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Freshman answers call for Red Wolves

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Photographs by AP/BUTCH DILL

Arkansas State defensive back Derrick Bean (30) tries to stop Alabama running back Najee Harris during the second half Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Bean has eight tackles through ASU’s first two games, tying for fourth-most on the team and the most by a freshman.

It was 5:30 a.m. and Derrick Bean put in the call.

Had the first two games of this season gone the way the 6-2, 226-pound Arkansas State University freshman linebacker had planned, a call like this would never have been necessary. As he once expected, Bean's freshman year would've been chalked up as a redshirt and a study session at sunrise would have been time better spent as extra sleep.

But lucky for the Red Wolves and unlucky for sleep schedules, ASU found a gem much quicker than previously expected.

"It's kind of like finding a diamond in the rough," ASU senior nickel back Justin Clifton said. "When you find that diamond, it's a great jewel to have."

Bean's call -- a rise-and-shine dial to defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen -- was made to ask Cauthen a question that resembles Bean's first few games at Arkansas State.

Bean, a true freshman merely weeks into his first semester of college, asked to watch game film with Cauthen, an emblematic wake-up call by one of ASU's most surprising players through two games.

"He's eager to learn," ASU Coach Blake Anderson said. "He loves to play. He's been a bright spot for us, no doubt. The sky's the limit on how good he can be."

Anderson and Cauthen have praised Bean's ability to be quickly plugged into the Red Wolves' linebacking corp. There's a learning curve, sure, but Bean's aggressively trying to absorb ASU's defensive schemes and principles so his freshman season is spent on the field and not as a redshirt -- something not even Bean expected.

"I really thought I was going to redshirt," Bean said. "I know my potential now."

Bean has eight tackles through ASU's first two games, tying for fourth-most by any Red Wolves defender and the most by a freshman.

What has ASU made of Bean's pair of breakout games?

"Well, eight tackles and a couple tackles for loss Saturday, he definitely doesn't look like a freshman," Anderson said, smiling. "He acts like a freshman sometimes. He's still a kid."

The Red Wolves lost linebackers Kyle Wilson (2017), who started every game last season, and Xavier Woodson-Luster (2016) to the NFL in consecutive years, creating holes to be filled and depth to be added to the heart of the defense.

That's where Bean applies.

"He's definitely been a pleasant surprise," Anderson said. "To be able to plug in and play as effectively as he has inside the defense -- with as much that goes on for a linebacker -- yeah, it's been a tremendous surprise. We needed it."

Being lobbed into ASU's defense has become easier as days pass for Bean because of his eagerness to be a sponge of information. Film sessions daily and nightly outside of on-field practice are beginning to boost Bean's defensive IQ, he said -- the area his game has required the most time to adjust from Pinson (Ala.) Clay-Chalkville High School to ASU.

Cauthen said he even wanted to start Bean in ASU's Sept. 1 season-opener against Southeast Missouri State. But a hamstring injury sidelined Bean for two days during ASU's first game week of practices and delayed his entrance.

"It's starting to become easier," Bean said. "It's not easy, but I'm starting to adjust. The repetition, every day and every night, studying film -- I'm starting to get it."

Bean brings a pop, Cauthen said, and a youthful spark able to uplift ASU's linebackers when sophomore starters Tajhea Chambers or Caleb Bonner need a break.

Once Bean's hamstring issue cleared, his collegiate debut displayed why he could be the diamond ASU's just discovered.

"When he went in," Cauthen said, "he showed that he belongs on the field."

Derrick Bean

Sports on 09/14/2018

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