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Arizona State Football Defensive Preview
The Magician Brian Ward
The Arizona State Sun Devils are led by DC Brian Ward
Cal last faced a Ward defense when they went to Pullman in 2022 (WSU 28 Cal 9)
The Bears struggled with pressure all game and ASU’s defensive line is the unit to watch
Ward runs a 4-2-5 defense, Cal has also seen that vs Auburn and Washington this season
2022 Defense in Review
FEI Ratings, 119th on defense
9th in the Pac 12 in scoring defense
gave up 31.4 points per game
Last year’s defense is utterly unrecognizable compared to this years group. In 2022, ASU struggled with stopping pretty much everyone outside of Stanford, mainly because their offense would hang them out to dry by keeping them on the field. Competent games against Washington State and Oregon State were wiped away by gaps that became insurmountable and thus hindered the 2022 defense as a whole. Under the Kenny Dillingham regime, the names, scheme, and executions have been revamped.
The Provisional Starters
Edge BJ Green, DT CJ Fite, DT DaShaun Mallory, Edge Clayton Smith
LB Travion Brown, LB Tate Romney
CB Ro Torrence, Nickel Jordan Clark, S Chris Edmonds, S Shamari Simmons, CB Demetries Ford
Players to Watch
The name of the game for the Sun Devils defense is chaos, and tons of it. Edge’s BJ Green and Prince Dorbah have been the genesis of said chaos, combining for 6.5 sacks on the young season. Cal’s biggest struggle over the last season and a half has been dealing with pressure from the defensive line, so to corral Green and Dorbah will be the baseline for the Bears offense to run smoothly. Not to be outdone, CB Ro Torrence also has 2 sacks from his cornerback position, a signal back to the WSU defense last year sending pressure from multiple settings.
Brian Ward’s defenses are known for team speed, and ASU is looking to capitalize on that themselves even if they give up a big play or two. A consequence of that, is that both safeties Chris Edmonds and Shamari Simmons lead the team in tackles because of the gambles the Sun Devils take at the line of scrimmage. So far ASU has no interceptions on the season, as they “rely” on the pressures they make to create havoc and stops on defense.
How Cal can win this game
Cal needs to use the agressiveness of the Sun Devils against them. Seeing as they blitz from an inordinant amount of positions, the usage of screens from both the receivers and Jaydn Ott will be big. Those will be the types of plays I look for in trying to utilize the team speed of the ASU defense against them. Whether Cal can execute those plays is another question, as the screen game has been less than ideal to say the least. If the Bears can’t handle the Sun Devils pressure, look for a repeat of the offensive output from the Washington State game last year, regardless of who is under center.
Cal can and should win this game. But ASU’s defense is earning the respect of their opponents after they played them. The Sun Devils played tough against Oklahoma State, sacked and pressured Caleb Williams more times than I would’ve expected and held Fresno State to field goal after field goal despite ASU’s offense being a total tirefire. It remains to be seen if the Cal offense is up to the task.
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