.
In this slideshow, Joe Healey of DevilsDigest.com breaks down each defensive member of ASU's Class of 2010 and the first-year expectations for each player.
No. 49 Jordan McDonald, DE
The latest member of a strong lineage of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro alumni to play for the Sun Devils, McDonald was widely regarded as the top defensive end prospect in the state of Arizona last year and brings strong pass rush abilities to ASU's defense.
As a senior in 2009, the 6'4", 225-pounder was rated by Scout.com as the No. 63 defensive end recruit in the country after tallying 79 tackles and 14.0 sacks for the Sabercats. With four of ASU's five returning defensive ends entering 2010 as juniors or seniors, McDonald likely will be called into some measure of duty next season to be groomed to contribute when the current stock of defenders exits ASU.
An All-State recipient in 2009, McDonald chose ASU over a hard push from Fresno State, while schools such as Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico also offered.
McDonald is generally expected to redshirt in 2010 to further develop his technical skills and add bulk to his frame, but he is expected to eventually provide a solid edge presence to the Sun Devil defensive line.
No. 97 Nduka "Junior" Onyeali, DE
Considered by many to be a lock for playing time as a true freshman, if Onyeali was about three inches taller he would have had his mailman working overtime to fill the mailbox with the plethora of national scholarship offers that would have arrived.
Though he stands in the proximity of the 6'0" range, Onyeali possesses beastly strength and was a terror for the always steady Denver (Colo.) Mullen High School program during his career, posting 35 combined sacks and nearly 200 total tackles over the course of his junior and senior seasons.
Onyeali will begin at defensive end for the Devils but brings the ability to play outside linebacker, especially if ASU integrates some 3-4 elements to the front seven, and at 240-pounds with the ability to bench press 435 pounds and squat 554 while running a 4.56 40-yard dash, he can more than hold his own regardless his position.
Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 56 defensive end prospect in the nation, Onyeali was named the state's Defensive Player of the Year for 2009 and primarily chose ASU over Syracuse, though he also earned offers from Colorado, Colorado State, Kansas State, Minnesota, and TCU, while USC came on heavy late in the process to try to sway his pledge.
If he is able to see the field in 2010, Onyeali likely will scrap with ends such as Gregory Smith and Dean DeLeone to help the Sun Devils fill the void left by four-year starter Dexter Davis.
No. 99 Joita Te'i, DL
Te'i could be the recruit that flew deepest below the recruiting radar, as he reported no opposing scholarship offers to compete with ASU's. But despite the lack of prestige and attention, Te'i is a versatile, hard-working lineman that caught the coaching staff's collective eye due to his aggressiveness and work ethic.
Rated by Scout.com as the No. 129 defensive end prospect last season, the 6-5, 255-pound Oceanside (Calif.) El Camino High School product has the capability to play virtually any defensive line position but figures to begin at strong side defensive end.
Though it is unlikely he will be seen on the field in 2010, Te'i figures to add flexible depth along the defensive line during his days as a Sun Devil.
No. 91 Lee Adams, DL
Though death and taxes are assured to everyone, in the recent past a third absolute has emerged for followers of Arizona State football—that the Sun Devils will secure a commitment from powerhouse Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School.
It began in 2008 with Shelly Lyons, Brandon Magee, and eventual transfer Ryan Bass, continued in 2009 with mega-star Vontaze Burfict and William Sutton, then resumed this past February with the addition of Adams, who helped keep the pipeline alive between ASU and Centennial High.
An active, persistent lineman from a mold similar to that of William Sutton, Adams uses his intensity and athleticism to counter his moderately limited size (6-2, 255) at defensive tackle. In 2009, Adams totaled 93 tackles and five sacks and was listed by Scout.com as the No. 115 defensive end in the country—though he projects to see time at tackle for the Sun Devils.
Adams brings a strong work ethic to Tempe from having played his varsity career for one of California's elite programs and in the upcoming years, after a predicted redshirt season in 2010 to develop, he figures to provide a Spark to the Sun Devil line.
No. 48 Carl Bradford, LB
In 2009, running back Deantre Lewis stole the show as Norco (Calif.) High School's marquee player, but Lewis' achievements likely would not have reached the level they did had it not been for the toughness of Carl Bradford (pictured, No. 22), his lead-blocking fullback.
Not only did Bradford help Lewis become one of California's most explosive offensive players, he showed enough ferocity and aggression in his fullback role to convince ASU that he could be an equally effective contributor at linebacker.
Bradford's demeanor and achievements at fullback, in addition to his impact at linebacker in ASU's summer camp last year, enabled him to earn a scholarship offer from the Sun Devils which he immediately accepted so that he could join Lewis on ASU's roster just as he did in the offensive backfield at Norco High.
At 6'1", 230-pounds, Bradford has tremendous potential at middle linebacker and though he did not appear on defense during his high school career, he was rated as the No. 7 fullback prospect in the country by Scout.com after totaling 884 rushing yards, 318 receiving yards, and 18 total touchdowns in 2009.
Bradford brings a formidable combination of size and speed to ASU's top-tier defense, posting a 335-pound bench press, 545-pound squat, and 345-pound power clean while running a 4.65 40-yard dash.
