Pac-12: Craig Bray

Trent Bray, a former standout linebacker at Oregon State, is returning to Corvallis as a graduate assistant coach on Mike Riley's staff.

Bray, who spent the past two years as a linebackers coach at Arizona State, started 34 of 49 career games during his playing days at OSU from 2002-2005. He was the defensive MVP of the 2004 Insight Bowl after a 10-tackle performance in a win over Notre Dame. He was a Pac-10 first-team selection as a senior and second team as a junior.

"I'm very excited to have Trent rejoin the program; he's a great addition to our staff," Riley said in a statement. "When he played here I thought he would be a natural as a coach; we are fortunate to have someone of his caliber return to Corvallis."

Bray went on to sign free-agent contracts with the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans before moving to NFL Europe.

Bray, the son of former OSU assistant coach Craig Bray, started his coaching career in 2009 in the UFL.

Lunch links: Mora, Leach hiring assistants

December, 14, 2011
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You're a nasty wasty skunk,
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch,
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
"Stink, stank, stunk"!

Vontaze Burfict speaks!

September, 30, 2011
The always hustling Doug "Let me hear you" Haller was able to chat with Arizona State's mercurial, media-shy linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Thursday.

Burfict has had an interesting season. He's made a lot plays and not as many penalties as in the past, but the general feeling is he's not playing as well as he could. Pretty well, but not super-scary-Burficty, which is what Sun Devils fans (and fans of super-scary linebackers in general) want to see.

He told Haller:

"It's funny," the Arizona State junior linebacker said Thursday in a rare interview. "Since I'm not getting all these personal fouls, everybody's like, 'Oh, what's wrong with Vontaze? Vontaze isn't playing very well. But when I was getting all those personal fouls, everybody was criticizing me then, too."

Funny thing is, the latest criticism didn't come from media or fans. It came from defensive coordinator Craig Bray, who told Haller he thinks Burfict is trying too hard to avoid penalties, and that is hurting his play.

"We still want him to be a violent person, but he has done too good a job of controlling himself this year," Bray said after last Saturday's USC win. "Hopefully, he'll find that intensity back between the snap and the whistle that he's had in the past."

Burfict doesn't have too much to say about the whole "Matt Barkley said Vontaze was dirty" non-controversy-controversy. He did enjoy his interception of Barkley, but didn't have much to say about his interaction with the Trojans quarterback, which included helping him up after the pick -- Barkley tackled Burfict, in an odd turn of events -- and this outstanding photo.

"It wasn't a big deal to me," Burfict said of the situation, which ended with a Pac-12 reprimand for Barkley.

When they make that photo into a poster, please alert the Pac-12 blog.

Arizona State hires D-line coach

February, 17, 2011
Scott Brown, who's coached the past four seasons at Colorado State, is Arizona State's new defensive line coach. He replaces Grady Stretz, who left to take the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brown, 59, was at Duke 12 years before arriving at Colorado State. He's also coached at Minnesota and TCU.

"Scott Brown brings a wealth of knowledge to Arizona State on coaching defensive line play," head coach Dennis Erickson said in a statement. "Everyone I spoke with talked about his work with the players and how much they learned from him. Scott will be a tremendous help to Craig Bray in our game planning during game week. I was extremely impressed with his ideas and concepts of a defense. He brings us so much more than just a position coach in that regard. He gave us a very impressive interview. Our defensive linemen, who met with Scott while he was on his interview, were very impressed with his style and his passion for the game. They were ready to play immediately."

Erickson also cited Brown's recruiting experience in Texas.

"He has recruited the state of Texas for 30 years," Erickson said. "He has extensive contacts there and not just in a certain area, but in the entire state of Texas. Trying to get into the state of Texas with no connections is difficult. With Scott's connections we will have instant credibility in that state."

The Arizona Republic reported that "Brown likely won't replace Stretz as recruiting coordinator. Those duties could fall to receivers coach Steve Broussard or running backs coach Bryce Erickson."

Opening the mailbag: Is USC headed for a plunge?

September, 3, 2010
It's possible the mailbag might move to Thursday afternoon during the season. Plan accordingly.

Follow me on Twitter. Last week, the USC offense did. The Trojans defense did not. And we all saw what happened there.

