The Arizona State Sun Devils had one of the toughest defensive lines in the Pac 12 last season and that was thanks in part to the contributions of freshman defensive tackle Jaxon Hood. The young lineman gave Todd Graham valuable snaps in the interior of the defensive line and came away with 23 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and got himself named to a Second Team Freshman All-American squad. The question for 2013 now becomes: What does Hood have stored for an encore?
Hood has the motor and determination to get after the ball-carrier despite a lack of size that many scouts knock him for. At just 6-foot, 287-pounds, he certainly isn’t an earth-mover like Will Sutton next to him, but he has excellent burst off the line of scrimmage and the versatility to play both inside and out at multiple positions across the line. He plays to his strengths and consistently finds ways into opposing backfields in order to disrupt what the offense is trying to do.
He will get plenty of opportunities to continue to do that in 2013. With Sutton returning for his senior season, the defending Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year is going to garner a ton of attention from offensive lines. In addition, linebacker Carl Bradford will be coming off the edge in pass rushing situations and junior college transfer Marcus Hardison should prove to be a handful along the line. That means blocking schemes are going to shift away from Hood, giving him plenty of one-on-one chances to get into the backfield next season.
If he can take advantage of those one-on-one chances, Hood should see a significant boost to his production in 2013. He has the skills and the work ethic to continue improving his game, which should see him get into the backfield and to the quarterback with even more regularity next season. Can he break through and become a force along the defensive line next season?