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April 20, 2011

New coach pushing defensive line growth

With a river of perspiration pouring from his brow and heavy breathing chopping his words, Bo Moos didn't exactly say it following Tuesday's grueling session, but then again, he didn't need to.

This is spring ball?

Gone are the practices of April where veteran Arizona State defensive linemen took a handful of reps and called it a day. First-year coach Scott Brown, as they say, doesn't play that.

But Moos, a senior overachiever out of Sheldon High School in Eugene, Ore., knows it's ultimately for the best.

"The one thing I will say is I'm a lot more tired after practice," Moos said. "It's a good thing. We do more work in the time we're out here with him and we're becoming a better pass rush d-line. I definitely expect a big improvement in that area just because there's certain things we're discovering that he's taught us and stuff we've never seen before that we're applying and it's working."

Brown quickly demonstrated his hands on approach during the first day of spring ball when he taught players multiple combination pass rush moves while physically engaging the mock offensive linemen.

But it's off the field where things really come together, Moos said.

"He shows you where to put your hands and do everything and then in the film room that's where it's really there because he has all sorts of film from the next level to show us different guys that we know and can relate to and it really makes you want to explore what you can do," Moos said.

Senior defensive end Jamaar Jarrett, said this year's veteran group has a real advantage because now that the teachings of former line coach Grady Sretz have been fully assimilated, they can build on that knowledge with a fresh set of eyes.

"I think coach Brown is awesome, he's teaching us all kinds of new things but still at the same time we're kind of using both coach Stretz and coach Brown, incorporating both of their techniques. [Brown] is teaching us a lot of different things, so it just builds on what we already knew," Jarrett said. "So it's great, I love it."

Tuesday saw an intense blitz period in practice, where the front seven defenders made an all-out assault on ASU's quarterbacks. Though energy level was high, the result was a mixed one. Early on, the defense had its way, but at is got tired, it wasn't getting as much penetration and junior Brock Osweiler and freshman Michael Bercovici were able to pick apart greener areas of the field vacated by blitzers.

Even though the segment didn't end so well for the defense, and lead to a heavy footed 11-on-11 segment which also saw the offense clearly prevail, it was Brown's motivation that kept Moos and his teammates mentally engaged.

"He'll let you know when you do well and he'll let you know when you do bad, but it's not condescending," Moos said. "He just reminds you. That is something guys take in a good way because when you're tired and you have a guy in your ear, it can be irritating, but he keeps our mind going and we're having a good spring."

ASU coach Dennis Erickson agreed with Moos that this year's team will probably take a step forward when it comes to pressuring quarterbacks.

"I think we'll be a better pass rushing front with Jarrett and (senior end James) Brooks and we don't even have (sophomore end) Junior (Onyeali) out there yet. (Junior end) Greg Smith is, I think, a real good pass rusher at the end. And then (sophomore) William Sutton brings an added penetration guy for us at defensive tackle and then with Moos and (junior tackle) Corey (Adams) and we'll see what happens with guys that come in and I think (redshirt freshman tackle) Joita (Te'i) is a very good pass rusher. So it's a young part of us but I think the experience with Jamaar and Brooks, it should be a strength of our football team if we can stay healthy."

Moos said he's confident younger players on the team are making significant strides as a result of Brown's efforts, and expects that to continue into the fall, where the line could be deeply talented.

"I thought (redshirt freshman end) Jordan (McDonald) was a complete project at the beginning of the spring and in the scrimmage he was making plays so he has a chance," Moos said. "Joita, I've said before, I think he's going to be a monster. (Sophomore tackle) Toa (Tuitea) is getting to the point where he's pretty consistent. So we're looking good up front, we're going to surprise a lot of people up front."

Linebacker gets even deeper

Erickson said he was impressed by the Saturday performances of sophomore walk-on linebackers Grandville Taylor and Brandon Johnson, both of whom are products of the San Francisco Bay area.

"We've got two walk on linebackers that are having a great spring for us, probably three years ago might have played a lot. We'll see what happens, they're going to have to back up for us, see how much better they can get. They might play a lot of football around here."

Making a case

When asked about guys who have made their presence on the depth chart known this spring, Erickson singled out a lot of players on the offensive front, including sophomore Kody Koebensky at center, sophomore Evan Finkenberg at tackle, senior Aderious Simmons at tackle.

Erickson also mentioned skill offensive players A.J. Pickens, a junior who has moved to outside receiver, sophomore running back Kyle Middlebrooks and ASU's two younger scholarship quarterbacks, red shirt freshman Taylor Kelly and Bercovici

"I think Bercovici has gotten really better in the last couple weeks with knowing where to go with the football," Erickson said. "We all know that when he knows where to go with it, it gets there fast, sometimes really fast."

On defense, Erickson said sophomore safety Matthew Tucker and redshirt freshman cornerback Devan Spann have made strides.

Injury update

Adams (ankle sprain) and senior safety Jonathan Clark (ankle) have been sidelined with non-serious injuries but are unlikely to participate in the final two spring practices.


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