In my previous article, I analyzed the Offensive and Defensive groups of the Sun Devils team. But one group that should get some positive attention on them, is the Arizona State Secondary – defensive backs.
Because, while the secondary may not be considered a strength of the team, those athletes have at least some opportunity and time during Summer and Fall practices to collectively improve and intensively prepare for the upcoming season.
Repetition, attention to detail, and some form of coaching can attribute to improvement and (importantly) development. With the players – reps (in practice and possibly in-game) are present, attention to detail occurs during film sessions/position meetings/on-the-field coaching, and the coaches are pushing those players to be “better than yesterday”.
Defensive Coordinator – Donnie Henderson
Henderson was an interim Defensive Back coach in 2021 after joining the Sun Devils as a consultant in 2020. Elevated to the title of Defensive Coordinator in February of 2022, he brings over 30 years of coaching experience from the collegiate and pro ranks.
Donnie Henderson’s coaching experience
- 2019 – Defensive coordinator for the Salt Lake Stallions of the Alliance of American Football (AAF).
- 2013 to 2015 – Defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills.
- 2012 – Defensive backs coach for the Syracuse Orange.
- 2011 – Defensive backs coach for the Southern University Jaguars (FCS school in the SWAC conference).
- 2010 – Defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
- 2008 – Defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- 2006 – Defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
- 2004 to 2005 – Defensive coordinator for the New York Jets.
- 2000 to 2003 – Defensive backs coach for the Baltimore Ravens.
- 1999 – Assistant defensive backs coach for the Baltimore Ravens.
- 1998 – Defensive backs coach for the Houston Cougars (in Conference USA at the time).
- 1995 to 1997 – Defensive backs coach for ASU.
- 1992 to 1994 – Safety position coach for ASU.
- 1990 to 1991 – Linebackers coach for the California Golden Bears.
- 1989 – Recruiting coordinator for the Idaho Vandals (FCS school in the Big Sky Conference at the time).
- 1986 to 1988 – Linebackers coach for the Utah State Aggies.
- 1983 to 1985 – Graduate Assistant for the Utah State Aggies.
If one wants to look further into the numbers behind his defenses and tutelage, ASU’s official website on Henderson’s profile does a good job of composing the numbers.
With the longevity of his career thus far, the multiple stops, and the experience in both college and pro realms, Henderson knows a thing or two about coaching defensive backs. The stints as a coordinator also provides greater confidence that Henderson can devise up some schemes, coverage, and formations to battle the conference’s offenses they will face.
It is also important to note that Coach Edwards and Marvin Lewis also have their own collaborations, meetings, and coaching within the defense as well, so it remains to be seen if Henderson actually has some input to the defense.
Defensive Backs Assistant Coach – Aaron Fletcher
Fletcher was hired by Coach Edwards in January 2022, bringing in 16 years of coaching experience aboard to the Sun Devil defensive back room.
Aaron Fletcher’s coaching experience
- 2021 – Defensive backs coach for the Missouri Tigers.
- 2015 to 2020 – Cornerbacks coach for the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.
- 2012 to 2014 – Secondary coach for the Houston Baptist Huskies (FCS school in the Southland Conference).
- 2011 – Defensive Coordinator for the David W. Carter High School Cowboys (Dallas, TX).
- 2006 to 2010 – Secondary coach for the Lancaster High School Tigers (Lancaster, TX).
More statistical and professional information on Coach Fletcher can also found be on ASU’s official website.
There is a definite plus to having a position/assistant coach with Fletcher’s experience, having coached in the collegiate and high school ranks – it will pay dividends, being able to relate to the student-athletes (usually they will be between 17 to 22 years of age), as well as providing great development opportunities as scheme application occurs during practice and in-game.
Khoury Bethley – graduate (transfer from Hawaii) from Chino, CA . 5’ 10’’ 200 lbs. Safety.
46 games played; 217 solo tackles; 291 total tackles; 19.5 TFLs; seven sacks; seven interceptions (one returned for TD); 17 passes defended; three forced fumbles, and two fumbles recovered. A three-year starter for the Rainbow Warriors, a 2021 All-Mountain West Conference 1st team selection, and a two-time all-academic team selection within the MWC, given the stats and accolades – he should be considered for a starting position within the Secondary, because of the amount of experience he has acquired and the untapped potential that the coaching staff hopes to uncover.
Jean Boyd III – Redshirt Sophomore from Tempe, AZ. 6’ 3’’ 196 lbs. Defensive back.
two games played; two total tackles; Redshirted during Freshman season in 2020. While not a lot of stats accompanying him when he did play sparingly, he should look to be part of the secondary rotation, if he can separate himself from the group during practices with ability and technique.
