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November 7, 2012
Even through Arizona State's recent struggles in the secondary with mental errors, there has been a shining light in stark contrast from a season ago: a lack of pass interference penalties.
Take ASU junior cornerback Osahon Irabor for example. Last year referees flagged him for seven pass interference penalties. This year, however, he has drawn none.
"I'm 100 percent more fundamentally sound," Irabor said. "We really work on playing the ball and making sure you turn and look for the ball."
A year ago, it was no secret that ASU carried a negative reputation with it onto the field.
As the most penalized team in the nation, some Sun Devils thought the connotation of their players adversely affected referees' penalty calls against them.
But with the arrival of ASU coach Todd Graham's zero tolerance policy against personal fouls and other unforced penalties, the status quo appears to have changed.
"Last year a lot of it had to do with our persona, we didn't get the benefit of any calls," Irabor said. "This year I think there has been a couple where I thought there might be a call, but it never came. Coach Graham's discipline is helping. It killed us last year, it cost us a couple games. It was well deserved but we changed that this year."
To help its secondary grow from one year to the next, ASU brought in officials in the offseason to better describe to the players what constitutes as a penalty. The lessons given have made the Sun Devils smarter defenders.
"We learned that we can have our hands on the receiver if their hands are on us," Irabor said. "We just have to be both looking at the ball and not face guarding the guy. That's when the flag comes."
Sutton gaining health
After not practicing much of last week because of his knee injury, ASU defensive tackle Will Sutton turned in a performance nothing short of inspiring on Saturday against Oregon State.
Hobbled by the bone contusion, Sutton still managed to assert his usual havoc in the Sun Devils' opponent's backfield, adding to his Pac-12 leading sack total with a nine yard tackle for loss of the Beaver quarterback. He also tallied two pass deflections at the line.
Sutton returned to practice Tuesday and Graham reported he responded well to treatment after the game and is improving daily.
"Good, he's good, he should be a lot more healed up this week," Graham said. "He was probably 70 to 80 percent in that game, I think he'll be closer to 90 or 100 percent this week. That's what we're hoping."
Coyle approaching Heap
With six more receptions, ASU junior tight end Chris Coyle will surpass former Sun Devil and current NFL player Todd Heap on the school's single season list for catches by a tight end.
The prospect of seeing his name on any ASU list higher than Heap's has Coyle feeling humbled.
"I've been trying to keep that at the back of my mind but that will be a great accomplishment," he said. "It'll be a dream come true. I know I've been coming up on it but I've been trying to focus on my catches every game. Taylor (Kelly) throws a great ball and he's made it easy for me."
With three more regular season games remaining and a fourth if the Sun Devils make a bowl appearances, it's likely Coyle, who leads all ASU players in catches this year with 43, will make a real run at first place on the list as well. Current Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller holds the record with 56 receptions in 2004.