Means holding down starting corner position

Means holding down starting corner position

Replacing two all-Pac-12 corners is tall order regardless of current depth chart. For Arizona State, a strong recruiting class combined with a couple of solid returning players have the Sun Devils in better shape than some may have thought at the culmination of the 2013 season.

Solomon Means is one of those returning defensive backs from last year’s team. Heading into spring ball in his second year with the Devils, Means was a skinny 170 lbs. and not ready for the physicality of division one, Pac-12 football.

Yet, with the two senior corners in Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor moving on to the NFL, Means was pushed up into the two-deep at defensive back and received plenty of reps in the spring.

“Spring is where I learned most of my technique,” Means said. “Coach Graham is a great teacher and that’s where I molded everything for this season.”

Sure he got his technique down, and started to understand the scheme better, but there was still that issue of strength and whether or not he could hang with the physicality of a Stanford or UCLA during the season.

Luckily for Means, the Sun Devils go through a rigorous summer lifting program and have one of the best strength coaches in the nation in Shawn Griswold.

“I think coach Griz and Coach Graham have prepared us to the best of their abilities,” Means said. “Personally, I’m bigger and stronger and faster compared to last year. We are just out here ready to play.”

Aside from the lifting and conditioning, Means also mentioned that all of the seven on seven practices against the Devils’ offense made him a better player. That’s where he was able to fully nail down his technique as well as the ins and outs of Graham’s aggressive defense.

“Our pre-determined footsteps, our alignment and assignment,” Means said, listing the most important aspects. “It’s a lot of blitzing, so you need to have your technique down outside.”

According to the updated roster sent out with under a week left until the first game against Weber St., Means is up to 174 lbs. That’s certainly not a large difference in weight, but to the naked eye Means has added muscle mass and looks more prepared to compete in 2014 after not seeing the field last year.

Since the departure of Rashad Wadood from the program in the summer, Means has been running with the first team defense at field corner, but it wasn’t without competition.

On that note, one of the most surprising storylines of fall camp has been the emergence of defensive backs Armand Perry, Kweishi Brown and Chad Adams. All three have been pushing Means for the corner spot opposite Lloyd Carrington in ASU’s starting defense.

It’s that type of competition in practice that has pushed Means to strive to play at his highest level every rep.

“We are working hard everyday so you have got to watch over your shoulder to see who the next man is,” Means said. “So yeah you have got to be on top of you’re ‘A’ game here.”

Regardless of the intrasquad competition, players still have to perform when the lights come on, and there are big shoes to fill.

Arizona State is losing nine interceptions, eleven pass breakups and 20 pass defenses from the corner spots alone, not to mention Alden Darby’s contributions from the safety position. And Lloyd Carrington is the only corner on the roster with significant time on the field for the Devils.

Even with all of that said, head Coach Todd Graham said this year’s secondary has a chance to be better than the 2013 version. That’s a bold prediction, but Means stands behind his head coach.

“Oh yeah, Graham prepared us,” Means said. “We are going to go out there and do our thing.”

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