D-line has to be ‘catalyst’ if ASU wants to repeat as best defense in Pac-12

Aug 14, 2022, 7:25 AM | Updated: Aug 23, 2022, 4:18 pm

Quarterback Graham Mertz #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers is sacked by defensive linemen Joe Moore #58 a...

Quarterback Graham Mertz #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers is sacked by defensive linemen Joe Moore #58 and B.J. Green II #35 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on December 30, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Badgers defeated the Sun Devils 20-13. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The Arizona State defensive line is going to have to be the “catalyst” for the Sun Devils if they hope to be the best defense in the Pac-12 for a second consecutive year.

That’s according to new defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, who served as ASU’s defensive backs coach last season en route to having the No. 13 defense in the country.

“I feel like it’s more of an honor. I feel like that’s the expectation we hold ourselves to anyway,” Arizona State redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Joe Moore said after practice on Friday.

“So just when the coach says it, that’s what we got to do. Hearing a coach say it is good, but as a D-line, we all know we have to set the tone up front every day, every game, every practice — it starts with us.”

Arizona State has a plethora of defensive linemen that D-line coach Robert Rodriguez will have to figure out how to best utilize in the rotation.

Along with Moore, the Sun Devils will depend on returners such as graduate student Travez Moore, sophomore B.J. Green — who led the team with 5.0 sacks as a freshman last year — redshirt sophomore Omarr Norman-Lott, redshirt junior Anthonie Cooper and redshirt senior Tautala Pesefea Jr.

ASU can also look to new additions like Miami transfer Nesta Jade Silvera, Boise State transfer Dylan Hall, Kansas State transfer Matthew Pola Mao and JUCO transfer Brandon McElroy.

“I think we have more potential players and more potential playmakers in the group overall than any time before. I think we have good depth,” Rodriguez told reporters on Wednesday. “Good is the enemy of great. I’m always going to say it and I’m always going to push that we get more and more guys.

“I think we have eight guys right now no doubt and we have other guys who are progressing quickly to get in a position where we’re going to be good no matter what. We’re going to have good depth, good players on the field at all times. There’s never going to be that time where you panic. But I want guys to be their best. I don’t want guys to have a bunch of good, I want to start getting some greatness out of these guys.”

A couple of true freshmen that are already turning heads are Blazen Lono-Wong — who had an interception on the first day of fall camp practice — as well as Robby Harrison, who at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, is one of the strongest players on the team when it comes to the weight room.

Harrison also completely tore off the pad on one of the sleds during practice on Friday.

“No, I haven’t,” Moore said of ever seeing a freshman like Harrison. “He’s huge like in the weight room, he’ll be lifting like five plates (495 pounds) on squats and stuff. I’m just happy he’s with us and not on the other team. He’s a good kid, he’s been working with us and we’ve really brought him in as a family.”

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D-line has to be ‘catalyst’ if ASU wants to repeat as best defense in Pac-12