Player Capsule: Stephon McCray
Position: Offensive Guard
Weight: 314 pounds
2014 season quick review: An important reserve, McCray was the first guard or center off the bench for Arizona State when someone was forced out of action due to injury. He started one game and played in eight overall, performing admirably for someone with essentially no prior game experience.
2015 season quick review: For the second year in a row McCray proved to be a valuable reserve and the first player off the bench for the Sun Devils. He played in 12 games in total, and has the versatility to play center or guard.
Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen (in 2015): "The way he run blocked against Utah, he did a great job. He's probably, in the lower body, our most flexible guy, able to bend and gain leverage, but pass pro is where he got beat some. Whether it was Utah, they put No. 8 (Nate) Orchard -- he didn't have a whole lot of success against Jamil (Douglas) -- and they bumped him down to Stephon later in the game and got to us. We tried to do some double team stuff and they starting blitzing, they did a good job to get him one on one and they got after him a couple times. Then Arizona, once Nick went out they got Scooby Wright on him a couple times, you know, at this level they're going to figure out how to expose you.
"He did do some good things at pass pro, but that's where he's gotta get stronger and be able to handle himself. He's got really long arms which helps him a lot because he can fend him off but he's gotta have a little more pop with it. But I'm excited that he's able to go through the spring. I tell you what he did against Arizona, that's the first time he snapped a ball in a game, he's done it in practice but to go in to that type of environment, that kind of pressure."
SunDevilSource.com analysis (06/2016): It appears as though five years into his ASU career McCray is finally going to get his opportunity to be regular starter. Right guard figures to be the position he'll play at, and he has quite a bit of experience for someone who has been a second-string reserve for the last several years because McCray's been the top player called upon when someone on the interior has come out of the lineup.
McCray has very good joint flexibility in his lower half for a linemen, so he plays with good leverage and that allows him to get the most out of his base blocking, where he generates a reasonable amount of torque. He has a lower center of gravity and carries a little too much weight but still has pretty active feet in the run game and so it works out reasonably well, especially with his longer arms. He's more of a technique run blocker than a power blocker, enabled by some of his physical tools that lets him stay on blocks. His range is decent for his size but not great, which is why he's played the right guard position, which ASU hasn't tended to use quite as much as a pulling player in man blocking. He's not someone you often want to ask to have to pick up a block chasing to the boundary, particularly on the wide side of the field.
Pass pro is where McCray has some more room to develop. He can be a bit lazy with his feet and try to use brute force while leaning and having his arms extended instead of working to get more balanced. As a result he gets jostled around a bit because he also isn't the most powerful of linemen in his upper half. Speed attacks into his gap have been effective at times, particularly linebacker pops and stunts, so his visual awareness level can go up another notch. Strength, stamina and overall fitness are key factors for McCray's in-game durability and the summer is important for him in that regard because he's going to be getting dramatically more reps than ever before. He made some strides in this regard earlier in this year and can build on that with a good conclusion to his off-season.
(07/2015) McCray plays with an edge and relishes close physical combat and especially finishing run blocks inside the box. It's clear he enjoys playing the game and wants to try to impose himself on defensive players. Just like starting guard Vi Teofilo, McCray is better and more natural against the run than pass. Teofilo improved with his pass pro as he gained more starting experience and that's what McCray is trying to do now even though he hasn't had nearly as much playing time.
Though just 6-foot-2, McCray has a lot of heft -- listed at 317 pounds -- and uses his size and very good flexibility to gain leverage as a run blocker, accessing his power muscles more efficiently than a lot of linemen are able to. ASU's scheme requires a lot of run outs into space by offensive lineman looking for range blocks, and McCray has moderate range, not as spry as some others have been, but not a liability either.
McCray will be well served to continue working toward improving his overall physical conditioning and re-shaping his physique. He carries a bit too much weight through the trunk and not as much as would be ideal in his upper body and arms. Endurance is a question mark, as he's tended to wear down and not have as much potency. In pass engagement McCray uses his long arms relatively well but sometimes he can get jostled around a bit by heavier defensive tackles and so adding more strength would be beneficial.
Handling speed better in his gap and having better blitz anticipation are probably the areas where McCray can most improve from a football savvy and skill standpoint. Smaller, quicker pass rushers and stunts have given him problems at times and that's something to watch moving forward if he's called into action against a defense that has the personnel and play calling to try to advantage it.
Projected depth chart status: The top guards on the ASU roster during the spring from what we were able to observe were McCray and sophomore Sam Jones and it appears likely they'll be the starters at the beginning of the season unless something really changes. There is perhaps an outside possibility that McCray shifts to center if someone else makes a big jump in fall camp and the center position remains unresolved.