Brandon Magee: Physically, it's just an everyday thing. Some days it feels good, some days it feels a little rusty. I'm working with my therapist and we're getting there. It's close.
BD: Going back to that injury, when you felt the Achilles pop last season, what were some of the first thoughts that ran through your mind?
BM: First thoughts that ran through my head were, "I know I'm out for the season" because I've never felt like this before. It was very painful, I was hurting, man. It hurt not being able to be a part of the team last year but everything happens for a reason and God has a plan for me.
Joe Healey: How difficult was it to watch from the sidelines last year, especially when it became very noticeable that your leadership and athletic abilities would have been a major help down the stretch?
BM: You know it was very hard to watch, especially after all these years and putting in the efforts in the offseason; you want to win games. I felt sorry for the guys that really tried hard. I also took a lot out of last season that I'm going to add to this season, about how you have more discipline and you have more will power. If you have everybody doing the right thing and being one team you can do a lot of great things and that's what we're about to do here.
JH: What are some of the main lessons that you've learned in the past six months or so since the injury? How is Brandon Magee here in February of 2012 different than the Brandon Magee of a year ago?
BM: I'd say the Brandon Magee here is more of a man…I feel like I've become more of a man, I've grown a lot spiritually and in God and in the word. I feel that everything happens for a reason and there's a plan for everything. I've found out I can be a leader on and off the field and just stuff I can improve in my game because, you know, I love watching film and I'm my own worst critic and I just have learned to be a better player. I think this injury is a stepping stone and after I overcome this, nothing can stop me.
BD: You've been one of the more positively outspoken players through Twitter about Coach Todd Graham and the direction he's taking the program. What have you seen and heard to result in that reaction?
BM: I'm so positive about Coach Graham because he's bringing positive energy himself. So are the coaches, the players are buying in—I feel the players are buying in. I'm just an outlet and I just like to voice my opinions, you know, that's how I feel. I'm speaking that victory everyday and I hope the fans are speaking the same for us because we need the most fan support we can get.
JH: How helpful has it been to see a guy like Omar Bolden, who had a season-ending injury but now has come back to the point where he's almost 100% and is preparing for the [NFL] Combine and looking forward to a professional career. How does that help you moving forward?
BM: It helps me out big time. Like I said, everything happens for a reason, I just so happened to be with T.J. [Simpson] and Omar like everyday because we were all hurt, I don't think you could match me up with anyone better to work out with or talk with than Omar and T.J., they're the two most positive guys on the team. So honestly, I've learned to communicate better with others and talk to the media and girls, anything, from talking with those guys and they're a real good example of what hard work can get you. I'm excited to see what Omar does in this Combine.
JH: Now moving forward to your senior season here in 2012, though this will be your fifth season at ASU, it'll actually be a season of a few firsts…starting off, what's it like to not be with the baseball team right now?
BM: Man, well, I still go out there and support the team. I love some of the players and the coaching staff, so I go out there every now and then and eat some French fries but it still hurts, man, just watching. It's been a long year, I haven't been off in who knows [how long]. I'm so used to doing something and I've just had to get used to it. But when I come back, I have so much anger inside of me that I feel sorry for the quarterbacks and running backs.
JH: As for a "first" on the football field, how different will it be not having your old high school teammates like Shelly and Vontaze out there with you at linebacker?
BM: It's going to be different, of course, but we have some other guys that are ready to step up that have kind of been in the back spots last year. We have people from the scout team and on that are ready to step up and be big time contributors. We also have some guys, some JUCOs, that will help us big time. I feel our linebacking corps will be pretty strong, even though I hear a lot of doubters out there because we lost some people, but I feel really confident about our team.
JH: The linebacker position specifically will face a major overhaul after losing not just Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons but also Oliver Aaron and Colin Parker. How does that impact your preparation knowing there'll be some new guys out there, and who are some linebackers that you see stepping forward this year?
BM: I'd say with my preparation it's knowing how other people play. What made us so good together, Shelly and Vontaze, we knew what each other was thinking, we knew what we were good at and we knew what kind of plays we liked to make. So as long as you're all on the same page and work together I think the sky's the limit, especially if we wrap up and tackle, that's the key to the game. There's so many people that can step up; Anthony [Jones] has been training really hard, and Kipeli [Koniseti] and Brandon Johnson and Izzy Marshall and then the guys from the JUCO that I stated before, there's so many guys, man, that I can't even you a list but everybody's hungry right now.
BD: Getting a little Xs and Os now...the new defensive scheme seems to be placing a far greater emphasis on attacking than the previous set. What can you tell our listeners about the defensive philosophy?
BM: Man, it's kind of like being in a video game, honestly. You know, you'll be playing a video game and you try to confuse the guy and you pick some random plays; I think that's how it's going to be. I love it – we're going to attack…the fans like to see sacks, right, they like to see people get blown up and that's what I plan to do and what the team plans to do. I'm excited.
