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ASU Football: Todd Graham trying to find formula to continue defensive success

Can ASU continue to build upon their impressive defensive outing against Stanford?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State defense had their best game of the season last Saturday when the Stanford Cardinal came to town. It was the first time the Cardinal had been held scoreless in a half since 2012 and the first time in 87 games they were scoreless in the first half.

Part of that success came from heavier defensive fronts which included Mo Latu and Demetrius Cherry while moving Antonio Longino from Devilbacker to WILL linebacker. According to head coach Todd Graham, it's a process he continues to adjust.

"We've just been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and we really don't have a Devil(backer) that had the skills like Carl (Bradford) had," Graham said Tuesday after practice. "Carl could play a seven (technique), a nine, a standup, blitz, inside backer, outside backer. I'm basically subbing to get that, so if I'm going to sub to get it, why not just put a 6-foot-6, 305 pound guy there that's going to set the edge? We're going to have to be more creative with that in order to create a pass rush and all that too."

Another move Graham made, the one he said he liked the most, was moving Viliami Latu to nose tackle. It's a young group and he admitted earlier in the season that it's difficult to find the right personnel groupings on defense against each individual opponent. Still, he's starting to find ways in which certain players just mesh.

"I like the diversity between (Tashon) Smallwood, and Mo (Latu) and their talents. They really really compliment each other," Graham said. "It's the same compliment between Ami (Latu) and Jaxon (Hood)."

It's clear Graham isn't done tinkering either, throwing another name into the pot which could really make things interesting.

"Marcus needs to play every snap. If I have a Devilbacker it's Marcus Hardison, I think Marcus can do some things so I might stand him up and do some things with him."

Mike Bercovici could still get snaps

The plan is for the Sun Devils is to start Taylor Kelly against Washington, but Graham didn't rule out the chance for Bercovici to still see some time against the Huskies.

"At the end of the day it's my job to put the best player on the field who gives us the best chance to win a championship and he's (Kelly) the guy. That's not to say Mike Bercovici is not going to play," Graham said. "I'm not telling you he's (Bercovici) is not going to play because I think he will play, we have a lot of confidence in both of them."

Graham added that Kelly looked good today in practice and he moved around well. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell mentioned that Kelly was going full speed in pre game warmups against Stanford and could have played then too.

"One thing I've learned, if you're going to be a defensive minded head coach, don't be switiching quarterbacks all the time," Graham said. "Get one and believe in him and I think Taylor has earned that. And I do believe he is the best one to give us the best chance."