(Photo: ASU Athletics)
Arizona State’s depth at the defensive line will be tested this Saturday against the USC Trojans.
Head coach Todd Graham announced that sophomore nose tackle Jaxon Hood will not be in action due to an injury he suffered against Stanford.
Many are wondering how the Sun Devils’ defensive line will stack up without the talented Hood lined up. There’s a hole that needs to be filled, and redshirt senior Gannon Conway intends to fill that void.
Last season, Conway saw action in 10 games, posting nine tackles and one sack. This season, however, he has started all three games at defensive end. Last week, against Stanford’s highly touted offensive line, Conway’s 6-4, 280-pound build produced four total tackles, including one tackle for a loss.
“I’m getting off the ball. I’m going to make disruption happen in the backfield,” Conway said. USC’s offensive line ranks 103rd in sacks allowed, meaning Conway should have plenty of opportunities to disrupt.
Conway will look to solidify the ASU defensive line that has allowed an average of 4.7 yards per carry, a weakness that should work to the advantage to USC running back Tre Madden. With Hood injured, Conway will be forced to produce and make sure Madden, who averages 5.1 yards per carry, does not get loose between the tackles.
Conway has been making the transition to nose tackle throughout practices this week.
“This week I’ve just been trying to get comfortable [at nose tackle], but virtually it’s the same position. I’m just on the guard,” Conway stated.
“He’s transitioning really good,” said fellow defensive lineman Marcus Hardison, who made the same transition when arriving at ASU this summer.
While Conway transitions to nose tackle, Hardison and Davon Coleman will both see playing time at defensive end on Saturday. Conway has confidence in their ability to take over his former position.
“Those are two great players,” Conway said. “They will be able to rotate in together and make plays out of it.”
The Trojans’ young and inexperienced O-line has given up nine sacks in the first four games this season. Hardison and Coleman will look to take advantage of the matchup against USC’s right tackle Kevin Graf. Graf has struggled in pass protection so far, just one reason why teams have been able to batter Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler this season.
“We’re just going to get off the ball and read our keys,” said Conway. “We’ll be able to make plays out of it.”