Last season, the Sun Devils boasted one of the top passing defenses in the Pac-12. Arizona State allowed just over 178 YPG through the air last season, good enough for 12th nationally. It was a passing defense that finished second in the conference with 21 interceptions, including five from Keelan Johnson.
As the 2013 season draws near, the defensive secondary is a position in transition, with Johnson and starting cornerback Deveron Carr both graduated. The two combined for 16 pass deflections, and six interceptions last season.
With Carr gone, in steps Osahon Irabor as the leader among the Arizona State cornerbacks. Last season, Irabor led the Sun Devils with 14 pass deflections, and the redshirt senior from Upland, California, was not called for a single pass interference penalty.
One word that Todd Graham used repeatedly in 2012 was "tempo." And as the Sun Devils enter their second season under Graham, that has not changed.
"We kinda have more of a swagger out there," said Irabor about the defense this spring. "It's year two, we know the defense a little bit better and it allows us to practice at a faster tempo and we get more things done in a quicker amount of time."
Returning alongside Irabor at the cornerback positon are Robert Nelson and Rashad Wadood. Pitt transfer Lloyd Carrington and Eastern Michigan transfer Marlon Pollard are both eligible to play this season, with Damarious Randall and Will Early joining the team in the fall.
"We have to keep getting better everyday," said Irabor. "My technique is not where it needs to be, I am a stickler, I put a lot of pressure on me to do things right."
Irabor has started every game the past two seasons. He has been a staple of the Sun Devil secondary since 2010, when he snagged an interception in the season opener against Portland State. Now Irabor steps into a leadership off the field.
"Having to take up that role of a leader and let guys know that every day they need to come out and work has fallen on my shoulders as the leader of the cornerbacks," Irabor said. "I think guys understand that I'm their friend, but I'm a competitor, I want to get better and I want to win. I'm going to push them, and then after practice I'll give them a pat on the back."
In his career, Irabor has amassed over 120 tackles, 21 pass deflections and three interceptions. One thing he does not have is a Pac-12 championship. Irabor, like many Sun Devils, reiterated the fact that his one individual goal is to end his season in Pasadena.
"Win a Pac-12 championship, the team goal is my goal," Irabor said about his individual goals for 2013. "I want to be a first team All-American, coach Graham thinks I can do that. I just have to come out and work with that mindset that I am competing with every other corner in the nation to get better each and every day and be the best that I can possibly be."