BD: Along those lines, the new 3-3-5/3-4 scheme figures to require some different types of responsibilities than before. What are the primary changes you expect to see from the linebacker spots?
BM: The linebacker spots, there are different positions, our outside ‘backer is like a 50-50, he's more of a pass-dropper/safety, then the WILL ‘backer, he's mostly in the box and our SAM is really the MIKE. Our outside guy is called "Sparky", the SAM is the MIKE, and I'm the WILL, so there's two guys in the box always and you just work off of that and you just blitz, man. I've watched how they play and I've talked to some of the coaches and they just want to get after it.
JH: What are your initial thoughts on Coach Randolph and Coach West, who of course will share duties as defensive coordinator?
BM: I'll with Coach Randolph, that guy's positive, man, he's a real class act. He really knows what he's talking about and you can tell he knows what he's talking about when he talks to you—he looks you in your eye and he helps you with not just football but outside life. This is college, there's a lot of situations that we can get into that we need help and guidance with and he helps you with that.
My first impression of Coach West, man, that guy, he's going to teach me a lot. I told him that I want to be the greatest linebacker that ever played here. That's a pretty huge statement considering the people like Pat Tillman and Vontaze and Terrell Suggs, who was on the d-line, but I believe I can do that and he's right on board so I'm excited.
JH: Due the fact that many team leaders from both sides of the ball have graduated, what has the staff—which we all know is huge on character—communicated to you as far as their expectations of you as far as a leadership perspective is concerned?
BM: They just want me to keep maintaining a close relationship with my teammates and the staff members and give them good feedback of who's stepping up and who's "that guy" and who can we talk to and who can we bring up. I feel that our communication is going really well, so we just want to bring everybody up to that level of dominance; we're not only trying to win games, we're trying to dominate the opposite team. We just need to get our leaders set and it's going to be good.
BD: Now to replace many of those departed players, ASU's recruiting class pulled in a few players from the JUCO ranks—like Steffon Martin, Chris Young and Mike Pennel—that figure to see a lot of playing time this season. What do you know about these players so far?
BM: I met them when we took a school tour together and the first impression I got was that these guys want to win. I'm a good guy at reading your personality and how you really look at the game, and the feedback I got, man, these guys are hungry. The one question I asked was, "Do you like to hit people?" and they were like, "Oh, man!" and their eyes lit up and I was like, "I need these guys". They're about to get a lot of playing time, so they're going to be in there and I'm excited to play with them.
BD: Who are some players that maybe be "under the radar" types on either offense or defense that you think are poised to breakout in a big way in 2012?
BM: I think as of right now our defensive is not really "on the radar" at all, so I'd say everybody on defense. On offense, it's not really people "under the radar", it's more about the competitions that are about to flare up. We have a lot of running backs, we have three young quarterbacks—that's about to be a great competition—and then we have our receivers, that's a good competition, too. I'd say Kevin Ozier, that's someone that's really going to step up this year for us.
JH: Just before you came into this interview you were out speaking at a school. A lot of Sun Devil fans are aware of your background with your mom and it seems like you have a very charitable background, just how important is it to you to be involved in the community?
BM: It's very important, man, see I felt like I sat back too much [during] my time here at ASU and I didn't really reach out to the kids like I would have liked to, so I'm trying to take a big step and get out there in the community. We did this thing at Frank [Elementary] School, we had some football players and some volleyball players and we went out there and we would run with the kids and we'd talk with the kids and we'd teach them how to be healthy and we're putting on activities like that. I would also like to help and speak to some high school kids and tell them what it takes to be a college D-1 athlete or what it takes to be good in the classroom, I would like to get a shot to talk to some more people.
JH: Of course, Coach Graham has only been in office for about two months. Spring ball is a few weeks from starting and of course the regular season is over six months away. Despite all that…what are your personal expectations for the brand of football that Sun Devil fans will be seeing moving forward under Todd Graham?
BM: The brand of football, I'd say, [is] respect, and one huge thing is honor or putting on the Sun Devil uniform. I feel that we're going to go out there and really play for our fans and play for the alumni and play for the people that had the uniform on before us that paved the way for us to play on this field. That's one mindset that I think our whole team will have, because what we do on that field reflects this program and everybody that's played here and I want them to look at us and [think] that we're following the legacy that they left for us. So we want nothing less than that and we want to please all of our fans and all of our alumni.
To download the full episode, which also includes analysis of Todd Graham's recent outreach efforts, ASU's 2013 recruiting, Jeremy Staat's "Wall-to-Wall Bicycle Ride" and Pat's Run updates as well as discussion about the Sun Devils participating in the upcoming NFL Combine, Click here for Speak of the Devils Podcast.
"Speak of the Devils" can also be found on iTunes and is on Twitter @SOTDpodcast. Also follow co-hosts Joe Healey (@JoeHealey42) and Brad Denny (@BDenny29).