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October 8, 2012

Two more make move to defense in practice

Arizona State's offensive exodus continued this week with senior James Morrison and junior J.J. Holliday switching from maroon (offense) to white (defense) practice jerseys this week.

Morrison is getting looks as a backup reserve rush end due to depth issues at the position behind Junior Onyeali, and Holliday is battling for the fourth cornerback spot, a position that has been a revolving door all year.

"It feels good, I'm getting some reps," said Holliday, who started camp working with the first-team at receiver but hasn't played much this season. "I talked to coach (Todd) Graham a little bit, he said we're kind of lacking some depth at corner and since my reps are starting to drop offensively, I thought it would be a good move."

Holliday, 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, played defensive back throughout high school at Tucson, Ariz., Santa Rita, and said it's coming back to him over the last several days.

"At first he was asking for a nickel and dime for those packages on third down, but moving to corner was his decision," Holliday said of his coach.

"Some of it comes naturally but honestly coach Graham's schemes are just amazing. Our defense, now I know why our defense works like this. It's not even about the players it's the scheme."

Unprecedented thinness in the secondary led Graham to consider the moves, which included sophomore Deantre Lewis shifting to nickel back and reserve safety a few weeks ago.

It's the thinnest we have ever been" Graham said. "We basically have three corners. After that, we have a couple of guys that are trying to work; it's just been very, very thin on the back end, the safety end and at corner. James (Morrison) will still be in the depth as a backup running back; he will probably work more with the offense tomorrow. We are really just trying to see if he could help us as a third-down pass rusher because we basically have three guys in that position. We are just very thin."

Junior Jarrid Bryant was moved to cornerback from receiver before the start of spring football and sophomore Kevin Anderson made the same transition during fall camp.

Redshirt freshman Mo Latu is the lone scholarship player who was moved from defense (tackle) to offense (center).

"I don't like moving people," Graham said. "Most of the movement you have seen is really just taking looks at guys because though for the most part we stay pretty healthy, we don't have any depth at very critical positions. That is one of the reasons why we have done that. We probably have moved more people around this year than I have in a while but I have always used guys. We used Davon (Coleman) on offense, there are situations where I have thought of a hail mary using (Michael) Eubank as a safety. I don't really think about it the way everybody else does. We just do a lot. We are trying to be proactive in that I ask those questions, like, 'what would happen if this many guys go down at this position, what would we do?'"

Onyeali on the rise

Playing almost exclusively on third down as a pass rusher last week at Cal, junior defensive end Junior Onyeali had two sacks to double his season total.

Onyeali is up to 13 total tackles, six of which were for loss on the season. A few month ago, it wasn't even sure he would be on the field for ASU at all this season.

After being suspended by the previous coaching staff in advance of its bowl game last year, Onyeali missed spring ball as Graham continued the suspension.

A lot was required of Onyeali to return to the team this season, but he answered every challenge to his coach's hopes.

"He's grown tremendously," Graham said. "Obviously I wasn't here before, but from the time I've met him, he's been very sincere. He's probably had to do more than any person in this program to be on this team. He pulled a 3.0 GPA last spring. He's done everything we've asked him to do. He goes out to practice and he's one of the hardest working guys on the field. He practices his heart out every single day. I've seen a guy that's really matured and a guy that's very appreciative. He comes and thanks me. He's very grateful. He has attitude and gratitude and I'm very pleased with him. He's been a joy to coach. We've had zero issues."


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