How Arizona State football brought back its defensive line from the transfer portal
While Arizona State lost several players to the transfer portal, there was also a small portion of players who entered the portal and then chose to stay with the Sun Devils.
ASU’s defensive line looked to be entering another rebuild when B.J. Green, Anthonie Cooper, and Gharin Stansbury all entered the transfer portal after last season. All three made the decision to return under new coach Vince Amey and fill out an area where ASU needed improvement.
“When you’ve been at one place, you don’t want to leave everything that you’ve built there,” Green said. “I see what this school can be, what we’re going to be. I see glimpses of it in practice of what we’re going for and what we’re chasing for as a collective.”
Green held a close relationship with former ASU defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez for the past two seasons. Rodriguez left a big hole with his defensive linemen when Kenny Dillingham was hired as head coach.
“As a kid, you cling on to every role model that you have and I appreciate him and thank him for the opportunity to play this level of college football,” Green said. “It was tough, but sometimes life happens and you got to figure your way around it and keep going.”
Amey certainly made a point of retaining Green, Cooper, and Stansbury when he was hired.
“When they went into the portal, we didn’t stop recruiting. Come back, this is your home. You can go, but you’re always welcome back,” Amey said. “Those guys came back because they were feeling the love from us. I’m so happy they’re here and continue to be a Sun Devil.”
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A big piece for ASU moving forward is Green’s increased versatility which makes him able to play anywhere on the line. Add in defensive end Michael Matus returning after missing last season with an ACL injury and the line is shaping up to be one of the most experienced units for ASU.
The defensive line has earned opportunities to show off its grit and tenacity early on in spring practices with tackling allowed in the Dillingham era.
It’s a good sign that the defensive line is starting early as last season leaves a lot of ground to be made up. The Sun Devils ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in sacks with 17 on the year. ASU didn’t record its first sack until the third game of the season.
“They’re starting to hunt a little bit,” defensive coordinator Brian Ward said. “They’re starting to move a little faster off the football. It’s a process. Getting these guys in the right stance, getting off the football and now we’re getting them to read the pass sets and situations, we’re going to see them continue to develop and be productive.”
Odds and ends
The lighter moment came late in practice when Dillingham called for an impromptu field goal kicking competition between a few coaches and some offensive linemen. It was yet another example of what Dillingham has preached in that he wants his team to have fun.
Leif Fautanu and Isaia Glass made theirs, as did defensive line coach Amey and tight ends coach Jason Mohns. Defensive lineman Clayton Smith’s was no good.
Dillingham and the entire football team are planning to attend Friday night’s baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium between the Sun Devils and rival Arizona. The coach is scheduled to throw out the first pitch and says he will indeed throw from the rubber, not closer up as is the case for many first pitch participants. “No shortcuts,” he laughed.
Among those attending practice was former defensive lineman Tyler Johnson.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: How ASU football stopped three defensive linemen from transferring