Though he has the measurables and physicality to contribute at the college level, the most likely scenario is that Bradford redshirts in 2010 to learn from defenders such as Vontaze Burfict and Gerald Munns to help ease the learning curve from being a high school fullback to becoming a Pac-10 middle linebacker.
No. 4 Alden Darby, CB
One of the final additions to ASU's 2010 signing class, Darby (pictured, No. 2) had a "risk-reward" element that has already paid dividends, as there were substantial concerns as to whether he would be able to academically qualify to play at the Pac-10 level.
His athletic acumen, however, has never been called into question as he was a playmaking two-way threat at quarterback, receiver and defensive back for Long Beach (Calif.) Millikan High School, as he totaled 83 tackles, 1,074 receiving yards, 862 rushing yards, and 21 total touchdowns over his three-year varsity career.
Despite his noteworthy efforts, Darby went generally unevaluated by the major recruiting outlets because he had no other scholarship offers beside ASU's, primarily because of his questionable academic standing during the early portion of his senior year.
Fortunately for both parties, ASU took a chance on Darby, and he in-turn attributed the necessary focus to earn academic clearance to be a full-fledged Sun Devil.
Aside from diverse flexibility on the field, Darby brings sensational size (6'0", 180 pounds) to the cornerback position and according to many, when ASU's Class of 2010 is evaluated in the future he may ultimately prove to be one of the true "sleeper" acquisitions that the Sun Devils obtained.
With a stock of cornerbacks that will likely go five-deep without much of a drop-off in talent, Darby likely will redshirt as a freshman and be geared for future contributions as three of the five returning scholarship cornerbacks will be upperclassmen this year.
No. 25 Devan Spann, CB
In addition to competing in games against high-level talent in Southern California, Spann (pictured, No. 8) had the added benefit of practicing against offensive teammates of his that were ranked among the nation's premier recruits including five-star receiver Robert Woods (USC), four-star receiver Paul Richardson (signed with UCLA but was subsequently dismissed) of last year's senior class and current five-star receiver prospect George Farmer and four-star safety/wide receiver recruit Marqise Lee from the Class of 2011.
Essentially, Spann is battle-tested from virtually everything he experienced during his career at Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra High School.
A two-year starter for the illustrious Serra High, the 5'1"1, 175-pounder was rated by Scout.com as the No. 109 cornerback prospect in the country last year and collected 64 tackles, 12 pass deflections and three interceptions for Serra's state champion squad in 2009.
A gritty and speedy defensive back with 4.4 40-yard-dash speed, Spann may also run track at ASU and figures to add to the future quality of the Sun Devil defensive secondary.
Spann's availability for 2010 is limited, largely because he had to step away from ASU's summer program because of a health issue, but in all reality he figured to redshirt this season despite the health concern to preserve eligibility and sharpen his skill set to begin in 2011.
No. 16 Ramon Abreu, S
There is little debate that no recent high school player at any level in the state of Arizona has been more productive on an all-purpose level than Abreu, a dynamic leader that boosted Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza High School to a state championship appearance in 2009 based on his game-changing efforts running and catching the ball, as well as on defense and special teams returns.
A two-time All-Arizona recipient and rated by Scout.com as the No. 63 safety prospect in the country, Abreu achieved career totals of 416 tackles from his linebacker position and 2,032 rushing yards while generally serving as the heart-and-soul for the Padres' that was always in the right place at the right time to make big plays when they were needed most.
Despite his amazing widespread productivity, Abreu's college potential varies greatly depending on the evaluator, as his diminutive stature (5'10", 180 pounds) and lack of game experience in the secondary prompt prognosticators to question his ability to match his high school contributions at the college level.
Sun Devil fans, however, take solace in the fact that those that have watched Abreu closely during his high school career insist that he will find some way to make his mark at ASU—whether in a lead role at safety or a lesser capacity on special teams.
Prior to signing with ASU, Abreu considered scholarship offers from schools including Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, and San Diego State, while reports emerged that Oregon and Stanford made a late push but didn't officially extend an offer.
In 2010, Abreu is likely to redshirt as he learns the details of the safety position.
No. 2 Eddie Elder, S
An absolute ballhawk at the junior college level, Elder was the main character in a unique set of circumstances this winter as he was all set to attend rival Arizona before a credit transfer fiasco occurred that sent him to ASU to avoid having to spend an extra semester at the College of San Mateo (Calif.)
In this instance, Arizona's loss is ASU's substantial gain, as Elder captured 13 interceptions in two junior college seasons in addition to 119 total tackles, helping him net First-Team Junior College All-America recognition and a 4-star rating from Scout.com.
After participating in spring drills, Elder is positioned to be the Devils' top reserve at free safety behind projected starter Keelan Johnson, while potentially seeing field time along with the two expected first-string safeties as ASU's primary nickel defensive back in passing situations.
The main knock on Elder is his lack of ideal size (5'10", 186 pounds), but he more than makes up for it with his sharp instincts and field awareness, especially in defense of the passing game.
Once he decided to part ways with Arizona, Elder considered Utah in addition to ASU while also holding an offer from New Mexico State.