Armand Perry stepping up for young ASU defensePosted: Updated:
TEMPE, Ariz. -- A youth movement was inevitable for the Arizona State defense.
The Sun Devils lost nine starters a year ago, and among those stepping into key roles would be, by necessity, a number of newcomers. Some, like linebacker D.J. Calhoun and defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood, came in with the expectations of making an immediate impact. Others have become something of a pleasant surprise.
As the Sun Devils came down the mountain in the afternoon following their annual scrimmage at Camp Tontozona last August, the coaching staff received some good news. Armand Perry, a three-star defensive back from Bishop Gorman High School in Nevada had committed to ASU.
"It felt most like home," Perry said of ASU. "It's a real, true Sun Devil brotherhood. That's what attracted me. They told me that I'd have a chance to come in and play early. It felt best for me."
Coming into fall camp this past August, the Sun Devil defense was needing to replace both starting cornerbacks. Returning veterans like Lloyd Carrington and Solomon Means opened camp atop the depth chart, and more heralded recruits like Kweishi Brown and Chad Adams figured to have the inside track for meaningful reps.
But the 6-foot, 190-pound Perry refused to be overlooked or thought of as a redshirt candidate. He caught the coaching staff's eye early in camp and never let up. Head coach Todd Graham has never been shy about playing anyone of any experience level if he believes they can help the team. With the team's need in the secondary, Perry took advantage of the opportunity.
"There was a little pressure, but it was a good pressure," Perry said. "We're thrown into the fire, challenging people. We had to come out here and practice what Coach Graham teaches us, and I think everything will play out cool."
One of the primary reasons for Perry's early success has been the fit between his skillset and what the defensive scheme looks for in a cornerback.
"It allows me to play aggressive," said Perry. "I'm a really aggressive player. I get my hands on people and go out and ball out for my team."
Another factor for his flattened learning curve has been the quality of competition the ASU defense faces in practice. Competing against the high-octane Sun Devil offense every day has helped to slow the game down for Perry.
"At first it was difficult, but practicing with a top offense like we do, you get adjusted and comfortable with it," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable. My teammates push me every day."
Perry found himself in the two-deep for the season opener against Weber State, and made a quick impact. He made three tackles and blocked a Wildcat punt. After a rough opening game for Means, Perry took over the starting job at field corner and has started the last two games for the Sun Devils. To date, he's made 16 tackles (fifth on the team) and made half a sack.
"I think I've had a really good performance," Perry said. "I've some some highlights and some down parts. Overall, it's just a learning experience. I'm getting better every day."
While Perry and the secondary have had their ups and downs, they nevertheless rank 34th in the FBS in passing defense, surrendering just under 200 yards per game through the air. But it will only get more difficult from here, a fact not lost on Perry.
"I think we've played well, and as the season goes on, I think more people will recognize the hard work we put in," said Perry. "We started off slow, playing a couple different types of offenses, but now that we are in conference play, we're going to really start balling out."
The next test for Perry and the Sun Devils will come this week in arguably the season's most crucial game, as ASU hosts UCLA. While this will be his first battle against the Bruins, he's been made well aware of the importance of Thursday's game.
"The past three years, the winner of this game wins the Pac-12 South, so Coach Graham has been preaching to us," Perry said. "I watched the game last year, so I know it's intense. It's the Blackout. We're going to have 75,000 fans in the stadium. We're going to be amped up, juiced, and ready to go."
Perry believes he and the ASU secondary will be targeted downfield frequently by the Bruin offense and quarterback Brett Hundley.
"They like to take a lot of deep shots," Perry said. "Double cuts, slant and gos, hitches and gos. They like to test the DBs vertically, We have a good gameplan, stay on top of everything, and have fun."
It will be a difficult matchup against a heated rival, but one thing in ASU's favor will be a raucous home crowd further fueled by the annual Blackout. Perry thinks that the atmosphere in Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday night will be a factor.
"It has a good impact. You look around, everyone will be wearing black," said Perry. "It's definitely an advantage to play at home. We have to take care of our home. We don't lose at home. It's going out there and playing with a lot of passion."