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Forde: Arizona State’s defense is bound for new heights after 2-0 start

Arizona State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales has mixed feeling about playing San Diego State, his former employer. (Photo by Harley Yearout/Cronkite News)

When Arizona State named ESPN personality Herm Edwards as their new head coach, the program’s narrative changed drastically. Eyes shifted toward Tempe as Edwards took over the reins held by head coach Todd Graham for six seasons prior.

With Edwards at the helm, the Arizona State Sun Devils are ranked No. 23 in the country in the AP Poll after their dominant 2-0 start. They’ll look to ride the momentum into San Diego for a meeting with the San Diego State Aztecs. ASU will wrap up their non-conference schedule against an Aztecs squad that thwarted them in Tempe just a year ago.

Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde is impressed with the Sun Devils’ strong start to the season.

“The thing that has jumped out to me is that they’re a physically tougher team than they were for the last couple of years under Todd Graham,” Forde said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley and Marotta. “They’re stopping the run for the first time in a while and they’re dictating things to the other team’s offense. That’s a great place to start and I’ll give credit to Herm for that because he has improved the product from that standpoint for sure.”

Arizona State currently leads the country with 11 sacks in their two games and are tied with West Virginia for the eighth most tackles for loss in all of CFB with 20. Led by defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, who was recruited to join Edwards’ staff in December, the Sun Devils pass rush has been one of the strongest in the country to start the year.

“If you look at Stanford and you look at Washington who’re probably the two best programs in the Pac-12, they’re good defensive programs and so if you want to keep up with them, you trend in that direction,” Forde said.

Gonzales spent six years on coach Rocky Long’s staff at SDSU where he played a major part in developing safeties and recruiting defensive prospects throughout California. He’ll return to San Diego as an opponent for the first time in many years, creating an added emotional factor to the Sun Devils’ first road game of the season.

After four years in the middle of the Pac-12 South , Arizona State is in pursuit of something greater. Under a new regime, the Suns Devils have appeared on the radars of analysts on a national scale. With that said, building a top-level program requires much more than many schools are willing to give up, according to Forde.

“If you look at the teams that are top 10 year-in and year-out, it’s almost a mono-maniacal focus on football,” Forde said. “If ASU wants to be top ten then they’re probably going to have to think about it differently and quite frankly, I’m not sure if it’s worth it.”

Arizona State will kick off against San Diego State on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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