(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
A turn of events at the linebacker position during last Saturday’s game has left the position group in a bit of peril heading into the next game against Texas Tech.
Christian Sam left the game early on with an ankle injury and is questionable to play against the Red Raiders, while starting SPUR linebacker Marcus Ball was ejected for targeting and is suspended for the first half of the next game.
Both are strong presences on a defense that is looking to build a new identity for itself this season.
With their potential absences, one player that will have to step up is Tyler Whiley, Ball’s current backup at the SPUR position. Whiley was noted throughout camp as an emerging key player by Todd Graham and his coaching staff alike, and will get a prime opportunity to prove himself.
“I just have to bring the same energy he does,” Whiley said on replacing Ball. “He brings a lot of energy to the team, he’s a leader, and I just have to help lead like he does.”
He received the first prominent defensive playing time of his career on Saturday and finished with the lone Sun Devil sack but still has an adjustment process with his new role.
While he would take Ball’s spot on the defense, at least for the first half, the big unknown is still Sam’s status. He had his ankle taped during practice on Tuesday, but was practicing in pads. He spent most of the time on Muscle Beach as well.
“We will know more about Christian tomorrow,” Graham said. “He was limited to mainly walking around today.”
If Sam is unable to play, his spot will likely be taken by Carlos Mendoza.
The defense as a whole is slowly working it’s way back from absences that plagued them against NAU, with Laiu Moeakiola said to be playing next week according to Graham. He also mentioned that he is hoping SAM linebacker Salamo Fiso can return after he was suspended for a violation of team rules.
Regardless of some of the players status, the defense, which had its ups and downs against NAU, will need players like Whiley to step up against a TTU air raid offense that is one of the best in the nation.
-Position groups worked on individual drills again
-The injured Moeakiola was practicing Tuesday
-OL Marshal Nathe and S James Johnson were the only players who practiced in the green, non-contact jerseys.