March 16, 2007

Spring Preview: Defensive Line

For the second time in as many years, the Arizona State defensive line will likely see more changes than any of the program's other position groups. Longtime starters Kyle Caldwell and Jordan Hill and key backup Will Kofe have departed, along with little-used Shannon Jones. Starters Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis return, however, and the team will add two junior college transfers eligible for spring football.

They'll be attempting to build on a season that saw some modest improvements in the talent, depth and success of a defensive line that was very poor as a group during the 2005 season. In that campaign ASU finished dead last in the Pac-10 and among the worst teams in the nation, allowing 468.8 yards per game. The defensive line had just 8.5 of the team's 22 sacks, and the team gave up 35 sacks, a -13 differential.

The Sun Devils improved in all of these areas in 2006. They gave up an average of 327.8 yards per game, moving up to a respectable fifth in the Pac-10 in the category. That is a remarkable 43 percent improvement over the previous season, and that includes the ridiculous 680 yards of total offense ASU gave up in the Hawaii Bowl.

The team also improved its scoring defense from 29.9 to 25.1 in 2006, and had 37 sacks, as opposed to 22 the year before for a positive differential of +2. 18.5 of the team's sacks were by defensive linemen, which again, was a massive improvement over the previous season.

Some of these numbers are a bit misleading, however. The Sun Devils were leading the nation in sacks through the first few games of the season and their production dropped off significantly once they got into the tougher part of the schedule.

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