Young provides stability at linebacker

After Brandon Magee graduated, it wasn't clear which one of the linebackers on the Arizona State roster would step in and account for the production that the standout weak-side player was taking with him. Nine games into the 2013 season, the play of senior linebacker Chris Young has alleviated any concerns on that matter.

Chris Young has taken command of the defense much like Brandon Magee did a year ago, and is as consistent as it gets playing in the middle of the Sun Devil defense. On whether or not he feels he's stepped in and filled the role Brandon Magee left open, Young said, "Not exactly, but somewhat. I'm just trying to imitate my game after his; he plays with a lot of passion and that's all I try to bring to the defense."

Young studied film of Magee's All-Pac-12 senior season in preparation for the transition from Spur linebacker to the weak-side spot (Magee's former position) this season. He bulked up and bolstered his frame by adding 20 lbs. (up to 244 lbs.) to make the switch easier and to help him control the line of scrimmage against run heavy opponents this season.

Coming off of his best game of the season against Utah where he recorded career-high 14 tackles, the move inside looks like it's been a success and it's easy to see why head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Paul Randolph were so high on Young playing the weak-side coming into this season.

In general, it seems Young just has a nose for the football, and is around the ball on what seems like every defensive play. But being the humble man that he is, Young gives credit to his coaches putting him in the right position to make tackles, and the defensive line that is making it easier for him to do so.

"The coaches have a great scheme and I just have to play the game with a high intensity," Young said. "What I try to do is just play fast, smart and obviously it has got me into this position to make a lot of plays.

"Honestly with the way we play up front, I'm able to make the plays that I make because the defensive line and the amount of pressure that we put on the quarterback. Due to them and the way they come off of the ball, it's the reason for my success right now I would say."

After nine games in his senior campaign, Young is the leading tackler on the Sun Devils, and by a wide margin at that. His 62 total tackles are 19 more than the next guy on the team, Alden Darby with 43.

Now, 62 tackles at this point in the season may not sound a lot, and it really isn't when stacked against the leader in the Pac-12 who has 85 or Brandon Magee in the first nine games he played in last year (83). Yet, when you take into consideration that the Sun Devil defense is only allowing an average of 15.6 first downs per game to their opponents – which is good for first in the conference and sixth in the nation – it's easy to see that Young is playing at a high level.

Nonetheless, Young recognizes that he can't rest on his laurels.

"I feel like I have a couple of more notches to go, like they always say there's always more room for improvement," Young said. "I know I'm much better and I'm still making mistakes here and there and once I fix those, then I know I've peaked."

As the Devils welcome the Oregon State Beavers to Tempe this weekend, they are welcoming the nation's top pass offense, and the best statistical quarterback-wide receiver combination in the country up to this point.

In his weekly Monday press conference, coach Graham stressed how different this Oregon State offense is compared to the teams the Devils have faced up to this point. So how does Young's game change as he prepares to defend such a high-flying aerial attack?

"There's just a lot more coverage," Young explained. "And it's a lot more thinking overall. They have a very good scheme on offense and they run a lot of plays well and we just have to stay focused on what we have to do and what the game plan is. Being able to capitalize on making big plays against their big plays."

Barring significant upsets amongst other teams in the Pac-12, this weekend's game is Young's second to last game at Sun Devil Stadium.

Where some players would be emotional, recognizing that their time as a collegiate athlete is coming to an end, Young still has plenty of work to do and doesn't want to focus on that just yet.

"More than anything I'm just worried about the end goal…the grand daddy," Young said with a chuckle. "We have got three big games coming up and that's the least of my worries."

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