One of the biggest criticisms about
The anchors at end for the Sun Devils include sophomore Dexter Davis, who led the teams in sacks last season as a true freshman, and junior college transfer Luis Vasquez. However, Vasquez’ availability as the season begins is in question as he suffered an injury at Camp Tontozona and may miss as many as the first two games of 2007.
Much is expected from Vasquez, who earned back-to-back NJCAA 1st-team All-American honors at Arizona Western in 2005 and 2006 and the NJCAA Region 1 Defensive Player of the Year award last season. He led the nation over the last two seasons with 31 sacks, 16 of them coming in his highly touted last year at AWC. Head coach Dennis Erickson coaxed him to
two weeks of the regular season.
The likely favorite to replace Vasquez is athletic senior Kellen Mills, who was listed ahead of Vasquez on the depth chart after Spring Practice. Mills has shown phenomenal athleticism on the field and in the weight room and is injury resistant, as evidenced by him missing only one game in his career. However, Mills was also hobbled by an ankle injury during
Other backups at end will include Wes Evans, who added 14 pounds of muscle this past off-season, and junior Eric Tanner, a junior college transfer who went to
Michael Marquardt, the senior who transferred from BYU in 2005, excelled last season, starting 12 games and earned an honorable mention from the Pac-10 in their postseason all-star teams. He recorded 3.5 sacks last year and is expected to be the Devils strongest run stopper this year. Marquardt has shown better footwork this off-season and looks to have significantly improved his upper body strength, letting him get more leverage on opposing blockers.
The other starting position, vacated by Jordan Hill, looks to belong to
Marquardt’s main backup figured to be Saia Falahola, but a torn triceps will keep him out for the majority of 2007. Now, the backup job seemingly will go to junior Alex Asi (neé Alex Fa’agai), a versatile lineman who can play both end and tackle. Two others returnees, Zach Niusulu and Tashaka Merriweather, will struggle to find meaningful playing time.
Erickson landed one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country during recruiting when 6’0, 330-pound Jonathan "Tank" English committed to ASU. English benched 455 pounds during high school and looks to be an imposing force for the Sun Devils at tackle in the future. His greatest asset, however, is his ability to break through offensive linemen and grab running backs behind the line, evidenced by his foot speed and sheer strength. English, who was temporarily displaced during high school due to Hurricane Katrina, is featured in the recently released book Hurricane Season.