In a conference that throws the football all over the Pacific Coast and down in the desert heat, one of the most important attributes a defense can have is a flustering pass rush hungry for quarterbacks.
And there is nothing quite like a “sack lunch.”
Arizona State senior defensive end Dexter Davis seems to be hungry for quarterbacks no matter when or where the game is played. A phrase that describes Davis’ play on the field might be “Man of Steel.”
The senior from Thunderbird high school in Phoenix has started all 38 games of his Sun Devil career, totaling 113 tackles and 27.5 sacks.
When Dexter Davis hits an opponent, the former high school wrestler is looking for the knock out punch, forcing eight fumbles and 212 yards lost due to his presence in the backfield.
However, in 2009 Davis will have three other perennial all-conference players to grab attention from opposing offensive linemen.
Sophomore Lawrence Guy earned freshman All-American honors in 2008 with his 44 tackles. Ten of those resulted in 22 yards lost, and Guy also added two sacks to his statistics.
The 6’5”, 293-pound Las Vegas product arrived in Tempe as a high school All American defensive end from Western high school. Lawrence brings an uncanny combination of size, power, and speed.
Coach Dennis Erickson and defensive line coach Grady Stretz filled their defensive tackle need last season when injuries occurred, and really found a gem in Lawrence Guy.
Both of them witnessed the talent and progress of the true freshman early in camp, and realized the depth at defensive end and lack thereof at defensive tackle.
The switch was clearly the right choice for all parties involved…except for opposing offenses.
Lining up next to the All Conference and All American Lawrence Guy, is the run stopper. Sai’a Falahola will be the difference maker that was missing last season.
Falahola made only four starts in 2008 due to injuries and that sidelined this lonestar state product. The 6’1”, 298-pound nose guard has added even more muscle and weight to fulfill his roll as, Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray’s, “run-stopping machine.”
On the opposite side of Davis at defensive end could be a number of “hard hat” type performers for the Sun Devils.
The first, Flagstaff, Ariz. native James Brooks, made tremendous growth this spring trying to fill the void of the 2008 starter, Luis Vazquez.
This was up until an unfortunate circumstance occurred in the last week of spring practice, when Brooks went down hard from a low block to knee. However, test results revealed no structural damage, yet the 6’5”, 278-pound speed rusher was instantly ruled out of the annual spring game to deter any more damage.
Brooks was a dime package rush defensive end in 2008, but looks to regain similar numbers to the ones he posted in high school. He recorded 59 tackles, 15 sacks, and 12 pass deflections as a senior.
This "pro-style" pass rusher will wreak havoc on offensive tackles this season.
Another option on the outside for Arizona State will be Junior College transfer Dean DeLeone. The Orange Coast College and Southern California Football Association Defensive Player of the Year is a weight room machine.
Boasting 27 repetitions (225 pounds) in the bench press and a 36-inch vertical leap, the Park City, Utah native has also been clocked at 4.44 in the 40-yard dash. All these weight room numbers are tremendous considering his stature, and the best part is that DeLeone is even more successful on the gridiron.
The 6’2”, 245-pound DeLeone harassed quarterbacks with 9.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 78 total tackles.
If James Brooks returns healthy enough to resume his starting role opposite of Davis, there is no question that DeLeone can be an impact player in the Pacific-10 this season, similar to former Oregon sack master Nick Reed.
Sophomore Jamaar Jarrett will provide competition for both DeLeone and Brooks at defensive end, as well as provide depth for the Sun Devils eight man rotation on the defensive line.
There was a great deal of hype during Jarrett's recruiting process garnering a lot of attention from the Oregon coaching staff. He instead chose ASU, but has yet to make an impact.
Although many believe that Jarrett will burst on the Pac-10 scene eventually, the only question is when. Sun Devil fans should give him time since he is only a sophomore this upcoming season.
Joining DeLeone will be fellow newcomer Corey Adams from Scottsdale Saguaro, who is slated to give some quality competition to an already solid defensive tackle position. At 6’3”, 292 pounds, Adams has all of the measurables to compete instantly at a high level for Arizona State.
Defensive coordinator Craig Bray has to be pleased with the increased depth and overall speed and strength of his defensive line going into 2009.
The Sun Devils utilized many blitzing schemes last season to improve off of a solid 2007 season, however, in 2009, much of the pressure put on opposing quarterbacks will come from the ASU front four.