To the notes.

Mitch from Salem, Ore., writes: After seeing USC and their "green" secondary, and overall poor defense against Hawaii, do you still see them as a PAC-10 contender? Their offense was good, but I attribute that to a poor Hawaii defense.

Ted Miller: That's a fair point, but I can't think much about it because I'm still stuck on how terrible Oregon looked at Boise State last year. Or how the Ducks nearly lost at home to Purdue the following week. That team has no hope and Chip Kelly is clearly above his head as a head coach.

Oregon won the Pac-10 and Kelly won conference Coach of the Year in 2009? Oh.

Here's an oldie but a goodie: Florida State lost its 1988 opener 31-0 to Miami.

And then went 11-1.

My point: Openers are strange things. They sometimes reveal weaknesses that will be season-long issues. And they sometimes provide powerful teachable moments for teams trying to find themselves. And they sometimes don't mean jack, one way or the other.

And let's keep in mind the Trojans won by 13 points.

Was the Trojans defense shockingly bad? Without a doubt. But we may need to get a few games into the season before we start throwing dirt on the Trojans season.

But, yeah, USC won't be No. 2 in my power rankings next week. That tackling made me want to scratch my eyes out. I was worried that Ed Orgeron's head was going burst like a watermelon tossed from a 10-story tower.

Tim from Decatur, Ga., writes: Sometime next week can you post a link to your previously posted recommendations for where us duck fans need to visit while we're in Knoxville next weekend! obviously calhouns is a must, but since everyone will be heading there, we may need some alternatives beat the crowd.

Ted Miller: Here's what I wrote last time I fielded this question:

The place I always recommend is Ye Ole Steak House. It's an institution.

I fired an email to SEC blogger Chris Low, who lives in Knoxville. He added Calhoun's on the River and the Butcher Shop. Sure you can get some good bar recommendations at any of those places (I haven't been there in more than a decade).

Just make sure you get there soon enough to enjoy the tailgate. It's one of the best places in the country to see a game.

You also could throw a comment up on the SEC blog. Guarantee you'll get some good suggestions.

Tony from Queen Creek, Ariz., writes: What do you think of the Sun Devils playing a lot of 3-4 defense this year? They will run a base 4-3 but with the recent lack of depth at DT isn't it a blessing in disguise that they are very good a linebacker...especially up the middle with Burfict and Munns. With Guy and Brooks as the ends and an aggressive blitzing strategy with the linebackers I can really see the Devils causing a ton of turnovers this year.

Ted Miller: I think it makes sense: When you are strong at linebacker and lack depth at DT, then using some 3-4 looks makes sense, even if your base is a 4-3 (and the Sun Devils hope to get healthy at tackle, where they are pretty salty when all are accounted for). And getting Munns and Burfict both on the field means one of the unit's best defenders isn't sitting on the bench.

I think the best coaches adapt to their personnel and don't get too caught up in trying to force their players into systems. Craig Bray does a great job in Tempe; he's this close to building a program that immediately pops into mind when folks think about good defenses nationally (which means some of those touted West Coast prep DTs and DEs that only looked at USC in the past might give the Sun Devils a shot).

Tony, your friends over at Arizona are doing the same thing by using more nickel and dime packages due to better depth and talent in the secondary than at LB.

Evan from Fresno, Calif., writes: Are you on USC's payroll? Are you a Trojans? Your bias on them is ridiculous. You defend a dirty program. You defend a dirty hit against Hawaii. Where's you're shame.

Ted Miller: Happy Friday to you Evan!

I don't believe I have a bias towards any team. I was born in Atlanta. I went to the University of Richmond. I own no school-specific gear -- T-shirts, hats, boxers, etc. I covered Auburn for a while (not because I chose Auburn but because that was the job I was offered). I then covered Washington for a while (not because I chose Washington but because that was the job I was offered). I am now's Pac-10 blogger (not because I chose the Pac-10 but because that was the job I was offered).

If I woke up tomorrow in Opposite World, and Adam Rittenberg was the Pac-10 blogger and I was the Big Ten blogger, I would cover the Big Ten with the same wide-eyed, slightly deranged zeal that I have for my coverage of the Pac-10. I would not favor Indiana over Michigan, though it would be inevitable that someone at some point would believe so.

