Last season, only one conference in the nation topped 40,000 combined passing yards and 300 passing touchdowns: the Pac-12.
Some more facts. Pac-12 passing offenses posting a 142.17 passer rating, best in the nation. The Pac-12 teams threw it 5,325 times, most among BCS conferences (second only to Conference USA's 5,437).
So yeah...the Pac-12 is a passing league. Which means, that to succeed in the conference, a team better be able to limit their opponents through the air. That's something Arizona State was unable to do down the stretch last season.
After limiting opponent's to just 235 yards per game over the season's first nine games, that number shot up to 358 yards per game over the final four, all of which were of course losses. The passing touchdowns allowed over the final four games (11) outnumbered those of the first nine (10). Yikes.
So what happened?
"We were down and out on ourselves. The coaches were down on us. I feel like we didn't believe in ourselves, and too many people were on their own trying to make plays. We were not one, we were not a unit," said ASU senior cornerback Deveron Carr of last season.
Needless to say, ASU's secondary will be a focal point in 2012, but both the Sun Devils and opposing offensive coordinators.
One major step in improving ASU's pass defense will come from the play of Carr. He has all the tools to be an All-Pac-12 caliber cornerback, possessing great speed and cover skills to go along with his excellent frame at 5'11", 193 pounds. Carr has flashed his shutdown ability on multiple occasions, but he's failed to sustain that level of play, partially do to nagging injuries over his career.
Now in his final year, the team desperately needs him to step up. Fellow starting cornerback Osahon Irabor has made great strides with a stellar spring camp and has one starting spot locked down. Should Carr finally put the pieces together, they would form a potent coverage duo to combat the pass-happy Pac-12.
Helping his cause is the new defensive scheme that Carr feels is more player-friendly and conducive to success.
"This year's scheme is 'get the job done', instead of last year when they made it a little more difficult than they had to be. These secondary coaches and this defensive plan that we have now is easier. They're not throwing too much at you at one time. They are throwing this at you and saying 'Look, get here, do the job, and you're done.'"
Beyond the scheme, Carr also believes that the coaching staff is now in place to maximize his ability.
"They are here to coach us and make us great players and send us forward. There is no doubt in my mind that anyone here today is a great coach. I'm just ready to be a notebook and learn and take it all in and be special."
But in order to be special, there is one area of improvement that Carr recognizes both he and the team need to improve: tackling (as any one who watched last season's game against UofA can agree).
"My number one goal for my senior season is to be a great tackler. I feel like I can cover and I can do a lot of things great, but I'm lacking tackling skills."
Other than tackling, all the pieces are in place, and there is no more room for excuses. The talent, scheme and team need have all intersected at that No. 1 jersey in the secondary.
The 30, 40 and 50 pass attempts that the ASU secondary will see weekly are coming, and they will need Carr to blossom into the type of player he can be, or else the final month of the season may very well serve as a preview of things to come.
Don't miss our in-depth Q&A with Carr here
Check out the previous Most Important Player countdown entries:
5) WR/KR Jamal Miles
6) Devilbacker Carl Bradford
7) LB Brandon Magee
8) OT Brice Schwab
9) K Alex Garoutte
10) LB Steffon Martin
11) NT Mike Pennel
12) DT Will Sutton
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