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Biggest shoes to fill: Arizona State

3/25/2013

Starters in, starters out. That’s college football. Players’ eligibility expires, and they leave for the rest of their lives, whether that includes the NFL or not.

And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

Our concern with this series? The biggest shoes -- in some cases Shaq-like size 23s.

Biggest shoes: LB Brandon Magee

Magee wasn't just about being the Sun Devils leading tackler last year with 113 stops. Nor was it his 12.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Nor is it his 231 career tackles. And, really, it's not about him being a member of the Pac-12 Blog's All-Interview team, though of course that is a significant honor. It's about leadership. You could make the argument that the difference between 2011 and 2012 for ASU, at least on defense, might have been a healthy Magee. Magee's leadership wasn't just fiery. It was smart. There's a lot of talent coming back on the Sun Devils' defense. But Magee's departure, hopefully to the NFL, leaves a decided void.

Stepping in: Redshirt freshman Carlos Mendoza

Mendoza isn't a typical redshirt freshmen. He was generating a lot of positive buzz in preseason camp and saw significant action in the first two games, grabbing two interceptions against Illinois. But then he injured his shoulder and therefore donned a redshirt. If he hadn't gotten hurt, he was well on his way to 40 or so tackles as a top backup, seeing he had seven tackles, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble in his limited action. He's not big at 6-foot-1, 219 pounds, but he's speedy, reportedly running a 4.5 40. Speaking of buzz, there's also true freshman Chans Cox, a touted recruit who enrolled early. But he started off backing up "Devil" LB Carl Bradford, and now may be out with an ankle injury. A healthy Cox has the skills to play any of the four LB spots, where there are three returning starters. Another option is senior Grandville Taylor, who had 13 tackles last year, and the Sun Devils signed five other linebackers besides Cox. So there are plenty of options here, though things will skew young at the position, post-Magee.