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Returning players think Sun Devil defense will be better in 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s hard not to notice.

As the Arizona State Sun Devils continue working out this spring on the Bill Kajikawa Football Practice Fields, the number of faces missing on defense is staggering.

“It’s Will (Sutton) gone. (Alden) Darby gone. Rob (Nelson) gone. Osahon (Irabor) gone,” redshirt senior defensive back Damarious Randall said. “It actually is kind of different out here.”

Add Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman, Gannon Conway, Anthony Jones and Chris Young to the list of the departed and “it’s crazy,” according to redshirt sophomore Salamo Fiso. “We’re going to miss them dudes.”

In total, the Sun Devils must replace nine starters due to graduation or leaving early for the NFL.

The two starters who do return are Randall (nine starts) and Fiso (10 starts).

“We just need people to fill in,” Fiso said on Thursday. “We need people to lead and do their part. We’ve just got to play as one.”

As big a number as nine starters lost appears to be, the 2014 cupboard isn’t completely bare.

Junior defensive tackle Jaxon Hood, who is sitting out spring practice with a ligament injury in his right hand, started five games last season, including the Holiday Bowl. Redshirt sophomore Viliami Moeakiola made four starts at free safety and another at linebacker, while redshirt junior defensive back Lloyd Carrington started three games.

Plus several other players, like defensive lineman Marcus Hardison and defensive back Rashad Wadood, saw significant playing time. Hardison, listed at 6-5 and 298 pounds, is “going to be a big asset to our team” according to Fiso.

And then there are the new faces.

Both Fiso and Randall pointed to early-enrollee D.J. Calhoun, a much-heralded linebacker recruited out of El Cerrito, Calif.

“He’s running with the ones,” Fiso said. “As a freshman, I remember my freshman year, everything was so crazy, but he’s really learning.”

Of course this is only spring. The season doesn’t kick off for another five months. In other words, there is still time.

Yet, for a unit that is looking to replace nine starters, Randall believes at the end of the day, ASU will be better defensively than last season.

“Because we’ll have a lot less mental errors…we’ll be more sound and disciplined,” he said.

Fiso agreed.

“We’ve got the defense. We just need to be more disciplined, get in the film room and play smart, play where we don’t have to think too much,” he said. “We’re closer as a team. We don’t have many superstars. We don’t have people playing for draft stock. We’re just all playing for one.”