Q&A with coach Trent Bray

Devils Digest spoke with ASU linebackers coach Trent Bray after Wednesday's practice to get his assessment of where the Sun Devil linebackers are at a week away from their season opener.

Devils Digest: With fall camp concluded, and the opener a week away, how would you rate the linebackers' performance so far this fall?

Trent Bray: "I'm happy for the most part. I think the first group has really been productive and doing well. We have to have some of those two's step up. But overall, I think we're continuing to get better."

DD: What are some of the areas that have been strengths so far for this group of linebackers?

TB: "Most obvious is speed. That's the first thing, is our ability to run. That will make up for some mistakes that we might make. But this focus this fall camp has been assignment sound, especially in pass. That's an area we feel we had to improve, and I think we're getting better."

DD: What are some areas where improvement still needs to take place?

TB: Just attention to detail, little things. Now we're starting to game plan for opponents and focus on what formations tell us, little things like that.

DD: The injury to Brandon Magee is a significant one, how will the linebacker group be able to get over the injury mentally and physically?

TB: "We are all sad that happened to Brandon. And we're going to miss Brandon. But it's an opportunity for another guy to step up and play. So far, I think people have responded."

DD: A lot has been said about Vontaze's development as far as maturity and leadership in the last year. When you assess him in fall camp, what changes have you seen in him during this year's fall camp compared to last year?

TB: "A lot. Last year at this time, I was pulling my hair out (laughs). No, but he's done a good job. He's understanding how we have to practice to keep everyone healthy and be successful. He's running around, running to the ball, just doing stuff right is the big thing. So I've been happy with him, and hopefully he continues to get better."

DD: Coach Erickson said Colin Parker has developed into a leader. Can you talk about the development you've seen in Colin Parker in fall camp?

TB: "He's been great. Colin has always been one of those guys that just does everything right. I mean, he is where he's supposed to be on the field, off the field. And he's a leader by example. He's starting to step up as more of a vocal leader. But his biggest leadership comes in how to do things and how to do them right."

DD: Shelly Lyons had his season cut short last year due to injury. It seems right now he's playing the best he has at ASU. Can you talk about his performance this fall?

TB: "He has been. He's had a real good fall camp. There have been little things that bother me that he does sometimes, but overall I think it's been his best fall camp."

DD: A lot of people are expecting Vontaze to leave at the end of this year. Carl Bradford seems to be the heir apparent at middle linebacker. But Kipeli Koniseti has also shown some flashes. Can you talk about the battle for Vontaze's backup?

TB: "Right now, we need one of them to step up. They're inconsistent right now. With them, that's what it is. One of them has got to say, ‘I'm the No. 2; it's my job.' Right now, it's been up and down. They've had good days and bad days."

DD: Anthony Jones is one of the most athletic linebackers of the group. Can you talk about what you're seeing from his this fall camp?

TB: "He's kind of in that same boat. He's had real good days, and he's had inconsistent days. That's the biggest thing when you're young and you're learning. Its how to play, and it's how to prepare everyday to be successful. It's not one day here, one day there. So he's still going through that."

DD: Oliver Aaron is one of many veterans on the team. He was sidelined with a concussion earlier this fall. Do you feel the injury has stopped his progression, or will he still contribute this year?

TB: He's going to contribute a ton. It's going to be a battle all year with all three of them: him, Shelly and Colin to see who is starting. Oli has missed quite a bit of fall camp, which isn't what we want. But Oli had a great spring, and when he's been in fall camp, he's done real well. And he's a playmaker. So he's going to be on the field."

DD: Isreal Marshall had a chance to play as a true freshman, but has recently joined the scout team. What are your plans for him?

TB: "I think our plan right now is to redshirt him. He's physically not ready. It's a lot to learn. It's a hard transition from high school to Pac-12 football. He's doing a great job, and we think he's going to be a great linebacker. I'm very excited, but he's just not there yet."

DD: Last year the defense led the conference in run defense. How they performing in this category so far and you expect the same performance as last year with the run defense?

TB: "I think so. Upfront, the front seven, we have as much talent as anyone. It's going to be execution and playing fast and running to the football."

DD: In practice, against an offense like ASU, linebackers are tested often with the passing game. Has that really helped the linebackers' pass defense?

TB: "Oh yeah. This (ASU) is the hardest offense that we will play. With adjustments and motions, I mean, it's hard. So it's been real good for us. We understand the defense better because of all of it."

DD: An extremely athletic group of linebackers like ASU has can be caught being over-aggressive or over-pursuing. Do you think the group is pretty disciplined when it comes to that?

TB: "Absolutely. There is always that fine line of when to be fast and when not to. That's where reading our keys and stuff like that comes in. But we want to let them run to the ball. We have safeties to back them up when we do certain things. The important thing for us is to fly around and go 100 miles an hour. If you make a mistake, do it full speed, and you might just make the play."

DD: What improvements would you like to see from the group between now and the season opener?

TB: "We're getting into a game now. So I want to see us communicate better and understand what is going to come pre-snap. It's the little details about preparing and understanding what the offense is telling you they are about to run."

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