(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Following the final day of their bye week, the Sun Devils put the pads back on and began game-week preparations on Sunday for their Thursday night matchup against Oregon.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman William McGehee went down in the tempo session with what appeared to be a left leg injury. While the injury seemed to be bothering him a lot he managed to walk off the field under mostly his own power.
Sophomore safety Armand Perry was in full pads and participated in stretching but has yet to see the field in the tempo session. Whether or not Perry will be ready for action come Thursday night has yet to be determined.
Praising the pressure
If there has been one consistent aspect of this year’s ASU football team, it has no doubt been the front four of the defense. Head coach Todd Graham has recognized them once, and heading into another game week he has chosen to give kudos yet again.
“It’s been phenomenal, I think we’re on record pace for TFLs and impacting the quarterback. We feel good about four-man pass rush, we might need to do more of that,” Graham said.
While they have been fantastic all year, they keep getting so much praise because they are improving.
“Out of those guys up front, I can probably say in the last seven games that most of them have played their best game five times,” Graham said. “So that group has really been the anchor of our defense and I think them and the play of Salamo Fiso, I think our forcing units have played extremely well.”
Even with the great former defensive tackle Will Sutton coming and going in an ASU uniform, Graham said this unit tops any unit led by the former third-round pick.
“We’re the best we’ve been up front, and that’s saying something,” he said.
This coaching staff has recognized the dominance at the line of scrimmage, but what they haven’t seen and are quite surprised about is the turnover production. ASU’s defense was second in the conference for both turnover margin and turnovers, but currently find themselves last in turnover ratio and are in a tie for tenth in turnovers forced.
“We’ve got to get takeaways, that’s the thing that we’re scratching our head about is how do you hit somebody in the backfield 12 times and sack him five and you don’t get the ball out?,” Graham said. “Our number one focus and objective has been owning the football, that’s on offense, and then attacking the football on defense and special teams.”
Utah didn’t give the ball up once in its win over the Sun Devils, but Graham doesn’t see any similarities between the Utes and the Oregon Ducks.
“I think when I look at Oregon I see athletes like UCLA and USC,” Graham said. “The back (sophomore running back Royce Freeman) is real patient like (UCLA senior running back Paul) Perkins, he is a load. I think he is as hard a back to tackle as we’ve faced… The receiving corps, just the athleticism they have there is different than what it was against Utah.”
Whether or not their differences will play into Graham’s hands will have to be decided on Thursday night, but in order to have the best chance to win Graham’s defense will have to play to its strengths and get back their 2014 ways.