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ASU football gears up for the gauntlet of Arizona’s “3-headed monster” at WR

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils will have their hands full defending the Arizona Wildcats’ passing attack in Friday’s Territorial Cup.

Arizona’s wide receivers room is led by a three-headed monster sophomore Dorian Singer, junior Jacob Cowing and freshman Tetairoa McMillan.

Singer, who graduated from Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, leads the team with 1,014 yards on 60 receptions and six touchdowns – good enough to average 92.18 per game and 16.10 per catch.

Cowing, who transferred from UTEP this offseason after graduating from Maricopa High School, has the most catches of any Wildcat at 80, along with 1,001 yards (91 per contest) and seven TDs.

And while McMillan’s 39 grabs for 702 yards might not jump off the side, his team-leading eight touchdowns and 18 yards per catch certainly do.

“You have a three-headed monster. Two of them have 1,000+ yards and the other has 600+ yards, but they also throw the ball a lot,” Shaun Aguano, ASU’s interim head coach, said Monday. “They are great distance runners. I think they are good athletes.

“I think our secondary is going to be a big challenge and the way we can defend that is hopefully we can go forward and put pressure from our front four and five. But it’s going to be a big challenge and we have to make sure that we not only include the quarterback but also include those receivers because they’re going to be making games and they’ve been making games all year.

Leading this three-headed monster is second quarterback Jayden de Laura, who transferred from Washington State during the offseason. In the Cougars’ 34-21 win over the Sun Devils at Tempe last season, de Laura was 17-27 (63%) for 234 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. He also added eight yards and a score on three carries.

This season, the Arizona QB has a 25-12 TD-INT ratio at 63% passing while throwing an average of 316.8 yards per game. De Laura has also rushed 71 times for 125 yards and four points.

ASU defense coordinator Donnie Henderson will have a unique challenge to keep de Laura in check and not allow him to use his athletic skills outside of the pocket.

Expect the DC to still press sparingly, but mostly bring just the four defenders and keep either Kyle Soelle or Merlin Robertson as a spy, while the other five defenders – three corners and two safeties – are used predominantly in the zone in the nickel pack schemes. Too much man coverage against a mobile quarterback can be deadly on longer plays once the DBs turn their backs on the QB.

“We didn’t contain the quarterback like we should have, and then when they make unscheduled throws, we look down the backfield with dirty eyes and look at the quarterback,” Aguano said. “I think sometimes we play a little too soft, to tell you the truth, and we don’t come up and we don’t compete.

“Especially when there’s a third and 14, everyone in the stadium knows they’re going to run it on the sticks and we’re in bail technique. So it’s just things from an understanding standpoint, but we need to get better and contain the quarterback. We need to get better at performing and competing, and we need to get better at just being more physical from a defensive standpoint.

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