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ASU defensive line improving, meshing despite thin numbers

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Last month when ASU football saw a rash of transfers, sophomore defensive lineman Jermayne Lole tweeted a reminder.

No, the ASU coaches and players don’t encourage people to leave the program. Instead, they encourage competition. Not everyone is up for it, Lole tweeted.

The resulting transfers — and losses to graduation — have left the Sun Devils with just four healthy defensive linemen at times this spring.

It’s a competitive group, though, led by Lole and lone senior George Lea.

“Oh we’re real competitive,” Lole said. “Even though there are not that many people so we don’t know who are the 1s and 2s, we’re just competing and getting better between each other.”

The slimming of the defensive line numbers started naturally.

ASU lost Renell Wren, who was invited to this year’s NFL Combine, and Dougladson Subtyl to graduation.

In late January, backup linemen Darius Slade and Jalen Bates announced they were transferring.

All that remained on the line for spring ball that had seen significant game action were Lole, Lea, junior Shannon Forman and redshirt sophomore D.J. Davidson.

It was after the Slade and Bates transfers that Lole sent his tweet, which acted as a reminder that despite low numbers, ASU’s defensive line isn’t struggling.

“Honestly, I don’t care who transfers out,” Lole said. “I have faith in the coaches and the system no matter who we have here.

“We’ll still compete with anyone in the country.”

Lea said the competition with the group this spring starts even before practice begins.

Any lineman who shows up late to practice either can’t practice that day or has to do extra in the weight room.

So, they make sure to show up on time and hold each other accountable.

On the field, there’s a competition on who can make the most correct plays and follow through on correct assignments.

“I’ve been here five years and have seen it all,” Lea said. “I’m trying to get our young guys to buy in.”

Thankfully, there’s help on the way.

ASU signed a junior college defensive lineman, T.J. Pesefea, over the weekend. He is eligible to play immediately and the Sun Devils will have several freshmen join in the fall.

The Sun Devils have even converted offensive linemen, like Corey Stephens, to defense to account for the low numbers.

For now, ASU is rolling with what it has on the defensive line.

“Competition is just natural for everyone now,” Lole said of the group. “We just want to be better.

“[Coach] Herm [Edwards] preaches competition and that if you don’t do your job right, the next man’s up.”

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