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Arizona State: National Letter of Intent Signing Day

Defensive issues are addressed with new signees

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NCAA Football: Northern Arizona at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There are aspects to every college football team that need to be addressed. Some teams need a quarterback, a defensive line, or receivers. Arizona State needs an attitude change on the defensive side of the ball. The 2016 season for the Sun Devils had too many defensive breakdowns, big plays, and a defensive ranking that was horrendous. With the signees that the Sun Devils put on the board it is apparent that Arizona State is trying to address those concerns.

With a defense that was ranked 126th out of 127 something needed to done.

Stopping big plays downfield is certainly something that the Devils had a major issue with all during the 2016 season.

Evan Fields, a 6’1”, defensive back, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is going to immediately help contain big plays. He’s a four-star recruit who has the size and a frame that should deliver big hits on the field. He was rated the best safety in Oklahoma. He is known to close on the ball very well and can shed blockers quickly. That will help the Sun Devils because there were many instances where their DB’s could not shed their blocks and the opposing team went for a huge gain.

The other defensive back that the coaching staff seems really high on is Langston Frederick. Frederick is a 5’10”, 175, lock down corner that plays with toughness. His strength is man-to-man coverage and with a strong lower body he uses his great technique to have a great balance when defending receivers. He reportedly squats around 440 pounds as well.

The other area of concern for the Sun Devils is getting pressure on the opposing quarterback.

DeVonta Davidson will provide some immediate help with that. Davidson is a monster. He is 6’4”, 310 pounds, can play the three technique, and creates absolute chaos up the middle. Davidson’s length and high motor will create major challenges for those offensive linemen that are trying to block him. He is also a local player. DeVonta played high school football at Mesa Desert Ridge High School. Davidson had 67 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

The other interesting part of the signing day for Arizona State was the logjam of quarterbacks that they have ended up with.

The Sun Devils signed quarterback Ryan Kelly, a local product, from Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona. I have seen this young man play live. He can certainly make all the college throws that will be required of him. Kelly can spin the ball pretty well. Kelly can throw a fantastic deep ball due to having an exceptionally strong arm. The other aspect that coaches love about Ryan Kelly is the accuracy that he throws with. Kelly can also get out and run with the ball to extend the plays. If a quarterback can extend plays, it puts more pressure on the defense and that is exactly what the Sun Devils want to get back to. Kelly, threw for 2,642 yards, had 21 passing touchdowns, and a 65% completion percentage. Ryan Kelly certainly has the chance to become one of the most talented quarterbacks in Sun Devil history.

“Ryan is smart and disciplined.” Head coach Todd Graham said at the NLI press conference.

Blake Barnett, the redshirt sophomore quarterback, who is coming from the University of Alabama, has all the measurable physical statistics that coaches look for in a quarterback. He is 6’5”, 210 pounds, has great strength, and great footwork to be that prototypical pocket passer. Barnett is probably the prize signee out of this group. With the new offensive coordinator come from Alabama, one would tend to think that Barnett maybe the favorite to land the starting position with that connection with the new OC, but who knows at this point. Blake Barnett was ranked the number one dual-threat recruit in 2015, so like Ryan Kelly, Barnett can also extend plays. Blake threw for 3,404 and 23 touchdowns during his senior year in high school.

“We are excited to have Blake here.” Coach Graham explained at the NLI press conference.

With Manny Wilkins, Brady White, and Dillon Sterlin-Cole already in the fold at ASU, adding two more quality quarterbacks will make it seem like a WWE match when the competition starts for the starting position.

“It’s an exciting day for Sun Devil football.” Coach Graham said.

Every National Letter of Intent day provides hope and a breath of fresh air for any football program. However, as anybody knows, you can have a great recruiting class, but if those players don’t perform on the football field it doesn’t matter. Let’s hope that the football staff at Arizona State has nailed down this class because if they haven’t, the coaches will possibly be looking for a new address next year.