Arizona State's defense unwrapped a new toy during practice Tuesday to add to its collection.
The present came in the form of a true 3-4 defense, something that has its members excited to play with. Defensive linemen are especially looking forward to use the 30-front as a means of keeping the opposition off guard.
"I like how we keep changing because I'll be hearing guys on the (offensive) line saying, 'What do we have now?,'" senior Corey Adams said. "'Are you guys going to be running this 30-front all day? Dang, like what do we have now?' They have to keep checking.
"That's really going to keep these offenses guessing. It's really going to allow us to slow them down, which is going to be big for the defense."
Redshirt junior defensive tackle William Sutton, who's had success playing as a three technique, which involves using the gap between the guard and tackle, plays on the edge in the new scheme as a five technique to the field side. Defensive Coordinator Paul Randolph, though, doesn't believe playing a different technique will affect Sutton's productiveness.
"In that front, in that package, those guys are going to play a little bit tighter and heavier on the offensive tackles so there's no doubt [Sutton] can play here," Randolph said. "In the way that we play, we are an attacking front no matter what front we're in. Our guys up front are attacking and getting off the football. I think Will, and all of our guys up front, fit what we're about which is attacking up front."
Sutton enjoys being at the five technique in the 3-4 defense because it allows him to use his speed to his advantage.
"I like it," Sutton said. "I get to be out there on the edge and get a little more one-on-one block with the tackle. The double team isn't so heavy because it's the tackle and the tight end, so it's a lot of fun."
The defensive line Tuesday consisted of Sutton playing the field side end, Adams playing nose tackle and junior defensive tackle Jake Sheffield playing the boundary side end with the first-team. Walk-on Shaq Jenkins was inside on the second-team and junior Davon Coleman plays behind Sutton.
"[He's looked)] good, really good," ASU coach Todd Graham said of Adams. "The biggest thing with all of our linemen is just getting in shape. But he's going to be a really, really good player. I think Will Sutton has really improved. He's going to be a really good player. We've got good people up front. We got some big guys who are really imposing and can move and do some athletic things. But Corey, obviously, wasn't able to participate the first four or five days of Spring, but he's been a force since he's been out here. The only thing that holds him back is just fatigue, but we have a great summer program to get guys in shape."
Incoming JUCO defensive tackle Mike Pennel will most likely share nose tackle duties with Adams in the system as he's ideally suited for the position.
Adams hopes the defense can get to the point where it can audible its packages at the line of scrimmage to adjust and put pressure on the opposing offense. Adams, who missed time during the spring due to a calf injury and has had neck and back injuries limit him in earlier seasons, believes Randolph is the right guy to get the defense to that point, noting the defensive coordinator's passion for teaching.
"He loves what he does," Adams said. "He'll coach you, but more importantly he really puts forth the effort to show he really cares about you. He works with everybody individually. He's our coordinator, and he'll still stop what he's doing to talk and address his (defensive) lineman.
"Honestly, listening to him talk during film and everything, it's exhausting for me. I've told him I think the reason why he's so amped up whether it's six in the morning or six p.m., I think he drains everyone else's energy and puts it onto himself and projects it back at you. It's impressive; I've never seen anyone with a motor like him."
Graham, who said after practice the 3-4 would be one of multiple defensive schemes, has been impressed with the defensive line during the spring and has given kudos to the group.
"We've got good people up front, and I like those guys," Graham said. "We've got some big guys that are really imposing, and they can move and do some athletic things. We're trying to adapt to those guys."
Senior defensive end Greg Smith hasn't practiced in recent sessions. According to Graham, Smith has been taking care of his classes.
"He's been focusing on his academics," Graham said. "My focus and goal is to graduate every one of these kids, and academics is going to come first. Greg's going to be a senior and it's very, very important he finishes strong this semester and puts himself in a position to graduate."
Aided by several breakdowns from the secondary, Arizona State's offense made some big plays downfield Tuesday, with senior receiver Rashad Ross in particular impressing Graham, who said Ross "had his best practice all spring."
Sophomore kicker Alex Garoutte has struggled this spring but had his best practice Tuesday, making all of his attempts from beyond 40 yards with plenty of distance to spare.