It's no secret that the best pass defense is not a stifling secondary, but a fierce pass rush.
Armed with that knowledge, it's not surprising then that Arizona State has gone from the 26th best pass defense in 2009 down to 108th in the nation (out of 120 teams) last season, surrendering over 273 yards-per-game.
Over that stretch, the Sun Devil pass rush has been mostly anemic, never ranking higher than 58th in the country. The team's leaders in sacks over that stretch haven't exactly posted fearsome numbers: Lawrence Guy had just 4.5 in 2009, Junior Onyeali only a slightly better 6.5 in 2010 and Vontaze Burfict's five led last year's team, but three came in the season opener against FCS patsy UC Davis.
In a conference like the Pac-12, where five teams ranked among the top 25 in passing last season, such an inability to pressure the quarterback has and will spell disaster.
It's no surprise then that the adding that attacking element to this year's defense has been a top priority for the new coaching staff, and leading the charge will be the new Devilbacker position and current starter Carl Bradford.
The 6'0, 237-pounder has all the tools to flourish in this aggressive role, and the team will need him to deliver on that potential for the defense to have a chance.
"I love blitzing. I just love going to get the ball. Putting me in the middle, a guy like me can wreak havoc being able to blitz from anywhere, and not letting the offense know where I'm coming from."
The position and Bradford will also play a major role in limiting the opposing run games, and Bradford sees the himself as part of a larger, more potent scheme in that regard.
"It's not just the Devilbacker, it's the whole scheme defense. It's a 'go get it' defense. We don't allow anything to be run on us. Stop the run first then play the pass. This new defense will really show that we can be the number one defense in the nation and best against the run."
Taken as whole, the positional directive and Bradford's dynamic skill set should help improve and ASU defense that ranked 58th in the nation in sacks plus tackles-for-loss with just 101. A lot of the defensive scheme is hinging on taking the attack to the offense, and how Bradford performs will have a ripple effect for the entire unit.
A strong spring showing suggests that Bradford is more up to the task. With offenses like Missouri, USC, Oregon, Washington State and Cal coming up, he better be.
Check out the previous Most Important Player countdown entries:
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