TEMPE, Ariz. -- Will a pass rusher in Arizona State's front seven please stand up?
On Monday, ASU received a huge blow to their defensive hopes, as Dalvon Stuckey, a 4-star defensive tackle recruit, announced on his Facebook page that he has enrolled at the University of West Georgia, a Division II program.
This is the second time in as many weeks that the Sun Devils have lost out on a key member of their 2014 recruiting class—and expected contributor this fall—due to eligibility issues. Last week, junior college transfer Darrius Caldwell, Stuckey's juco teammate and the player expected to be the top candidate to replace Carl Bradford at Devilbacker, failed to qualify at ASU.
Stuckey was expected to take over the Tiger spot on ASU's defensive line, the position recently held by departed two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton. At 6-foot-3, 308 pounds, Stuckey was praised for his explosiveness off the ball and his ability to make plays in the backfield, and was ranked by Rivals as the nation's No. 1 junior college defensive tackle.
Those skills, especially in the pass rush were in dire need in Tempe, with the entire starting defensive line from last year having departed. ASU loses players that accounted for nearly 90 percent of last year's sack total, with linebacker Salamo Fiso's three sacks the most among returners. In the Pac-12, an effective pass rush is essential for a defense, and Stuckey's news puts an even greater strain on the team.
Junior Jaxon Hood (6-foot, 299) ended spring practices listed atop the depth chart at Tiger, but he continues to shake off a disappointing 2013 and get back into the form he had during his Freshman All-American year in 2012. Redshirt junior Demetrius Cherry (6-foot-6, 298) and redshirt freshman Corey Smith (6-foot-6, 282) round out the current depth chart. Defensive end Marcus Hardison (6-foot-5, 298) could also be a candidate to slide inside due to his versatile skillset and size.
The Sun Devils will bring in a talented group of newcomers on the defensive line when fall camp kicks off on August 1, including Tashon Smallwood, Connor Humphreys, and Renell Wren.
If ASU will one again challenge for the Pac-12 South crown, a few of these players will need to emerge as playmakers.