(Photo: ASU Athletics)
When D.J. Calhoun and Tashon Smallwood made starts against Weber State, they became only the fifth and sixth Sun Devils ever to start as freshmen in an opener. Cornerback Armand Perry missed his chance to be the seventh, but it only took him one week to find his way into the starting lineup, as he’ll take over at boundary corner against New Mexico on Saturday.
On a defense that will now start three true freshman, none of the young players surprised quite like Perry. So much so that head coach Todd Graham admitted in fall camp that he expected the Las Vegas product to sit out in 2014.
“He was a guy that we had up there on the board and I said, ‘We’re going to take a look at him, I bet he’ll be a guy that’ll redshirt,’” Graham said on Aug. 22. “That’s why you recruit guys from great programs.”
In all four of Perry’s years at Bishop Gorman High School, the team won Nevada state championships, as he compiled 106 tackles and three interceptions in two years as a starter for the program.
“He comes from a championship-type background,” Graham said. “When he came here the work ethic that he had was just impressive, and he’s talented.”
While Perry’s play took Graham by surprise, the 6’0, 190-pound defensive back had high expectations for himself in 2014.
“I came in real confident,” Perry said. “It started off with the summer workouts and I came in real motivated to work hard, to get a spot and to help the team. I’m just coming out here and working hard every day. The coaches recognized that and things are just working out.”
After putting himself into the conversation for a starting job with three juniors (Lloyd Carrington, Solomon Means and Kweshi Brown), Perry played behind Means for all of fall camp and in the team’s opener against Weber State.
However, Perry earned plenty of play time in a game that was never really close, and earned first-team reps in the entire week of practice that followed. Not only did his play catch the eyes of coaches, but teammates as well. Lloyd Carrington, the most experienced of a young cornerback group, spoke highly of the freshman after practice.
“Coach Graham believes that Armand can be pretty good, which he is,” Carrington said. “He’s talented, and he’s come in and just showed coach that he’s hungry.”
When Perry makes his start against the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday, it won’t come with the typical responsibilities of a cornerback, though. The Lobos passed the ball just 14.8 times per game in 2013, the fourth-fewest in the nation, and will instead utilize a triple option rushing attack.
“The thing about a triple option team is if you’re not disciplined that’s when they’ll get you,” Perry said. “The main thing is we have to communicate, be confident and just be disciplined.”
For Perry, accomplishing those goals are the only priorities he has and he said his status as a starter isn’t something he’ll worry about.
“I’m thinking about how I can help the team in any way. I’m just out here trying to help the team go 15-0.”
Adam Stites is a WCSN football reporter, you can reach him on twitter at @AdamStitesASU or by email at AdamStitesBCC@yahoo.com