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August 15, 2011Two days after suffering a season-ending Achilles rupture Brandon Magee's focus has shifted, but that of Arizona State's talented linebacker unit remains the same.
Magee plans to used an available redshirt season and return as a fifth year senior in 2012 according to Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson.
"That's what his mindset is," Erickson said. "That thing will heal. They do wonders with those. He could be back for spring football. He's got to have a year of football," to build his NFL Draft stock.
"When you have injuries like that, you've got to have a goal. What am I going to do? It's to Omar (Bolden) and T.J. (Simpson), their goal is to possibly get back and help this team at the end of the year or if not go to the NFL. That's the same thing with Brandon. He's a very positive guy."
Linebackers coach Trent Bray said the way the group practices accounts for the possibility of a significant loss such as this one.
"The good thing is we've been just right and left [linebackers] in practice, so they've been field and boundary and have had to learn both," Bray said. "Situations like this is exactly why we do that. So a guy who thinks he's a boundary linebacker is going to have to play the field now, but he has had those looks already because of how we practice."
Senior Shelly Lyons moved over to Magee's spot in practice Monday, with senior Colin Parker at the other first-team outside spot. Senior Oliver Aaron missed practice with a mild concussion but will work behind Lyons at the field side spot when he returns. Talented but unchallenged sophomore Anthony Jones worked with the second-team behind Parker and could play either spot in a reserve role. Talented sophomore walk-on Grandville Taylor is fifth outside linebacker.
"The focus stays pretty much the same," Bray said. "We're going to need to have some guys step up whose role maybe wasn't that to begin with. Anthony is a guy that has the ability to be a great player, he's got to step up and be disciplined every snap. The good thing is we have a lot of depth there and a lot of talent and I feel comfortable with any one of those guys playing.
"Oliver, Shelly, Colin are all great linebackers, as good as any in the league. So I don't think we're diminished. We're going to miss Brandon, there's no doubt about it, the guy is a great player but the guys behind him are going to fill in and play well, I have total confidence."
Magee's proven strengths as a coverage and blitzing linebacker are unmatched by others on the roster, but Bray said he's confident the defense won't look different schematically as an adjustment for the injury.
"Oliver is a really good blitzer, Shelly is an effective blitzer," Bray said. "We've still got speed and talent so it won't change how we call our defense.
"Everyone is a little sad, they feel for Brandon. We all do. He's a great player and great leader. Somebody is going to have to step up and fill that void and play well. There's nothing else we can do about it and I think they guys know that and will be ready."
Senior receiver Gerell Robinson said his knee wasn't as bad as he initially feared. He did some conditioning and could return in less than a week. Fellow senior receivers Aaron Pflugrad and George Bell practiced in some segments of practice. Junior running backs Cameron Marshall (ankle) and James Morrison (shoulder) did not participate.
Sophomore running back Deantre Lewis hasn't yet returned to Tempe from his family home in California but is expected to before the start of school Thursday, Erickson said. The coach said recently he's more confident Lewis could play this season compared with a few weeks ago, but it's largely based on progress reports he's receiving over the phone.
Lewis has posted to his twitter account recently that he's working on squats and other leg strengthening exercises and is improving, needing only to regain his explosiveness before retaking the field.
"He'll have a physical with our doctors, and they'll let us know where he's at," Erickson said. "I think he's got a chance (to play). We've got to see when he gets here. It's all been by phone. I'm just guessing from what I hear."