Area of need: Secondary
Current situation: In 2016, Arizona State fielded the worst pass defense in the Pac-12. Only four teams nationally allowed more than the Sun Devils' 8.8 yards per attempt. And since ASU plays in the fast-moving offensive world of the Pac-12, it allowed 357.4 pass yards per game -- the worst figure in the country by over 20 yards. At the risk of piling on, that was the second straight year in which the Sun Devil secondary ranked last in the nation.
The problem is multifaceted. First, one of ASU's key safety positions was a revolving door last season: Four players tried to play boundary safety in a loss against USC, for example, and none worked out. Laiu Moeakiola, one of the Sun Devils' most versatile defenders, has exhausted his eligibility, and that's compounded the problem. That puts a bigger onus on players like junior-college transfer J'Marcus Rhodes, who -- like many of his teammates -- has struggled to tackle in the open field.
Second, cornerback De'Chavon Hayes was a former running back. And though he led the team with three interceptions in 2016, Hayes was targeted by opponents -- as is the case with almost any player who switches positions and must learn the intricacies of the other side.
Hayes is gone, but ASU does have formidable returning talent in defensive back Kareem Orr, who will be a junior in 2017.
While Perry may be able to contribute immediately -- secondary specialists are always in demand on a defense that is resorting to offensive converts -- the central component of Arizona State's plan should reside in developing the talent that is already on the roster.
Orr, Rhodes, Marcus Ball, Armand Perry, and Maurice Chandler all return after seeing significant playing time in 2016. The Sun Devils must push forward with what they have in stock now; that entails counting on better tackling and fewer blown assignments from current players. There is athleticism here and there certainly is talent -- Orr was a freshman All-American two seasons ago while Perry is a touted recruit for a reason -- so it's not like the cupboard is bare.
Of course, Todd Graham is known as one of the most aggressive defensive coaches in college football. He blitzes a lot. For Arizona State's secondary to produce better results, those blitzes must work cohesively with the defensive backfield and reach the quarterback in time. This is a multi-part fixing process.