Losing Brandon Magee hurts on the field and off of it, but ASU returns a lot of talent at the linebacker position.
Brandon Magee will go down as one of the most successful athletes ever to wear the Maroon and Gold. Consider that Magee played in 44 games on the gridiron, totaling 231 tackles, 10 sacks and three interceptions. Magee was named second-team All Pac-12 last season, leading the Sun Devils in tackles and being named a team captain.
Also consider that on the baseball field, Magee went to two College World Series, won consecutive Pac-10 titles and was drafted in three separate MLB drafts.
The Sun Devils will begin life without Magee on March 19 when they open spring practice. However, ASU returns key pieces to a defense that finished second in the conference in total defense.
One of the strengths on that defensive unit in 2012 was the linebacking corps. The 2013 unit brings back starters Chris Young and Steffon Martin. The two combined for 111 total tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss in 2012. Also returning is pass rush Devilbacker Carl Bradford, who finished 2012 with 11.5 sacks.
Without further ado, here is your 2013 spring football linebacker preview.
- Chris Young: 84 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, four pass deflections
- Steffon Martin: 27 tackles, 6.5 TFL, one sack, one fumble recovery
- Carl Bradford: 81 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception
- Antony Jones: 26 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception
- Carlos Mendoza: 7 tackles, two interceptions, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble
- Grandville Taylor: 13 total tackles
- Matthew Rowe
- Salamo Fiso
- Kipeli Koniseti: five tackles
- Jason Franklin
Todd Graham and company recruited the linebacking corps heavily in their 2013 class, as the Sun Devils will have six freshman linebackers in the fall. None were more highly recruited that Chans Cox, out of Lakeside, Arizona. Cox graduated high school in December and is eligible for spring practice. Other new linebackers include the Latu brothers (Alani and Viliami), Antonio Longino, Eriquel Florence, Nathaniel Brinker and Justin Maenner.
- Brandon Magee: 113 tackles, 12.5 TFL, two interceptions
- Brandon Johnson: five tackles, one sack
Keep an Eye on: Carlos Mendoza
In just two games last season, Mendoza had seven tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. In the second game of the season, Mendoza was lost for the season to a shoulder injury. Like Jaxon Hood and D.J. Foster
, Mendoza was earning serious playing time as a freshman in 2012, and excelling on the field.
With Magee gone, there is a major hole at WILL linebacker, a whole that Mendoza is the favorite to fill going into spring practice. Mendoza has good size (6-1, 220) for the position and showed good speed last season. Look for him and Chans Cox to compete for playing time, both in the spring and next fall.
Biggest Strength: Disruption in the Backfield
Carl Bradford finished second on the team with 11.5 sacks in 2012, the junior also finished with 20.5 tackles for loss, meaning that Bradford, Young and Martin combined for 41 tackles for loss in 2012. The Sun Devils know how to get after the quarterback, and it is not just the defensive line. Last season, ASU linebackers combined for 21 sacks, and 14.5 of those return in 2013. Young and Martin constantly were in opponent's backfields all last season and expect more of that this season.
Biggest Weakness: Lack of Leadership
Magee was the heart and soul of the ASU linebacking corps last season, so someone different needs to step up and lead the corps in 2013. It is still a relatively inexperienced group, with Mendoza, Young and Martin all in their second season at ASU and there will be a new face at WILL linebacker, whether it is Mendoza or Cox getting snaps. Expect a leader to emerge in spring practice, whether that is a veteran or a new face.
What it all Means:
The linebacking corps is one of the most talent rich position on the ASU roster. Carl Bradford proved to be one of the best pass rushers in the conference, both Chris Young and Steffon Martin proved last season they can excel in major college football. Mendoza showed flashes that he can be a really good player in Maroon and Gold and Chans Cox had scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Notre Dame and USC. The Sun Devils will boast close to ten new linebackers in 2013, making it one of the deepest positions in Tempe.