Jordan Clark – Redshirt Junior from Baton Rouge, LA. 5’ 10’’ 185 lbs. Defensive Back.
16 games played; 35 solo tackles; 42 total tackles; two TFLs; one interception, and four passes defended. Redshirted in 2020. While being around the program for a few seasons, Clark certainly has a shot at starting, or at least be placed within situational rotations in the defensive scheme – if potential can be reached.
Timarcus Davis – 5th year Redshirt from College Station, TX. 6’ 0’’ 175 lbs. Cornerback/Defensive back.
30 games played; 45 solo tackles; 71 total tackles; 0.5 TFLs; one interception; eight passes defended; one forced fumbled, and two fumble recoveries. Redshirted in 2018 after transferring from Baylor. Another player that has been around the program as well, Davis has game experience and looks to be a versatile, starter-type piece in the system. Since he has experience playing cornerback, we may see him play at the safety position too.
Chris Edmonds – Senior (transfer from Samford) from Phenix City, AL. 6’ 2’’ 214 lbs. Safety/Defensive back.
Edmonds produced 40 tackles and three interceptions in 11 games for Samford during its 2021 season. He started all seven games of Samford’s spring season at safety in 2021 (after 2020 season was postponed), was named first team All-American by multiple sources. Edmonds was named first team All-Southern Conference and a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award for the top defensive player in all of FCS football.
He led the SoCon and tied for third in the nation in total interceptions (4), and led the league and ranked 13th nationally in interceptions per game (0.6), also finished third on the team in tackles with 40, including 24 solo stops, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.
Alijah Gammage – Redshirt Junior from Tempe, AZ. 5’ 11’’ 186 lbs. Safety/Defensive back.
five games played; seven solo tackles; ten total tackles, and one pass defended. Redshirted during Freshman season in 2018. During his time in Tempe, Gammage has played in a reserve role and while he appeared in two games by playing special teams in 2020 – Alijah can be a tackling-machine and, if chosen to, will have a duel-role on special teams once again.
Willie Harts – Redshirt Junior from Pittsburg, CA. 6’ 0’’ 170 lbs. Safety/Defensive back.
eight games played; 12 solo tackles; 18 total tackles; one interception (one returned for a touchdown); one pass defended, and one forced fumble. Redshirted during Sophomore season in 2020 due to injury. With Harts and his injury recovery, we will see the slow and gradual return within the Summer and Fall practices (don’t want to rush back from injury too quick or have the potential of re-injury). We hope to see some glimpses and the ascension of being a steady contributor to hopeful starter, especially given the high praise and the high Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of reviewed freshman safeties in 2019 of him and his ability.
Isaiah Johnson – Redshirt Freshman from Blue Springs, WV. 6’ 1’’ 181 lbs. Cornerback/Defensive back.
Graded as a 2021 consensus four-star prospect and according to all three major recruiting services – listed as the No. 139 overall prospect and the No. 9 cornerback prospect nationally in 247 Sports Composite Rankings, tabbed by Rivals as the No. 157 overall prospect and the No. 14 cornerback prospect in the country; and ranked No. 182 overall in the ESPN 300. He also made scouts raised their eyebrows with amazement within recruiting circles when ESPN also rated him as the No. 11 cornerback prospect in the country.
Research for stats during his short tenure in Tempe – came up with: three games played.
Small sample size aside, we should all take notice of the analysis that was written about him and his skills: “Elite defensive back prospect with a unique combination of size and speed that made him one of the most widely-pursued athletes in the class of 2021. Capable of matching up with any type of receiver thanks to a long frame and excellent quickness. Ball-hawking defender who relentlessly pursues the ball when it is in the air. Physical player in run support and at the line of scrimmage, allowing him to re-route receivers”.
This is going to be a player to keep your eye on as the season kicks off, do not be surprised if he makes an appearance or start in the secondary at some point either against NAU or as the season progresses, as he is a special player that can project into a star.
T Lee – Redshirt Sophomore from Buford, GA. 5’ 10’’ 165 lbs. Safety/Defensive back.
three games played: two solo tackles, and four total tackles. Redshirted in 2021. Lee was graded as a three-star recruit and ranked #4 from the talent-rich state of Georgia according to MaxPreps. He is described as a player who “features track speed and excellent quickness, which allow him to fill multiple positions in a secondary”. Another player with a small sample size, Buford played sparingly in 2020 as a reserve and a special teams contributor. Buford can certainly sharpen his game and if the improvement goes into the metric of “leaps and bounds” – the coaches will have no hesitation on making him a starter in the secondary and also be an option within special teams.
Look out for part 2!
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