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Arizona State football: Sparky's 2015 Defensive Preview

With less than a week until the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff, our first team defense is starting to take its final form. All projected starters are marked with a star.

CTG with senior secondary members Carrington and Simone in 2014
CTG with senior secondary members Carrington and Simone in 2014
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

End: Edmond Boateng, JoJo Wicker*

Expect Wicker to compete with Gump Hayes for title of most valuable newcomer and best nickname. The true freshman from Cali crash landed on the Sun Devil scene, taking an early stranglehold of the Marcus Hardison's old defensive end position in spring practice. Boateng has pushed JoJo for first team reps the past couple weeks, but don't expect Wicker's standing in CTG's defense to change. A little push from Boateng could be what gets Wicker to the next level.

Tiger: Viliami Latu*, Tashon Smallwood

Just two short years ago, Ami Latu joined the Sun Devils as a 220 lbs linebacker with aspirations of becoming the next Vontaze Burfict. Enter 2015 and Ami is tipping the scales at 290 lbs. Those M&G Domino's pizzas can add up.

With Bradford or Burfict comparisons creeping out of consideration, maybe Will Sutton is more accurate. Manning his old spot, Ami hopes to keep some semblance of the athleticism that made him a great linebacker. If some of that speed does stick, Latu could be the dangerous dark horse of this defensive line.

Speaking of completely over aggressive Will Sutton comparisons, Smallwood should be the number two of the interior d-line. The man donning Sweet Tea Willie's old number seems to have lost some hype since his freshman campaign, but will be a reliable rotational player for this year's team.

Nose: Demetrius Cherry*, Mo Latu

Cherry shared the Tiger and Nose spots with Jaxon Hood and Tashon Smallwood last season, but in 2015, the nose tackle spot will be all his own. A spot he only split time at last season, full time starting reps at nose will be new to him. No stranger to a challenge, Demetrius helped pick up the slack left behind from Hood's multiple departures last season. Let's hope lightning can strike twice.

Devil: Anyone With A Pulse, Kalen Ballage, Antonio Longino*

If it walks, talks and wears maroon and gold, Todd Graham has asked it to play Devilbacker. The key position has been a revolving door since Carl Bradford left for Lambeau, with 2014 featuring starting TE De'Marieya Nelson giving it the ole college try.

As camp comes to a close, Longino seems to be cementing himself as the shoe-in starter. Let the feelings of deja vu roll; Antonio started there last season, before shifting to the weak side about half way through the campaign. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, but when your next best option should be your second leading rusher, it makes sense to give him another go.

Sam: DJ Calhoun, Salamo Fiso*

Salamo looks to follow-up a stellar sophmore campaign with an even better 2015. The redshirt junior earned an All PAC-12 Honorable Mention last season and finished fourth on the team in tackles. Despite talented sophomore DJ Calhoun biting at his heels for snaps, Fiso will go nowhere as long as he stays healthy. It wouldn't be crazy to expect another year of postseason honors for our defensive quarterback.

Will: DJ Calhoun, Christian Sam*

With Longino's move to Devilbacker, many expected Freshman All-American DJ Calhoun to snatch up the snaps left in the dust. Christian Sam had other ideas.

The sophomore linebacker spent 2014 rotating among the linebacker spots, picking up the occasional snap when needed. Lucky for us, we already know Sam can answer the bell. When Laiu Moeakiola exited the Colorado game last season, he slid into the Spur spot, racking up five tackles, a sack and an interception.

Should Sam struggle, Calhoun will be waiting. The linebacker has been AWOL in fall camp as of late, but expects to be the next man up of the linebacking corps. Insanely athletic and talented, Calhoun should get enough snaps to prove he was deserving of those Freshman All-American honors.

Spur: James Johnson, Laiu Moekiola*

A co-captain of this year's Sun Devil team, Laui looks to do more of the same in his fourth year on campus. The redshirt junior took the starting spur job and ran with it last season, recording 5.5 tackles per game in 2014. At a position that require a safety-linebacker hybrid, Laiu has proven himself capable in coverage and run stopping, making himself a critical anchor of this defense.

As A&M approaches, Laiu has been limited in fall camp with an ankle issue. James Johnson has filled in admirably in camp (more on him later), but if Laiu can't go in Houston, the defense will absolutely suffer. Moekiola's health will be something to monitor going forward.

Boundary CornerChad AdamsKweishi Brown*

Kweishi may have spent his first two years of college ball in JUCO, but Brown made the most of his first year at ASU. Three interceptions, including one to seal a Sun Bowl victory, Brown's ball-hawking talents are well known to the Sun Devil faithful. Brown joins Ballage and Richards in hoping the Sun Bowl was just the tip of the iceburg; I doubt he'll disappoint.

Boundary Safety: Jordan Simone*, James Johnson

Arguably the leader and rock of this 2015 defense, Jordan Simone slides over to fill the big shoes first round pick Damarious Randall left behind. The former walk-on earned a starting job last year and flourished, finishing first on the team with 8.3 tackles per game. With the second generation Sun Devil's name creeping up draft boards, Simone enter his senior season with plenty to play for and giving ASU fans plenty to look forward to.

Field Safety: James Johnson, Armand Perry*

One day, James Johnson is going to make a defensive coordinator very happy. Like 2014, 2015 won't be the year either. Supplanted by Simone last season, former starting corner Armand Perry has dropped deeper into the secondary to fill Jordan's old spot, leaving James in safety limbo. Consider James the secondary's sixth man; he'll rotate in at all three safety spots before season's end.

Perry's no slouch himself. With Kweishi and Carrington (more on him next) entrenched in the starting corner jobs, CTG carved out a starting safety spot for the true sophomore. Look for the same type of ball hawking magic at FS that clinched an Arizona State victory in the Washington game.

Field CornerLloyd Carrington*, Solomon Means

A friend of CTG since his Pitt days, Carrington is coming up on his final collegiate season. Joining Graham's Pitt team, Carrington followed his coach to the Valley of the Sun, redshirting 2012 under transfer rules. The faith and loyalty was not overlooked; Carrington has played in all 27 games since 2013. Now entering his senior year, Carrington looks to continue making Coach Graham proud, along side Perry, Simone and Brown. Don't be surprised if Carrington adds graduate assistant to his resume, shortly after bowl season.