Jared Cooper

Coop’s Corner: Defense Wins Championships


“Defense wins championships”. This is a motto that Arizona State head coach Todd Graham and his coaching staff live by, so it is no surprise that this motto is what drives the Sun Devil secondary.

At the beginning of the 2014 campaign, the defensive backs for Arizona State struggled as players were rotated in and out of the starting lineup trying to establish themselves. After punishing performances against some of the best teams in the Pac-12 in UCLA and USC, the cornerbacks and safeties have molded into one cohesive unit. With seven games under their belt, the Sun Devil defense ranks 57th in the nation with 25.3 points against. As for the amount of yards allowed, ASU’s defense has given up an average of 180.4 yards per game (78th in the nation) and 225.4 passing yards per game (58th in the nation).

One of the leading minds behind the vast improvement of the secondary play is the co-defensive coordinator for the Sun Devils, coach Chris Ball. Entering his third season, Ball brings a physical mentality to the defense and is coming off one of his best seasons. In 2013, he lead the Sun Devils to finish third in the Pac-12 in passing yards allowed in conference games with an average of 222.3 per game.

The secondary features an array of talent across several different classes but one thing they all have in common with one another is the inexperience coming into the season. Now having played seven games this season, the secondary has more experience. With that experience, the defensive backs have improved from their early season mistakes, but it is not just on the field where things are being fixed. “The kids have done a great job at learning the defense and doing a better job with film study and maturing,” said Ball. “We lost three starters in there and anytime you got inexperience back there, you’re going to have some issues early. I think we have corrected those and I attribute that to the kids.”

The Arizona State secondary has several new faces this year including junior college transfer, junior Kweishi Brown. At 6’0″ and 205 pounds, Brown brings great size and ball skills to the defense, factors that head coach Todd Graham and the rest of staff look for when recruiting defensive backs. Brown faced some challenges early in his non-starting nickel cornerback role, but he has improved tremendously each week earning a starting cornerback spot. After a break out performance against Stanford with six tackles and five pass deflections, Coach Ball could not be happier with the way he has been producing. “He’s gotten better every week. He just keeps getting better and better,” said Ball. “I’m expecting some big things out of him this second half of the season.”

Chris Ball 2

Another name that has become more familiar is Armand Perry. In his true freshman year, Perry is another cornerback who brings great size to the secondary. Through the first seven games, Perry has seen lots of action and has had some big plays along the way. In his first game as a Sun Devil against Weber State, he had two tackles and a blocked punt. However, what may be his number one highlight of the season to date is his first career interception which he ran back for a touchdown that sealed the win for Arizona State against Washington last week. When assessing Perry’s play up until this point, Ball said, “He started out really well…but sometimes, the grind gets to the freshmen and he fought his way through it and came back these past couple weeks and played really well for us at the nickel spot.”

Although there are some fresh faces in the secondary, one man more known to Sun Devil fans is junior Lloyd Carrington. Taking over as the starting cornerback this year, Carrington brings experience, size, and strength to the secondary. When head coach Todd Graham left the University of Pittsburgh to come to Arizona State, Carrington followed Graham and transferred to Arizona State. Called the “silent assassin,” Carrington is not the most vocal person. “You don’t really hear him during practice, you don’t really hear him during games but he makes plays,” Ball said.

Entering the upcoming week, Arizona State is ranked 14th overall in the nation and in first place in the Pac-12 South. However, this weekend’s game is critical as the 17th ranked Utah Utes roll into Tempe, with both teams on three-game winning streaks. Utah comes into Sun Devil Stadium with a 6-1 record and wins against Michigan, UCLA, and USC.

Earlier in the week, it was announced that Utes number one wide receiver, Dres Anderson, suffered a season-ending knee injury, providing a big blow to the Utah offense. The Utes rank 28th nationally in points per game with 35.9 and 99th in passing yards with 192.1 per game. Although the loss of Anderson will play a large role, Utah’s vertical passing attack is still a threat.

With many games ahead, a win against the Utes will not only keep the Sun Devils in first place in the Pac-12 South, but closer to achieving a championship. Before they can get that far, there are still areas that need improvement. Returning starter and redshirt senior safety Damarious Randall said, “Just keep on vertically cutting off receivers and not allowing cheap touchdowns.”

With the defense starting to mold and the secondary continuing to get better every game, a Pac-12 championship may be in the near future for Arizona State.


Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ball

About Jared Cooper

Jared Cooper

Jared is an Intern this season for ASU Devils Den. He is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications studying Broadcast Journalism with a focus in sports broadcasting. In addition to interning at ASU Devils Den, he works in the Marketing Department for the Phoenix Suns. Jared is a former Sparky the Sun Devil, ASU's mascot, from 2011 to 2013.

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