Junior Onyeali is 18 years old. His real name is Nduka (N-duke-uh). He is an Arizona State freshman with three starts in college football to his credit. And after the third start, he is the Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Week.
Onyeali, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound defensive end from Denver, terrorized Washington State with a career high three sacks, a total of four tackles for loss for minus-28 yards and two forced fumbles. The Devils (4-4, 2-3 in Pac-10) crushed the Cougars 42-0 last Saturday in Tempe.
Coach Dennis Erickson said Onyeali reminds him of former TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, now in the NFL with Indianapolis, who was 6-2, 255 when chosen in the first round of the draft this year.
"Reminds me of him; obviously he's not there yet," Erickson said of Onyeali during Monday's news conference. "He's a defensive end that's a little undersized, maybe not even a little undersized, but he can run around and fly. He's starting to get better and better all the time. His strength is his speed. He gets on the edge and you're talking about a guy that probably runs 4.6 (40-yard time) that's playing defensive end. His best deal is when he's a speed rusher. He'll get on the edge outside and just run by that guy."
Onyeali is adding technique to that speed, deploying an inside-outside move.
Quarterback Steven Threet was asked if he could outrun Onyeali.
"We've never had a race, but if he was chasing me, I definitely might be able to kick into an extra gear," Threet responded with a chuckle.
Onyeali gets his shot to try and track down Matt Barkley as the Sun Devils head to L.A. this week for their next game against Southern Cal. Yes, I could have called them USC, but I went old-school.
The Trojans (2-3, 5-3) have to pick up their spirits and regain their wind after Oregon sprinted them right out of the L.A. Coliseum with a 53-32 win last Saturday.
"They've got players. Really, the probation (USC is on) aspect of it will probably show in the next couple of years, not necessarily now, because they've got all that team coming back," Erickson said.
The Sun Devils hope to stay focused and keep their eyes on the prize: a bowl-game berth. They need at least six -- and likely seven wins -- to get there.
Senior offensive lineman Jon Hargis returned to action in a game after six months rehabilitating a torn left knee ACL. He played a little against Washington State.
"I told our players in the locker room after the game, here's a guy, one of your teammates, six months after ACL, comes out and plays," Erickson said. "That's what he thinks about you guys as teammates. He wants to help you win. For me, it's an amazing recovery story, it really is."
Hargis will continue to see some action at left guard, but Mike Marcisz is playing well and will remain the starter at present.
Defensive tackle Bo Moos sprained an MCL late in Saturday's game and will be out at least a couple of weeks. Erickson also praised the play of senior cornerback LeQuan Lewis, who made a tackle for loss, broke up three passes and intercepted another.
"Got a chance, and made a lot of plays," Erickson said. "He's the guy that probably surprised me the most."