It seems to me the starting point of folks who accuse me of having a bias toward Team A is their overwhelming hatred of Team A. Fairness to Team A -- or any positive stories about Team A -- then become "bias." Often the claim of bias is shortly followed about complaints about things I've written, the problem often being with these claims is I haven't actually written what the critic claims I have.

Many have a problem with my position that the NCAA's sanctions against USC were too severe (though that's a widely held position among national college football writers). I've written that because I believe it and the evidence supports that position. While the football program is far from blameless, it didn't deserve the worst penalties in decades. What I chiefly discovered from fans who have taken issue with my coverage of USC and the NCAA is two things: 1. Said fan hates USC; 2. Said fan doesn't know the issues, rules, what the actual record is or the content of the ultimate NCAA ruling.

As for last night's USC-Hawaii game, I made sure the record was clear with Michael Morgan's hit on QB Bryant Moniz because it was not a dirty play, didn't deserve a penalty and it's not right for there to be any momentum behind the assertion Morgan took a head-hunting cheap shot. There seemed to be some confusion on that. Here's a great picture of the hit in question. I watched the play in slow motion about 10 times before reaching my conclusion: 1. There was no helmet-to-helmet contact; 2. There appeared to be no intention to deliver a head shot; 3. Morgan hit Monis with his chest; 4. There was no forearm-to-head contact, which would have broken Morgan's arm before causing a concussion.

Now, if anyone can produce, in context, excerpts from my stories that reveal a bias, I'd be glad to see them. Actually, I'd be chagrined, but you're never too old to learn, even if the lessons are hard.

And, see, I didn't even mention it should have been "your" shame.

Opening camp: Arizona State

August, 4, 2010
Arizona State opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Three starters on offense, four on defense and both specialists.

Big names: LB Vontaze Burfict, DT Lawrence Guy, K Thomas Weber, P Trevor Hankins

What's new: New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has been charged with fixing an offense that has struggled mightily for three consecutive seasons. Also new are linebackers coach Trent Bray and receivers coach Steve Broussard.

Key competition: Sophomore Brock Osweiler and junior Michigan transfer Steven Threet were in a dead-heat at the end of spring practices. Threet entered spring as a solid favorite, but Osweiler, who struggled in his one 2009 start, surged and made the competition wide-open. It wouldn't be surprising if both saw action in the Sun Devils first two games, which are both against FCS foes.

Breaking out: Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons will flank Burfict at linebacker and give the Sun Devils an athletic threesome. Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad should give the receiving corps a boost. CB Omar Bolden is back after missing most of 2009 and he looked good during spring drills.

Quote: Coach Dennis Erickson on the QB competition: “You’d like to name one before the first game, but you never know. The good thing is that we have two good quarterbacks and that will help us as the season goes on.”

Notes: The Sun Devils lost their top-two guards to knee injury: Jon Hargis and Zach Schlink... Bray is defensive coordinator Craig Bray's son as well as a former two-time All-Pac-10 linebacker for Oregon State... The Sun Devils have the fewest returning starters in the Pac-10... They are coming off their first consecutive losing seasons since 1946-47... Erickson hadn't posted consecutive losing seasons in 19 years as a head coach until last year... The Sun Devils lost four games by five or fewer points, including three on late field goals in 2009... ASU was tapped ninth in the preseason Pac-10 media poll.

ASU hires Bray as linebackers coach

March, 2, 2010
Trent Bray is the new linebackers coach at Arizona State.

Bray, a former linebacker at Oregon State from 2002-2005, was an assistant coach for the California Redwoods of the United Football League last year. Bray was a Sun Devils graduate assistant for linebackers in 2007 and 2008.

Defensive coordinator Craig Bray, who coached linebackers last season, will oversee the safeties, with assistance from cornerbacks coach Greg Burns.

A member of Dennis Erickson’s 2001 signing class at Oregon State, Trent Bray started 34 of 49 career games.

As a junior in 2004, he collected 122 tackles and was named second-team All-Pac-10. He also earned Insight Bowl Defensive MVP honors by making an Oregon State-bowl record 10 tackles in a victory over Notre Dame. He was selected co-captain of the Beaver football team as a senior and earned first-team all-Pac-10 honors.

