Q&A with Coach Trent Bray

Coming in as a first year position coach, Trent Bray could not have asked for a better situation. After working as a graduate assistant for two years, mainly with the ASU linebackers, he now gets to coach that group, which is arguably the best in the Pac-10. At the midpoint of spring practice, we sat down with Bray to get his assessment of the Sun Devil linebackers.

DevilsDigest: Coach, this is obviously your first spring practice as the team's linebackers coach. How has the experience been so far?

Trent Bray: "It's good and I'm enjoying myself. I have a lot of good talent, but I also have a lot of kids that will play that don't have that much experience. But it's been good, they really are focused and getting better every day."

DD: How much has the experience you have as the graduate assistant in 2008-09 helping you now as the position coach?

TB: "It's helped me a lot because I've been working with some of those kids already. There was no adjustment period of trying to get to know each other and what I expect from the players. Playing in this type of defense (as a linebacker at Oregon State) and coaching this defense I have a good understanding of what we are trying to do."

DD: It wouldn't be a reach to say that the linebackers group is one of the deepest units, if not the deepest, on the team. As their position coach how do you view the talent and competition in this unit?

TB: "It is the best it's ever been here, that's for sure. There is more talent and potential than there has ever been. Obviously in losing (Mike) Nixon and (Travis) Goethel, you lose a lot of experience and just guys who make plays. But as far as the competition here we have six guys that could start and that brings out the best in everyone ."

DD: As a freshman Vontaze Burfict has obviously lived up to his billing, but what kind of growth have you seen from him since last season?

TB: "He's starting to take more of a leadership role. He's still has to continue to get better and he understands that. He had a great freshman year but they are a lot of areas he can get better at like his pass coverage. Obviously last year as a freshman you don't know the defense tremendously well and that is a big area that we need to improve in with Vontaze and he is getting better at that."

DD: Shelly Lyons was injured on and off since fall camp, and didn't have a good 2009 season. Now that he's healthy he has been performing very well. How would you rate the spring he's having so far?

TB: "Shelly is moving better than he ever has. He is at the same weight but he worked a lot on his flexibility so he looks lighter. He's making less mental mistakes than he ever has. I'm very happy with where he has been so far this spring."

DD: Brandon Magee is a player that was much healthier last year than the year before and that really has transformed into the spring…

TB: "Brandon is everything you want in a linebacker. His work ethic is tremendous. If you watch practice, he never stops and you can't help but be amazed how his motor never stops. He's been very good since early in his career watching film. He tries very hard to get better and truly wants and cares to be a good player. He's one of, if not the most, consistent linebackers right now. That's a big improvement from when he got here."

DD: He's obviously not as big of a factor on the baseball team as he is on the football team, but how good of a job do you think he has been doing balancing both sports?

TB: "He has been doing a great job because that's hard when the two sports are going on at the same time. He knows he's here to play football and is on scholarship to play football, but he's also very committed to the baseball team. But he does a good job balancing both of them."

DD: One player that you didn't know a few months ago whether he would still be on the team is Gerald Munns, who has been granted a fifth year of eligibility. Can you talk about the impact of having such a seasoned veteran? Even mostly in a backup role he must be such an asset for this group…

TB: "He's done a great job. He's solid, he's consistent and you know what you are getting out of Munns every time he walks on the field. Getting that extra year back is really going to help us. He's a good leader, another guy that works tremendously hard and is a great leader by example. We are very fortunate to have him back."

DD: He and Burfict were spelling each other at the MIKE position last year and obviously Munns had a lot of interaction with him. This year do you still see Munns tutoring Burfict?

TB: "I think what all the players have done is compete with each other for starting spots, but it doesn't turn into a negative thing, which sometimes could happen. Everybody wants to start and that's what you want them to do, but they are all still helping out each other and the harmony has been really good."

DD: Anthony Jones played well on the scout team so it's probably not a surprise that he has been performing very well in the spring. How would you assess his performance?

TB: "For a (redshirt) freshman to come in, and this is the first time he's really running the defense, and going up against an offense that makes it extremely hard with all the motions and formations he's really done a good job. He's still a freshman so he's making some mistakes, but he cares too and works very hard. He's probably the most athletic linebacker we have. He can run like a safety but has linebacker size. He's someone I'm really excited about and I think he will help us a lot this year and in the future."

DD: Can you talk about the other players who round out the linebackers' depth chart, like Oliver Aaron, Colin Parker and Derrall Anderson?

TB: "Ollie has done a great job. He's a guy that really could be a starter. He and Magee are pushing each other and I'm very happy with what Ollie is doing. Parker is like Nixon, you know where he is going to be, he does the right things and that will put him on the field. Right now, because we need to get Anthony Jones so many reps, because he's so young, Parker isn't working with the 2's for that reason and he understands that. When he gets his opportunity he'll come in and do well.

"Derrall is continuing to work. He needs to get more physical, but athletically he's a guy that can help us. We have so much depth that even our third string guys can compete to go in there. It's a good problem to have."

DD: The linebackers, like the whole defense, haven't been doing as well the second week of spring as they did the first. The run defense by the linebackers has been solid the whole time, but in pass coverage this group is probably not doing that good of job as of late. How would you rate this unit's performance?

TB: "We still need to work on our pass defense and we're not where we need to be. Losing guys like Mike and Travis affected us because they were tremendous in pass defense. As linebackers you touch every area (of the defense) so that's something we need to continue to get better at. The run defense – we also have to get better at. That's what you mainly do as linebackers – stop the run. We are pretty solid at that and we have great speed this year. The holes close up very fast."

DD: With improved athleticism and experience at linebacker do you expect your group to be more aggressive than it was last year?

TB: "We definitely want to apply more pressure. We have the guys we finally feel that we can do that with. That is strength of our linebacking corps – our ability to rush the passer. You will see more pressure from us this year."

DD: As you begin the second half of spring practice what would you like the linebackers group to accomplish?

TB: "We pretty much put in most of the plays we are going run. So now, it's basically getting better at what we already have put in. We did put in a lot up to this point and now we're honing those skills for those coverages."

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