The Arizona State Sun Devils may have a lot of question marks on the defensive side of the ball, but few of them come in the linebacking corps. The senior-laden starting unit will likely be the most important unit on the defense, because if they break down, it’s going to be a bad time for the Sun Devils.
Senior DJ Calhoun — The hard-hitting ‘backer has been a mainstay through four years in the front seven, providing a burst stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. Calhoun led the Sun Devils with 77 total tackles in 2016 with 111⁄2 coming behind the line of scrimmage, including 41⁄2 sacks.
Redshirt junior Christian Sam — Sam missed all but one game a season ago with an injury sustained against NAU, but he has looked ready to go during fall camp. He recorded 98 tackles his sophomore season and will be an asset when it comes to eliminating big plays from what should be short gains of which ASU gave up a lot last season in his absence.
Senior Koron Crump — The explosive rusher is back for more quarterback hits in 2017 after being one of two non-specialist Sun Devils to be named to an All-Pac-12 team in 2016. His nine sacks placed him tied for third in the Pac-12 and first among returners. He also generated takeaways, intercepting a pass, forcing three fumbles and recovering three fumbles.
Who else to watch
The second unit at practice has consistently been junior Abraham Thompson, redshirt sophomore Khaylan Thomas, and redshirt sophomore Malik Lawal, with freshman Kyle Soelle and junior Deion Guignard rotating in. With that stable of eight rotating in, the linebackers should be set up for success in 2017.