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ASU Football: Sun Devil secondary faces challenge in USC’s passing attack

Saturday’s key matchup

NCAA Football: Sacramento State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Without question, the spotlight will be on sophomore quarterbacks Keldon Slovis and Jayden Daniels when the Arizona State Sun Devils meet the USC Trojans Saturday morning in Los Angeles.

The game will kick off before many fans have gotten their hands on their first cup of coffee, but the Sun Devil secondary will need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in order to combat the USC passing attack.

If there’s one position group that would love to flip the script on last year’s contest between these two teams, it’s the cover guys for the ASU defense.

Trojan Weapons

Amon-Ra St. Brown is poised to fill the void left by second-round NFL draft pick Michael Pittman.

Coming off a strong 1000+ yard, six touchdown sophomore season, the junior will look to gash the ASU defense early.

Last year, The Trojans built what seemed to be an insurmountable first quarter lead in Tempe, before just barely holding off a fierce Sun Devil comeback.

Tyler Vaughns will also be one of Slovis’ go-to targets in 2020, as the outside receiver has shown tremendous strides thus far in camp. Drake London rounds out the typically strong Trojan Wide Receiver room, and will see a decent share of targets himself.

Of course, Slovis has a talented arm and USC’s welcomes a veteran presence on the offensive line. They don’t get away from offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s game plan. That’s what impresses Herm Edwards the most.

“Last time I checked, they’re a pretty good offense. They really don’t worry about the opponent’s defense so much as how they run their system,” Edwards said. “They have certain routes they’ll run when they read the coverage, they know these are the routes, these are the things that are open. These are the things that the quarterback (Slovis) is going to go too. He’s in his second season now with a talented group of receivers, they have some good runners and they have a veteran offensive line. So this group has been together for a year offensively.”

Sun Devil Secondary

As one of ASU’s more experienced position groups, Edwards and his staff believe it can be one of the team’s strongest. Jack Jones, Chase Lucas and Ashari Crosswell highlight a group that will look to shut down the talented USC receiving core.

This unit has indicated throughout camp that they want to be an anchor of this promising team, and will be put to the test defending the likes of St. Brown, Vaughns, and of course, the arm of Slovis.

Of the aforementioned Devil defenders, Crosswell is the biggest name and carries the highest upside. Crosswell will likely enter the NFL draft with early round expectations in 2021, and the Long Beach native would love to put up a big performance in his homecoming game Saturday.

Crosswell and the rest of the secondary have been confident all year leading into season. After the Sun Devils allowed 477 passing yards last season to USC, Crosswell attests that won’t happen again.

“I feel like we got the best defense in the Pac-12, I’m not going to sit here and just (lie) about that,” Crosswell said. “I feel like ASU got the best defense in the Pac. On Saturday, we’re going to show why we’re the best secondary in the Pac-12.

“We’re not trying to have Amon-Ra have 230 (yards), two (touchdowns) or Tyler Vaughns too. We’re not trying to have them have big games. I’m going to lie, (Vaughns) is like a deep threat...he can do whatever. He can get out of his breaks smooth, his hands are ridiculous. Both of them. I ain’t hating on nobody, I got love for all the [USC] dudes...So at the end of the day, I know what they are about. I grew up playing against them as a youngin’. So I know about them.”

If ASU is going to come home to Tempe with a win under its belt, the secondary will certainly need to be playing at a high level. It’s a confident group, but Slovis and the Trojans provide an early challenge.