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March 26, 2014

Calhoun works with first team Tuesday




At just 17, freshman linebacker D.J. Calhoun is the youngest player on Arizona State's spring roster, but this is football and nobody is going to going to take it any easier on Calhoun when he's standing in their way.

It's a reality Calhoun fully appreciates and wouldn't want any other way.

"I'm 17 playing with grown men that are like 24 or 23 and all that, but at the end of the day I'm in college now, so it doesn't matter if I'm 17," Calhoun said. "You're in college now, you got to play."

Calhoun, one of the two scholarship newcomers this spring, graduated a semester early from El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, Calif., and is enrolled and taking classes at ASU while getting in the routine of spring practices.

"I just got to show the coaches what I'm about," Calhoun said. "I can't slack on anything. If I'm tired I just got to keep on going. I might sag a little, but I just got to keep on going. Have to give 100 percent out here or you're going to lose your spot, period."

In the first couple days of spring practice, Calhoun was getting his reps at second-team Spur, but on Tuesday, he worked at first-team WILL, ahead of Antonio Longino, who filled that role in ASU's first three workouts.

ASU head coach Todd Graham said Calhoun will likely end up at WILL long-term and might have been Tuesday's bright spot for the defense.

"I just think that's his natural position, where he played in high school," Graham said. "I'd love for him to play the Spur a little but there's a lot of space and coverage and stuff. You see today, he's all over the place making plays so I kind of see that being where he settles in."

While Calhoun is physical player, he is a bit undersized for his position, listed as 6-foot-0 and 205 pounds.

"I know for a fact that I need to gain some more weight," Calhoun said. "I at least want to be 225 by at least the time of my senior year, but I'm good where I am right now. I just got heart and it just don't stop."

Despite being outweighed by a majority of the players he is up against at practice, Calhoun isn't one to shy away from the physicality of the game.

"Even though I'm 205 and I'm going up against lineman that are 305 and I've put one of them on their butt too," Calhoun said. "But you know I've got hit too, I've fell on my [rear end] too, but you know at the end of the day it is what it is you just got to keep on going hard and I got heart and I'm not scared of anybody."

Coming in as a freshman, Calhoun said the team's juniors and seniors have welcomed him with open arms and thought the transition from high school to college football has been fast, he's loved the experience so far.

Despite being the lowest rung on the totem poll, Calhoun said he's not afraid to speak up and have a competitive spirit. He said he's been verbally sparing with running back D.J. Foster and senior guard Jamil Douglas on an ongoing basis.

"I talked to him (Douglas) right after practice and said 'Keep on bringing it to me every practice, like I don't care if you'll knock me on my butt, everything,'" Calhoun said. "We've been going at it the whole time."

Along with making sure the offense is bringing it to him as hard as it can every day, Calhoun still has to focus on his own play and work on his understanding of the defense.

"It's not really technique I have to work on, it's really like the pass coverage," Calhoun said. "I can, you know, break to the pass, but I have to open my eyes and see where it's at and who is coming across."

A key example of Calhoun needing to work on the pass coverage was on the goal line Tuesday when he mistakenly moved towards an underneath crossing route by Foster and slipped and fell trying to recover and change directions to follow Foster the other direction.

While focused on accelerating his learning curve as much as possible for the coming season, Calhoun can't help but let his mind wander to what the future may hold in store considering how youthful the defense is likely to be in 2014.

"We're not really tripping because you know on the defense it's really freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores and our team is young, but the time of my junior year or sophomore year, we're going to be something else," Calhoun said.

Other defensive movement

Along with the move of Calhoun to first-team WILL, there were a few more changes to the depth chart on the defensive side of the ball.

Sophomore Viliami Latu got first-team reps at Devil ahead of redshirt freshman Chans Cox. Latu said coaches liked the film they saw of him from Saturday's practice and it contributed to the move.

"They liked how physical I am getting off the ball and that's my main focus right now is getting on my get offs because it's my first year moving down to Devil so I'm just trying to get used to it," Latu said.

This year, ASU has flipped the front on defense and now has the Devil on the field side at more of a 9-technique; a change Latu favors.

"I really think it's more comfortable for me," Latu said. "I'm not used to being inside and going against the tight end and it kind of made it easier for us to come off the edge. We got to set the edge, force the edge and I think it's an easier job for us."

Not only is Latu working at a new position, he's also changed his physical appearance in the offseason. Latu hit the weight room in the winter and said he got a lot stronger, picking up his bench and squat lifts.

"I know there's competition between me and Chans Cox, so I mean it's going to be hard, but I know me and Chans are both equal at this, we are both new to this position, but I think I did good, I think I did all right," Latu said.

ASU is still playing around with the combinations of players on the defense and that is likely to continue well into the fall. Tuesday, ASU frequently had senior defensive lineman Marcus Hardison inside at tackle, Cox at the end position on the boundary side and Latu at Devil.

Additionally, since Calhoun moved to WILL and Longino worked at second-team WILL, redshirt freshman linebacker Alani Latu moved over from second-team WILL to second-team SAM.

Junior linebacker Eriquel Florence worked at second-team end instead of SAM, and
a relatively significant change was senior Marcus Washington, listed as a tight end, getting second-team reps at Spur.

Tuesday practice marked the first time in his entire life that Washington has worked on defense. With Calhoun moving to WILL, it opened up a second-team opportunity for Washington to play behind sophomore Viliami Moeakiola at Spur.

"It's weird being on the whole opposite side of the ball," Washington said. "A whole lot more that I'm looking for as it comes to making reads, seeing the quarterback sit there, and now I'm looking at the ball seeing who has it. It's crazy."

Washington said Graham told him he wanted to try him out at linebacker.

"I'm always going to be open for anything that the coaches want me to do, especially knowing that this is my last year and I want to do everything I can to help our team make it to a national championship," Washington said.

Notes

  • ASU's second team offensive line was reshuffled Tuesday, with sophomore Stephon McCray working at center instead of right guard, junior Christian Westerman shifted from right guard to left guard, and junior Devin Goodman moved from center to right guard.

  • Despite being in a green non-contact jersey, redshirt freshman Marcus Ball split first-team reps at bandit safety in several practice segments with junior walk-on Jordan Simone.


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