Last week, the ASU athletic department announced that newly signed JUCO transfer Darrius Caldwell would not enroll at ASU for academic reasons. At that time, it was also rumored that DT Dalvon Stuckey was in a tenuous position with his enrollment to the university. Well, it is no longer a rumor. ASU announced yesterday that Stuckey, in fact, will not enroll in school and therefore will not play for the Sun Devils.
This is a big blow for the ASU football program. Entering this season, the biggest question mark for this team was the defensive front. Even with the signing of Stuckey, the prevailing thought was that ASU would struggle to replace defensive tackles Will Sutton and Davon Coleman. Now that Stuckey will not play, that position becomes even more of a question mark. Stuckey had been compared to Sutton. One coach even said “Stuckey will remind everyone of # 90″.
No one can ever accurately predict performance, but if Stuckey was as good as advertised, (ranked as the 8th overall best JUCO prospect nationally) he would have started at the 3 technique (strong side defensive tackle). Not having him essentially means that the ASU defense will have to go with their “second choice”. The coaching staff will never admit that or label a player as the second choice, but that’s what it is. If nothing else, it diminishes the depth at defensive line that ASU was trying to build.
Now it will be up to the current players to produce. Jaxon Hood, Corey Smith, Mo Latu and newcomers Tashon Smallwood and Connor Humphreys will simply have to step up. Defensive line coach Jackie Shipp will have to earn his pay and “coach’em up” as the saying goes.
For head coach Todd Graham, it is probably a little more than frustrating to spend the time and effort on recruiting the likes of Caldwell and Stuckey, only to be left empty-handed. But this is the nature of the beast in college recruiting, especially JUCO transfers. The defensive game plan may have to change a little bit. There will be more shuffling of personnel, more “down and distance” packages, and more experimentation of schemes.
It’s not the end of the world, schematically, but one cannot help but think that the game against Stanford and their power running attack just got a lot more difficult without Stuckey there to stand up a double team. This development will reveal the resilience of the current players and the creativity and talent of the coaching staff. Coach Graham, to his credit, does not back down from challenges such as these. You can bet that the defense, whoever is on the field, will be ready.