(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Even in an Arizona State defense that has not had its strongest of years, stars are emerging.
Two players that have really come to the forefront, especially in the past couple of weeks, are junior Koron Crump and redshirt junior Marcus Ball.
Crump, who has shared Devilbacker duties with redshirt junior A.J. Latu, has been arguably the biggest surprise of the team.
“He’s probably our best defensive player right now,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “What was most impressive about how he played last week was he got 68 defensive snaps, covered every punt, every kick and had all those sacks. I’ve never seen a guy who has played like that. He just gets better and gains confidence every single day.”
Indeed Crump is loading up on the sacks. In fact, his total of nine leads the Pac-12 and is a big reason why the Sun Devils rank 26th in the country in total sacks. He is making an impact that isn’t often seen right away from a junior college transfer.
“What’s so great about that kid is that I show up Sunday, and he’s the first guy you run in to on the elevator,” Patterson said. “He’s the first guy in study hall so that he can get ahead, so he can get back up and study the game film. Then, he’s hanging out in my office and coach Slocum’s office. He has been a pleasant surprise in that regard. Just his work ethic, the sky is the limit for that guy.”
Patterson went as far as to say that Ball would be the co-MVP of the defense along with Crump.
“He’s physical in his tackling, he’s making great plays against in pass coverage, he is doing an unbelievable job supporting the run,” Patterson said.
It has been Ball’s recent string of games that have really set him apart. He has 29 tackles in the last three games, including a career-high 10 in two of them. His play and leadership on the defense led to high praise from Patterson.
“(Marcus) Ball has put together three games in a row that’s probably as good as any DB (defensive back) we have had since I’ve been here besides maybe Damarious (Randall),” he said.
“When you see a young man who has fought through some of the adversity that he has had to fight through, to perform at the level that he is performing at, that’s great.”
- Quarterback Manny Wilkins did not participate in 11-on-11 drills. Dillon Sterling-Cole ran with the first team and threw a touchdown, while Jack Smith was with the second team.
- A.J. McCollum was not at practice. He did not play against Washington State due to what head coach Todd Graham called a “personal matter.” Tyler McClure took his place during drills at center.
- Armand Perry and Christian Sam rode the stationary bikes on muscle beach, while Ball and Demario Richard donned green non-contact jerseys during drills.