(Photo: ASU Athletics)
On paper Arizona State’s defense seems like one of the best in the nation. However, when watching, the biggest problem senior defensive back Alden Darby sees is giving up big plays due to a lack of tackling execution.
“A lot of times we gave up yards after catches, due to missed tackles and not having our head up to see what we hit,” Darby said.
ASU is considered a top contender for the Pac-12 South; however they rank third-to-last in the conference in solo to assists tackling ratio, only ahead of Arizona and Colorado, who have given up a combined 247 points.
A successful defense would converge to the ball as a unit, and the ratio of solo to assisted tackles would be closer in number. If there are more solo tackles than assists, then it should be more often than not a tackle for a loss, and out of 202 Sun Devil solo tackles, only 28 of those were tackles for loss.
“We can’t have missed tackles. We can’t have miscommunication,” Darby said. “When things like that happen, it results in big plays.”
Against Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish faced a 3rd and 12 early in the 1st quarter, and Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees completed a pass to WR DaVaris Daniels for 20 yards. He was forced out of bounds by ASU defensive back Lloyd Carrington. This is just an example of the type of mistakes the defense shouldn’t be making.
“[The number of missed tackles] were so close to 10,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said.
This week’s practice was filled with working on tackling to prevent the repetition of mistakes like the ones against Notre Dame.
“One thing we took away [from the Notre Dame game] is you’ve got to do your job all game long,” Darby said.
On Saturday, ASU will play Colorado (2-2). Despite being last place in the Pac-12 South, the Buffaloes averaged 5.3 yards per play against No. 2 Oregon.
In 2013, opponents have averaged 13.8 yards per catch against Arizona State’s defense. Against Oregon, Colorado averaged 23.3 yards per catch.
Even with the buzz of a game expected to be a lopsided victory, this is an opportunity for ASU to prove their worth in the Pac-12, and it all starts with defense.
“We know this is a must-win for us to be the Pac-12 South Champions,” junior linebacker Carl Bradford said. “We just need to focus and attack and play our game.”
With the amount of emphasis on tackling in practice, expect both Bradford and Darby to record numbers similar to what they put up in the USC game.
“We’ve got to bounce back. We can’t take them lightly at all,” Darby said. “We’ve got to come out here and dominate and do what were supposed to do.”