03/30 - Devils need to get bigger, better up the middle - East Valley Tribune: Sports

03/30 - Devils need to get bigger, better up the middle

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Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2003 12:03 am | Updated: 2:10 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Ask Brent Guy how he plans to replace All-American defensive end Terrell Suggs and he'll point out that Suggs didn't get all 52 of Arizona State's sacks last season. His teammates got 28 of the total.

"We have guys capable of doing it," Guy said.

To compensate for Suggs' productivity, the front six as a unit will need to get stronger this coming season. Particularly up the middle.

It's not surprising that for the second straight season ASU signed a junior college tackle. The loss of the starting linebacking corps necessitated signing a junior college prospect for immediate help.

Among last year's departed linebacker trio, Mason Unck was the most consistent player. The staff had high hopes Josh Amobi would be a playmaker, but that didn't materialize. Solomon Bates did not fulfill early promise.

If Justin Burks, a first-team JC All-American, lives up to his billing, the position could be upgraded in the fall.

"He has very good reactions. He's picking things up as good as we'd hoped," said Guy, who personally tutors the linebackers.

Sophomore Jamar Williams lettered last season as the fourth linebacker and special teams performer.

Barton Hammit is coming off a knee injury to compete at linebacker.

Jordan Hill, a BYU signee, joined the program last August after coming off a Mormon mission. He reported weighing 255 pounds and has since lost five pounds. Guy said he may ask Hill to drop 10 more pounds.

"He's a thick guy. I have to see how he runs around, how he plays," he said.

Guy also will evaluate redshirt junior Ishmael Thrower, a junior college recruit from last year, and freshman DeAndre Johnson.

"I have the most work to do to try to sort this out," Guy said.

The Devils will continue using their "Cobra" pass rushing package.

Sophomore Nick Johnson, the player who has moved into Suggs' spot in the lineup, earned his spurs last season as a member of the Cobra unit. He had four sacks.

"Nick will be a factor," Guy said.

It's the positions between Johnson and returning starting end Jimmy Verdon that may make significant improvement. Brian Montesanto and Shane Jones were in their first seasons playing tackle in the Pac-10.

That ASU was trying to defend its goal against Kansas State with a walk-on showed a lack of quality depth. Hence the signing of JC transfer Gabe Reininger.

"He's a diligent worker," Guy said. "He's been impressive for us in the weight room. We throw a lot of stuff at (transfers) and the hardest thing for them is to not think too much and just go play. Physically, he has the same ability as Shane Jones. He'll help us immediately."

Perhaps the wild card in this group is senior Matt Mason, the Glendale Community College transfer.

"We have to find a role for him to play," Guy said.

ASU may have more depth this season in the front six if everyone stays active.

"A lot of positions can be pretty competitive for us," Guy said.

A stronger unit trying to offset the loss of one individual's brilliance.

EXTRA POINTS: After a year's sabbatical from being swept out when California fired Tom Holmoe as football coach, former ASU linebacker coach Lyle Setencich has surfaced as the new defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. Red Raiders head coach Mike Leach got its first college coaching job in 1987 at Cal Poly SLO. The head coach of Cal Poly SLO? Lyle Setencich.

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