ASU Freshman D.J. Calhoun Impresses In Spring Ball
By William Boor
The linebacker position, like the bulk of ASU's defense in 2013, was loaded with seniors. Now as 2014 approaches the Sun Devils have several holes to fill. Although there is a lot of time between now and fall camp, one linebacker is making a name for himself.
The kicker: He's only 17 years old.
D.J. Calhoun graduated a semester early from El Cerrito High School in California so that he could enroll early at ASU and practice with the team in the spring. As it turns out, that was a great decision.
While Calhoun – listed at 6-foot and 205 pounds – knows he needs to get bigger to play linebacker every day in the Pac-12, the freshman has impressed ASU coach Todd Graham with his instincts and physicality. A week ago, Graham rewarded Calhoun with some reps with the first-team defense as the Will linebacker.
Rivals.com rated Calhoun as the No. 12 linebacker recruit in the country, so his early success is not all that surprising. Those around ASU knew Calhoun could play, and with the departures of Chris Young, Steffon Martin and Grandville Taylor, the Sun Devils linebacker corps was thin. There was a void to fill and so far Calhoun has filled it.
The season is a long way off, but if Calhoun can add some more weight and continue to learn and improve, the Sun Devils may be looking at a special player for the next couple of years.
Striving To Make Special Teams More Special
In addition to filling holes on defense, special teams has been a point of emphasis for the Sun Devils throughout spring practice.
A season ago, ASU's unit was anything but “special,” so Graham and his staff have vowed to improve that aspect in 2014. To spearhead that process, Graham took on a more active role in special teams coaching and also hired longtime friend Keith Patterson to coach special teams defense.
The Sun Devils are working to improve all areas – coverage, returns and protections on kickoffs, field goals and punts – and also need to name a punter. Midway through the spring, sophomore Matt Haack appears to be the frontrunner to punt in 2014.
Haack punted 16 times last season and averaged 38.2 yards per punt. His longest punt was 52 yards.