TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's been a long fall from the top.
Last year, the Arizona State defense ranked second in the nation in sacks. Led by the relentless pass rushing duo of Carl Bradford and Will Sutton, the Sun Devils put forth a fearsome defensive attack.
That has not been the case this year, as heading into their sixth game of the season, ASU ranks just 96th in the nation in sacks. After leading the nation as a duo with 24.5 combined sacks in 2012, Bradford and Sutton have just three near the midway point of 2013.
I spoke with Bradford after practice this week to get his take on the reasons for the dropoff, if it's a cause for concern, and how the group can rebound this Saturday against Colorado.
The ASU defense didn't get a sack on Notre Dame's Tommy Rees. Do you think that despite that, you were still able to impact his play?
“We got a couple of hits on him. He knew our presence was there. You could tell by his play that he didn’t follow through on some of his passes. I think our pressure did get to him.”
How much of the team's struggles in not getting sacks and tackles-for-loss do you attribute to facing quality offensive lines?
“Going into those games it’s really hard. We knew from the beginning that they were phenomenal lineman, and that we had to bring our A-game to even get close to the quarterback against those linemen. They are very physical in their run blocking, and they can pass protect. We just have to try to outscheme them and be on our A-game."
Do the coaches feel the dropoff is tied to any particular factors?
“Not really. We’re facing good opponents. They are Division I athletes as well. We just have to be better in practice and follow it in the game.”
Is the lack of sacks and pressure a cause for concern yet?
“Not really. But up front, we like to get to get to the quarterback more to take pressure off of the DBs.”
Is the team making adjustments to generate better pressure in the pass rush?
“We don’t really change it. We just come out here and practice hard and work on our technique. We’re just trying to understand and watching film on their linemen. It’s the same preparation as last year.”
What is your scouting report on the Colorado offensive line?
“They are an athletic front. They pass protect really well. We just have to bring it to them. Personally, I need to bring my speed on them.
What are the top keys to victory you will look for this week?
“One thing we need to do is to really focus in on our keys and alignments. We need to understand our gaps and playing our technique, our positions and not trying to do other people’s jobs.”