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Sun Devils Cautious, Excited for Jermayne Lole's Return

Arizona State looks to welcome back their best defensive lineman, with caution.

TEMPE -- The Arizona State Sun Devils have numerous question marks surrounding their team.

Who will emerge as the winner of the quarterback competition? How will ASU replace three starters along the offensive line? Losing all four starters in the secondary is tough, so can the Sun Devils maintain their high level of play on the back end in 2022? 

Despite losing players such as defensive linemen D.J. Davidson and Shannon Forman (who is now helping coach Arizona State's defensive line group), ASU's front seven is a strength the Sun Devils can rely on as they head into the 2022 season.

Returning players such as the entire starting linebacker corps of Merlin Robertson, Kyle Soelle and Eric Gentry look to carry Arizona State's defense to new heights moving forward. 

Count defensive lineman Jermayne Lole in that mix, as Lole missed the entire 2021 season because of a triceps injury suffered in fall camp. He's now seeking to reestablish himself as a dominant force along ASU's defensive line, but position coach Robert Rodriguez says Lole can't be expected to be the same animal he once was right out of the gate.

"Getting Lole back is huge. Now, the thing is, I think it's unrealistic for us just to assume that he can just put his feet back on the ground and play at the level since the last time you watched him play," Rodriguez told reporters. 

"It's been a long time between now and then, so we've got to get him back up to speed. So like all good coaching and good coaching staffs make sure that we do the right things to put him in a position to get his feet under him. And develop him. It's huge because with Jermayne it's not all just physical, you can usually line him up and let him go."

That's the challenge for the Sun Devils' staff: How do they ensure Lole is brought back safely and effectively? 

Lole was ranked as Pro Football Focus' 24th-best player in college football heading into 2021, and his name was included in a handful of preseason watch lists for the Senior Bowl, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Trophy. Lole was also named to the Pac-12's preseason All-Conference team.

Rodriguez said, "A lot of things he brings to the table mentally, emotionally, make your room better. And so that's an added incentive as well because I can go to Jermayne (and say), 'I don't like the tempo room.' There's guys like Mike Matus, Jermayne and Tautala Pesefea Jr.'s even getting there. I say, 'Hey man, we need to pick this up. Hey, we need this, we need that' and he (Lole) gets it done."

"Jermayne definitely is a man of few words, but when he speaks the guys listen. He's a very intelligent football player, so he's a guy that comes with, 'Hey I'm seeing this, what about this?' I think the more of those guys you have in the room, the better we are. That's part of what makes Jermayne a really good player."

Arizona State hopes Lole is in the room, and in the backfield, a whole lot in 2022. 

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