It's been a defensive spring for Arizona State

April, 9, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The good news is Arizona State's defense has looked good this spring. The bad news is the offense hasn't.

The important question for the Sun Devils as they focus on erasing a disappointing 5-7 finish in 2008 is whether the defense looks good because the offense is bad or the offensive looks bad because the defense is really good.

  Nick Doan/Icon SMI
  Linebacker Mike Nixon earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 2008.

"They're going through some growing pains," senior linebacker Mike Nixon said. "Hopefully it's more us playing really well right now than them helping us a little bit."

With just over a week until the April 18 spring game at Sun Devil Stadium, most are taking the optimistic approach: The defense is more athletic, experienced and deeper than it has been in recent years, so this crew could be one of the best units in the Pac-10.

With defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and end Dexter Davis, there are two certified stars -- and future NFL draft picks -- on the defensive line. The linebackers are running eight-deep with super-recruit Vontaze Burfict arriving in the fall. Coach Dennis Erickson says he's got "four or five" cornerbacks who can play. Replacing safety Troy Nolan won't be easy, but the coaches have been pleased with Ryan McFoy.

But it's not just about lots of bodies.

"We're getting close to the type of team speed we need on defense like my defenses have had over the years," said Erickson, referring to the sleek units he had at Miami and Oregon State.

Of course, the offense is breaking in a new quarterback -- senior Danny Sullivan is the decided leader to replace Rudy Carpenter -- and three potential starting offensive linemen are sitting out with injuries.

You may have heard ASU's offensive line struggles mentioned a couple of times over the past two seasons.

That's why a grizzled veteran like 25-year-old linebacker Mike Nixon, who played in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system until 2005, isn't ready to talk about the Sun Devils as the second-coming of USC, circa 2008.

Sure, the defense is having fun. Sure, it might talk a little smack to the offense, which seems overwhelmed at times. But these are not fall Saturdays.

"There's a fine line between being confident and being cocky," Nixon said. "We've got to be confident. But we've got to go out and prove what we think we're capable of this year. We had moments last year when we played great games defensively. But then you turn on the Oregon film or the [Arizona] film."

Nixon is recalling the 54 points and 537 yards the Ducks piled up. Or the 24 second-half points Arizona recorded that ended a three-year winning streak in the rivalry game and knocked the Sun Devils out of bowl eligibility.

  Tom Hauck for
  Coveted prospect Vontaze Burfict could be an immediate starter at middle linebacker.

The Sun Devils have been solid on defense the past two years -- ranking third in the Pac-10 in scoring defense in 2007 and fourth last year -- but coordinator Craig Bray said he's expecting a step up from solid to dominating.

A defense can't dominate without speed everywhere, and that's why recruiting speed has been the chief concern since Erickson arrived.

That also means no veteran starter is safe, even Nixon, who's being challenged by sophomore Shelly Lyons, despite earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 2008 and tying for the conference lead with five interceptions.

Incoming freshmen defensive tackles Corey Adams and Will Sutton are expected to get looks for the defensive line rotation, and Burfict is practically being penciled in at middle linebacker, where the Sun Devils have Travis Goethel and Gerald Munns, who both have significant starting experience.

"There's definitely a position for [Burfict]," Bray said. "If we have one position that's lacking athleticism, it's our 'Mike' 'backer. If Vontaze can pick it up -- and we're pretty simple -- then he's going to make a big difference."

Bray added that the depth at linebacker could inspire him to adopt some 3-4 looks to get more of them on the field, though he's yet to use the scheme this spring.

After another practice when the offense only produced a handful of positive plays, it's hard not to acknowledge what's going on: "Yeah, we've been dominating," Bray said.

Arizona State has long been known for quarterbacks and offensive firepower, and for 2009 to be a dramatically better season than 2008, the offense will need to pick it up.

But it seems fair to say that Erickson subscribes to the hackneyed football cliche, "Defense wins championships."

Might the Sun Devils be building a defensive power in the desert?

"It would be nice, being a senior, for that to be our legacy -- when ASU turned into a defensive program," Nixon said. "I think we've got the talent to do that. I think we've got the depth to do that. Now I just think we've got to actually do it."