The dream scenario would be for ASU’s front four to make Mannion uncomfortable while still having LB’s in coverage across the field.
Tempe, AZ – The DieHard Storyline for ASU’s match-up with Oregon State
With just 3 games left in the regular season, the Sun Devils can smell a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game.
ASU has wowed fans this season as one of the highest scoring teams in the country, lighting up the scoreboard with 50+ points in four games. When the Devil’s high-octane offense stalled against Utah last week, it was ASU’s “Hell’s Gate” defense that dialed up the pressure and allowed a 20-19 come from behind victory over the Utes.
A similar effort will be needed come 7:30pm (6:30 PT) tonight against Oregon State and one of the most dynamic and explosive players in the country, receiver Brandin Cooks.
The DieHard Storyline for the game today includes containing a pro-style offense, how to defend the top receiver in nation and another strong dose of the ASU read-option attack.
ASU’s Hell’s Gate Defense vs Oregon State’s Pro-Style Offense
Oregon State has been a pass-happy offensive team this season with QB Sean Mannion throwing to Cooks for a nation-leading 1,344 yards. But even with a good ASU pass rush, the Beavers have one of the more difficult offenses to defend because of Mannion’s ability to quickly get the ball out to dump off routes. They also utilize the screen pass to perfection, and any lapse or breakdown by defenders will allow for huge gains. Add to that both OSU running backs who are very capable receivers out of the backfield on either screens or as hot reads when Mannion reads pressure.
ASU will have to find that ever so delicate balance of being able to create pressure on Mannion while still having personnel available in underneath coverage against big OSU tight ends. The dream scenario would be for ASU’s front four to make Mannion uncomfortable while still having LB’s in coverage across the field.
The trick here is that OSU will often line up in max protection sets that involve double and even triple tight ends that can stay home, or release into vacated passing lanes. This can become a problem if ASU gets predictable, sells out on 6 or 7 man rush schemes or shows blitz too early.
How the Devils Will Slow Down Receiver, Brandin Cooks
Dealing with Brandin Cooks will most likely involve a group effort across the Sun Devil secondary.
Regardless of the coverage shell, ASU cornerbacks should be jamming him at the line of scrimmage to disrupt timing with his QB. A safety should always be aware of Cooks’ whereabouts and play over the top in order to eliminate explosive plays. Because ASU’s safeties will most likely be playing deeper, that reinforces why having LB’s in coverage underneath is so important. Cooks will also change the side of the ball he’s lined up at pre-snap forcing defenses to adjust coverages on the fly.
ASU’s Read-Option Attack, a Healthy Strong and Grice All in Play
Most likely, the Beavers will try to apply the “Stanford and Utah” approach to defending the Sun Devils. Problem is, they don’t have the same personnel. As a result, the Devils shouldn’t have to stray very far from their Read Option philosophy.
Oregon State has a good pair of defensive ends, but Taylor Kelly’s ability to read defensive ends has been impeccable. I suspect that he’ll continue to just read and react with success. As long as the ASU O-line can keep the Oregon State’s defense out of the backfield, Kelly should be able to make smart decisions as to where to distribute the ball like he has all season.
Also, All-Conference candidate WR Jaelen Strong will return to the lineup 100% healthy and will put the deep threat back in this offense. Look for Rick Smith to also continue his recovered confidence and recent success.
Finally, Marion Grice should continue his balanced production on the ground and in the air against the Beavers. There is not a single linebacker on the OSU defense that can cover Grice out of the backfield in passing routes. This poses the best scenario for ASU: if OSU cheats a safety up to cover the short routes by Grice, Chris Coyle and DJ Foster, then Strong, Rick Smith and potentially Cameron Smith could catch some deep passes when being covered one-on-one. Taylor Kelly should launch some long balls tonight.
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Tonight’s Oregon State game should be the newest installment of ASU’s offense “taking what the defense gives them”, and we could see another 50-point performance by Mike Norvell’s group.
One very important aspect of Coach Graham’s Sun Devils is that they have consistently displayed focus, character and poise during the 2013 season. With this team, there is no looking ahead to UCLA and they will be ready to protect Frank Kush Field at 7:30 PM tonight.
Also, take a moment to enjoy Sun Devil seniors like Will Sutton, Alden Darby, Marion Grice and Chris Young. After tonight, they will likely play just one more game in Sun Devil Stadium.
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