ASU captains Soelle, Robertson hold team accountable for penalties

Aug 22, 2022, 5:29 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2022, 11:32 am
Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Brendon Lewis (12) runs the ball chased by Arizona State Sun Devils ...
Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Brendon Lewis (12) runs the ball chased by Arizona State Sun Devils linebacker Merlin Robertson (8) and Arizona State Sun Devils linebacker Kyle Soelle (34) during the college football game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Arizona State Sun Devils on September 25, 2021 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TEMPE — Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards named the team’s captains for the 2022 season last week.

Those individuals are linebackers Kyle Soelle and Merlin Robertson on defense, left guard LaDarius Henderson and quarterback Emory Jones on offense, fullback Case Hatch for special teams and defensive end Michael Matus as an honorary captain following his season-ending knee (ACL) injury.

Soelle and Robertson, who are both fifth-year seniors, have been leading by example since the end of last season and are holding their teammates accountable for the abysmal amount of penalties ASU committed in 2021.

The Sun Devils finished with the fifth-most penalties per game in the country with 8.9, which tallied up to cost Arizona State 73.3 yards per contest — the fourth-most in the nation.

“It started kind of right after last season,” Soelle said after practice on Monday of correcting that. “I think it was addressing the discipline in terms (of) offsides, false starts, the presnap penalties — that was kind of where we started. And being accountable with that, staying accountable and when stuff like that happens in practice, we’re going to run afterward and that’s on the players to lead that.”

And when it comes to the rigors of preparing for a new opponent each and every week, the captain linebacking duo have taken it upon themselves to make their teammates go the extra mile after they complete the required preparation asked of them by their coaches.

“I think that falls on the shoulders of Merlin and [me],” Soelle said. “Just talking to some of the DBs, talking about getting in the film room — without the coaches too. We’re the ones on the field, so we kind of see things before they happen. That’s a big responsibility that we kind of have to carry the load to make sure everybody is in there.”

Both Soelle and Robertson also have aspirations of playing at the next level when their time in Tempe comes to end.

And with the likes of Edwards, special assistant to the head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive analyst/special advisor to the head coach Brian Billick all being former NFL coaches, Soelle and Robertson have the proper guidance when it comes to extending their football journeys to play pro ball.

“We’re trying to be professionals at the next level. It emphasizes that role now,” Soelle said of being fifth-year senior captains. “I don’t think either of us planned to stay as long as we have. But that’s both of our journeys, both of our paths, that’s the cards that were dealt to us. We’re going to go with them and make the best of them, so I think we have to be professionals now.”

Robertson has come into camp with a noticeably new presence both mentally and physically. Edwards has raved about the linebacker’s slimmer physique, as well as how much he’s matured since his freshman year now that he is married with a five-year-old son, who just started kindergarten.

But of all the ways athletes typically shed unwanted weight in order to slim up, perhaps Robertson’s method this offseason falls under the more unconventional variety, as it takes a discipline most of us non-athletes merely aspire to achieve.

“Really I just had to lock in with my eating, man. I stopped eating my kid’s snacks,” Robertson explained. “That’s pretty much it. … (no more) fruit snacks, Cheeze-its, Doritos.”

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