ASU football coach Dennis Erickson has always stressed the importance of establishing a strong recruiting base with local high schools if the Sun Devils are going to grow into a consistent contender.
“If we can keep the local players here, we’re going to have a chance to win the national championship,” he said.
One of the ways the ASU coaching staff is continuing to develop relationships with Valley high schools is by holding coaching clinics during spring football practices.
“They’re who’s going to feed us,” ASU defensive coordinator Craig Bray said. “We’re going to get California kids and we’re going to get a Texas kid, but shoot, if we don’t get the top kids in this area, then we’re not going where we want to go.”
The Sun Devils had an offensive coaching clinic last week and a defensive coaching clinic on Thursday.
High school coaches were invited to attend practice, where Bray taught a session on coaching defense. The Sun Devils then split into their respective defensive positions, and the high-school coaches could join any group to focus on a certain area.
Following practice, the high-school coaches and ASU coaches met for dinner.
“We get to know them, we get to meet them [and] we get to talk football with them,” Bray said. “There are some awfully good coaches here, so we can learn something from them, too.”
And the coaches that attended Thursday’s clinic got to witness firsthand what will likely be the biggest strength of the 2009 Sun Devils.
Bray said this version of ASU’s defense is starting to resemble some of his squads’ at Miami during the 1990s, and a lot of that has to do with speed at every position.
“For the first time since we’ve been here, we look like we can run,” he said. “Our young defensive linemen are guys that can actually run something down. They can get off blocks and make plays themselves. And then in the secondary, we’re probably, as an overall group, much faster than we’ve ever been.”
Bray also said increased depth will make the Sun Devils better on defense next season.
“If you’ve got competition, then everybody will get better, because if they don’t, somebody’s going to take their job,” he said. “In the past, we’ve had one corner and one decent linebacker, and it just hasn’t been what you want. It’s exciting [that] it’s moving in that direction.”
One standout during the spring has been senior Ryan McFoy, who switched from linebacker back to his original position of safety.
“Ryan McFoy has been a real surprise back there, because he’s really playing extremely fast,” Bray said. “Then he’s got linebacker abilities as far as blitzing and dropping [into pass coverage]. He’s been a real, real positive force for us.”
While the Sun Devils’ on corps of linebackers may be the anchor of the ASU defense next season, it will likely miss one major piece for the rest of spring practice.
Sophomore Brandon Magee pulled his rib cage Wednesday while making a sudden turn during practice.
ASU will hold a scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday morning and then will have just one more practice in pads Tuesday before the annual spring game on April 18.
“I feel good about where we’re at defensively, which we should, but I really believe that we’re improving with what we’re doing offensively, too,” Erickson said. “We really only have three [more] days that we can get better.”
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