We continue our series looking at the positions of strength and need in the Pac-12. Next up are the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Position of strength: Defensive line
How this unit is shaping up heading into 2016: Quite well, thank you very much. With the exception of the departed Demetrius Cherry, the Sun Devils return everyone across the defensive front. Plus Latu essentially split the playing time with Cherry at nose, so there is lots of experience and production back. Smallwood, Wicker and Latu combined for 23 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks among them. Also returning are backups Edmond Boateng and Renell Wrenn. They should get a boost from Jalen Bates and George Lea, who are coming off redshirt years. Lea was expected to play as a true freshman, but took the redshirt year after being involved in the a gun incident before last season. He should contribute immediately.
Position of need: Cornerback
How this unit is shaping up heading into 2016: While the Sun Devils are in decent shape at safety, the rest of the defensive backfield is in flux. Junior college transfers Maurice Chandler (once an Oklahoma commit) and J’Marcus Rhodes were the second- and third-rated JC corners in the country, respectively. Look for them to make an immediate impact. Running back Gump Hayes was moved to corner midway through last season and looked to be getting stronger at the position as the year progressed. Because of injuries last year, backup Chad Adams also saw some time and there is hope incoming freshman Robbie Robinson can contribute immediately.