Familiarity breeds success for Magee

Insert linebacker Brandon Magee in a scheme he previously played in, surrounded by former high school teammates, and end result is a strong performance in spring practice by the junior.

Since last year, many Sun Devils fans were yearning for the day where they could see the old Corona (Calif.) Centennial trio of linebackers perform as a unit, let alone starting unit, in the maroon and gold. There were glimpses of this last year, but ever since spring practice kicked off Brandon Magee has continually been taking first team reps along with Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons.

"It's so fun," Magee admitted. "I realize that every day I come out here I'm like ‘man…I'm playing with Vontaze and Shelly…' It's just outstanding that we all came here from the same place and we all made it here. That's really cool.

"The chemistry is still there. If teams want to test that they'll find out for themselves."

On Tuesday the 3-4 alignment was installed for the first time at ASU in the Dennis Erickson era. It's a system that Magee and his teammates ran at Centennial and thus it is one that he feels he can thrive in.

"We're used to running it and it's a lot of fun," Magee said. "You just look out there and you see three more linebackers…you can run more blitzes and coverage to the flat is easier."

Magee knows that it is a common misconception that offenses can find more success on the ground against a 3-4 defense and he strongly disagrees with that notion.

"They can think that it's easier to run," Magee remarked. "They can play that and see what happens."

All of last week, culminating with Saturday's scrimmage, the offense was able to have its way with the defense. As expected, the pendulum of spring practice has now shifted to the defense's side as that group is now excelling at the offense's expense.

"You're seeing the competitive side of the team," Magee explained. "You always feel like you have to beat the other and when you get beat down you have to show them who's boss next week."

The linebacker is quick to point out that the effort he is seeing on offense is in stark contrast to 2009.

"You can tell that they all want to make plays," Magee commented. "The O-Line is better and they're blocking better. It's a pretty hard offense to go against. You have to read your keys a lot better and they have a lot of tricky plays in there."

Last season Magee played in all 12 games and finished the season with 34 tackles (21 solo), seven tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. During spring practice he has demonstrated his sure tackling abilities against the run and his speed and athleticism in pass coverage.

"I'm working on pass drops and staying low on my blitzes," Magee said. "But I think I'll be a much better player this year."

Magee is also an outfielder on the Sun Devil baseball team. He was a member of the squad that finished third at the 2009 College World Series and coming out of high school was a 29th round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 MLB Draft.

Getting at bats for the top ranked Sun Devils has been hard to come by for a part-time player like Magee, but he's optimistic that this all could change. He was able to finally record his first hit in a maroon and gold uniform in a game against Auburn earlier this year and is hopeful that his role will expand.

"I'm playing for a team with best coach, the best players and the best fans in the country," Magee stated. "I just work hard to keep on getting better. When I'm not playing I'm always watching the game and learning it. I just take it step by step and it will come.

"My swing got a lot smoother. You have to change your mindset from football where you always want to hurt somebody, to baseball where you have to be as gentle as you can be and not getting frustrated if you're not hitting the ball. It's a big adjustment. But having the speed in football helps me playing defense in baseball. That's the same."

A strenuous off-season which saw skipper Pat Murphy resign, has ultimately not affected the top-ranked ASU team. Magee credits the team's approach that allowed it to keep its focus.

"All the stuff that happened in the off-season – we kept it in the off-season," Magee remarked. "We moved in, came together as a team and everyone got better. Everybody feeds off of everybody. Like Zach MacPhee for instance, he's doing great hitting the ball and now everyone on the team wants to do better than him. That's a good mindset to have."

Like many of his teammates on this side of the ball, Magee won't settle for just repeating as the leading Pac-10 defense or just kicking it up just a notch in 2010.

"Not a notch - notches," Magee said. "We're going as high as we can go and that's what we're focusing on that every time we're out here in practice. Our mindset is that we can always get better.

"We need to be the best we can be. We need to work on stripping the ball more and capitalizing on turnovers. We're just going to continue and fly to the ball. You'll see a lot of flying to the ball this Saturday - I guarantee it."

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