Marshall capitalizing on his ascension

Though serious injuries can drastically alter a team's psyche and potential, the cold truth of losing a projected starter is that other players unexpectedly find themselves in the hunt for greater responsibilities.

Up until the past week or so, true freshman Isreal Marshall seemed destined for a redshirt year in 2011—not because of a lack of ability, but because of ASU's tremendous talent and depth at every linebacker position.

However, with the season-ending injury suffered by Brandon Magee last Saturday and subsequent minor impairments to Oliver Aaron and Anthony Jones, Marshall went from a scout team lock to earning first-string reps.

"Losing Brandon was tough because he was like my mentor; he helped me from day one," said Marshall. "When he got injured, I fell off the map a little bit was a little lackadaisical. It helped me realize that I can't just depend on other people and have to look forward to helping myself improve."

Marshall, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound recent graduate of Phoenix's Mountain Pointe High School, is proud to be a Sun Devil but had a unique recruiting trail that landed him in Tempe.

Prior to his senior season, Marshall publicly proclaimed Boise State as his clear favorite, however the Broncos secured a commitment from Emil Smith, who was targeted at the same linebacker spot as Marshall.

Sadly, Smith was killed in an automobile accident last July, but throughout the interim between Smith's commitment and his tragic accident ASU was able to improve its stock with Marshall and ultimately land his pledge and letter of intent signature.

However, by becoming a Sun Devil, Marshall may get the best of both worlds in regards to not having to wait long to see game action while playing with and learning from some of the Pac-12 Conference's best linebackers.

"The reason I committed here is because ASU has the best trio of linebackers," said Marshall. "Coming here, being with them and playing with them, I was like, ‘Dang, I get to play with All-Americans! It is just amazing. That's why I committed, because of the linebackers and the linebackers coach [Trent Bray]."

Above all factors, most important to Marshall is his relationship with his family—specifically his Grandmother, who played a significant role in raising him and had been suffering through illness when Marshall was making his college decision. Not only does attending ASU enable him to remain close in proximity, but also his potential to see live action as a true freshman is additionally exciting so that his relatives can see him in maroon and gold.

"It's amazing, I couldn't ask for anything more," Marshall said of the opportunity to play in front of his family. "To be here in the valley so my Grandmother can watch me play is the most amazing thing ever, I couldn't ask for anything better. It's my opportunity to give back to her; I play for her."

Upon his arrival to campus, Marshall was not scoped as a potential instant impact player, but his gradual improvements have enabled him to progressively advances day-by-day and week-by-week.

Initially, Marshall was one of 10 scholarship linebackers working to acclimate to the nuances and advancements of the college game. However, in a few short weeks he went from understudy to potentially having an immediate role under the lights.

"When I say it's different [going from high school football to college], I mean it's way different," said Marshall. "Every day I came out here and I felt like everything was going fast, it was hard to keep up. But I stuck with it and adjusted to it and I feel like I'm catching up."

With the season's start speeding on the horizon, the current state of affairs within ASU's linebackers unit may very well fashion Marshall with a maroon, white or black shirt instead of a ‘red' one. This potential promotion, however, is not predicated simply by an urgent positional need as Marshall's ability has never been suspect.

An athletic, rangy defender, Marshall played safety and quarterback in addition to linebacker during his high school career—a reflection of his athletic diversity and capabilities. His versatility and field awareness, even in such early stages of his career, are evident and his skill set is one that is similar to many of ASU's senior linebackers that have recently been integral components of the Sun Devil defense.

Now, with ever-increasing comfort within ASU's schematics and an improved overall acclimation to college football, Marshall has incrementally given the coaching staff faith that he can be accountable for meaningful minutes this fall.

"I came in with the mindset that I was going to compete to win and compete to start," said Marshall. "But I also came to the realization that with the starting linebackers we have—I mean, they're the best trio of linebackers I've seen in a while—that I also need to understand what my roles are.

"My expectation is to start, like always. I always compete for a starting position and keep truckin'."


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