Osahon Irabor ready to lead ASU defense against No. 5 Stanford

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Irabor (left) sacks Wisconsin QB Joel Stave By Brad Denny Irabor (left) sacks Wisconsin QB Joel Stave By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Raise your hand if you had cornerback Osahon Irabor leading the Arizona State defense in tackles, tackles-for-loss, and sacks after two games? 

That's right, you didn't.

Yet there he is, with 10 tackles, three for loss, and a sack, while much more publicized teammates have yet to make a similar splash.

That has become par for the course for Irabor over his career. Now a senior, he has quietly developed under the radar into one of the top players at his position in the Pac-12. His tremendous start so far this year should hopefully bring him the attention his talent and play have earned.

Against Wisconsin, Irabor was everywhere. He was his usual solid self in coverage, but he was also a force off the edge on corner blitzes, and he made 2.5 tackles-for-loss and had the team's only sack on the night. ASU will need his playmaking talents once again, as the Sun Devils face No. 5 Stanford on the road on Saturday.

I caught up with Irabor after Tuesday's practice to get his thoughts on the victory over the Badgers, his strong start, and what it will take to beat the Cardinal.

How would you evaluate the defense's play against Wisconsin?

Osahon Irabor: I think it was a very good performance, especially up front. Our D-line did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and making plays in their backfield. I thought we got great pressure on them. All the stuff we practice during the week we executed. That’s always the sign of a well executed game plan. 

During the game, you had great success blitzing off the edge. Will we see a similar strategy against Stanford?

Irabor: We bring pressure from all over the field. Whatever the gameplan is, whether it is me blitzing, or it is Darby blitzing, whoever it is, we just have to make sure that we execute it. Obviously it was very effective, and them having similar offenses, something like that will be in the gameplan. We’re not going to divulge exactly what it is, but I think you’ll see me in the backfield a couple of times.

Through two games, ASU has not generated the sack or tackle-for-loss totals that we saw last year. Is this a concern to you?

Irabor: Not really. We have a target on our back being one of the best in the nation at rushing the quarterback and getting TFLs and sacks, so teams are really prepared for that. I think that our pressure that we are getting on quarterbacks is relatively the same as it was last year. That’s what is really important, disrupting the quarterback and messing up the timing between him and his receivers. I think that is still the same, if not better, than it was last year.

You are continuing to wear the PT42 practice jersey. What does it mean to you to get the honor to wear it day after day?

Irabor: It means you have to bring it every single day. You represent everything Pat Tillman stood for. You have to carry this jersey with pride and come to work every single day like Pat Tillman did.

Alden Darby is usually the first player pointed to in a leadership capacity, but how do you feel you've developed in that area?

Irabor: We lead by example. Words of encouragement are always good, but you got to go out there and perform and make plays. I said during the preseason that I want to be more impactful each and every game, and I want to continue to do that. Darby wants to continue to do that. We’re going to leave it out there on the field, we’re going to keep it energized, and we’re going to lead by example by making plays.

What is your early scouting report on the Stanford offense?

Irabor: Very good and very disciplined. They’re a great team. Defending Pac-12 champions. This is a measuring stick. We have to bring it. We have to practice hard and come ready to play one of the best teams in the country. 

Who are some Cardinal players that have stood out to you in your film study?

Irabor: (Kevin) Hogan is a really good quarterback. They are a great offensive overall. I’m not going to single out a single player. They’re just a really good offense that gels well, and we’ll need to bring it on defense to beat these guys.

What new wrinkles will we see from the defense on Saturday?

Irabor: We always have something new coming in. We bring pressure from all over the field. We’re going to keep the offense off balance like we usually do. 

What are your top keys to Saturday's game?

Irabor: Playing disciplined football on defense, being physical and controlling the line of scrimmage. We just got to do what we did against Wisconsin. Bring it each and every play.