Mike Pennel #99 (Photo: ASU)
The talented but troubled defensive tackle was dealt a major setback by being suspended by Coach Graham
When Arizona State brought in the massive 6-foot-5, 355-pound Mike Pennel from the junior college ranks in February, there was a lot of hype regarding the type of impact he could have in the Sun Devils' new defensive scheme.
However, his time in Tempe has been a struggle. He got off to a slow start in camp and was passed on the depth chart by true freshman Jaxon Hood. He was then suspended for the Illinois game for a team rules violation. Following the suspension, Pennel seemed contrite and worked with defensive coordinator Paul Randolph to get back on track.
Those efforts fell short, and Pennel did not see action in Saturday's game against Cal. Following the game, he sent off a series of tweets expressing his displeasure of the situation. Those tweets seemed to have been the last straw, and the consequences for his actions came on Tuesday.
As first reported by Will Boor of The State Press:
Mike Pennel has been indefinitely suspended. Failure to meet team standards— William Boor (@wboor) October 2, 2012
Given Pennel's limited role, the team is not losing a major contributor. This season, Pennel has registered just three tackles and one quarterback hurry, while Hood has impressed with his strong play. However, the Sun Devils have been vulnerable to opponent's running games, ranking just 50th nationally in that category. A Pennel with the correct attitude and focus would clearly provide a big weapon in shutting down the ground game.
It's unclear at this point what Pennel's future in Tempe may hold, if there is any future. Should Pennel decide to work his way back into the good graces of Graham, he need only to look at a fellow defensive lineman.
After taking over, Graham continued the previous suspension of Junior Onyeali levied upon him by Dennis Erickson. During that suspension, Onyeali was revitalized with a positive attitude and has become a major contributor on the field.
We'll have more on this story as it develops.