Arizona State Football Spring Report: The Secondary

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Updated: March 25, 2014
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(Photo: ASU Athletics)

When the Arizona State Sun Devils football team returns to the field in the fall, safety Damarious Randall will be one of only two returning starters on the defense. For a unit that finished 64th in the nation in points allowed, that sounds like bad news, especially with the losses of players like defensive tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford, who both figure to be selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It doesn’t sound like bad news to the defensive players on the roster for 2014, though.

“I think we’ll be better on defense this year, to be honest,” Randall said. “I think we’ll be more disciplined and, basically, I think we’ll have less blown assignments.”

While a talented group in 2013, ASU head coach Todd Graham often commented during the season on the team being out-of-position early in the year, and giving up big plays as a result. Those kind of problems are not going to be an issue for the team in 2014, according to Randall.

“It’s year three for the coaches, and they know more about the defense and we know the defense. Obviously we are young, but most of the guys have been in the system for two or three years,” Randall said.

That confidence is echoed by the players competing for the starting boundary safety role beside Randall. In spring practices, junior Ezekiel Bishop has been among the players receiving reps with the first team at boundary safety.

“Most definitely [the defense] will be better,” Bishop said. “I think we’re closer as a team and as a defensive unit. We’re building that chemistry now and we’re just bonding closer as brothers.”

While Bishop has played in the role some, if there’s a favorite to fill the void in the starting lineup left by the departure of Alden Darby though, it would likely be redshirt freshman Marcus Ball. After nearly earning the spot as a true freshman and pushing Darby to free safety, Ball suffered a shoulder injury just before the beginning of the season and spent the 2013 season on the sideline.

After surgery in January, Ball still isn’t cleared to fully participate in practices, but says he is close and will be ready to participate when football season comes in the fall. When he does, he also believes the defense will step up their level of play in 2014.

“There’s no question, the defense is definitely going to be better,” Ball said. “A lot of people talk X’s and O’s, but you can only go so far as the character of the guys you have, and the guys we have are tremendous. That’s the reason we’ll go far, and that’s the reason we’ll win a national championship. Everybody has bought in and is selfless,” Ball said.

Ball also shrugged off the idea of a battle between his teammates for the starting spot next to Randall.

“There is no competition between me and my guys, everybody is great and working to be the greatest we can be,” Ball said. “I want to be the greatest in the nation, so my competition is whoever the best player in the nation is at defensive back. I’m trying to beat him out, whoever that may be, I’m coming for you.”

The Sun Devils secondary finished 72nd in the nation in passing yards allowed, and gave up 24 passing touchdowns, which ranked 90th.

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