There were a lot of big hits in Saturday morning's Arizona State scrimmage but the biggest one involved no contact at all.
Senior field side linebacker Brandon Magee, hailed by defensive coordinator Craig Bray as the defense's best player last season, suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon and is expected to miss the entire season.
On the eighth play from scrimmage Magee "sacked" ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler and on the very next play, with nobody around him, Magee planted to accelerate before crumpling to the turf.
"I feel extremely bad for him" Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said. "That guy's a good football player. You lose a guy like that, that's damaging to your football team. But we will find out what we are about."
Players quickly sensed the severity of the injury and many dropped to a knee on the field as a hushed silence fell over the Kajikawa Practice Field, broken only by the sound of the tractor cart brought on to take Magee away.
The loss is a devastating one for the Sun Devils, who already have unexpectedly lost two other key players on defense from last season, senior cornerback Omar Bolden (knee) and defensive end James Brooks (left team), and have had an assortment of other less significant injuries in camp.
Last season, Magee finished second on the team with 73 tackles, including five for loss. He's the rangiest of the team's experiences linebackers, best in coverage, and best blitzer off the edge. He's also largely responsible for ensuring players are lined up properly and is a vocal leader.
"It's a huge loss and I really don't know what's going to happen now," senior linebacker Colin Parker said. "The coaches are going to have to look at it and consider what happened in this scrimmage and what happens in the next couple weeks and decide what's best for us."
ASU's most likely options would be shifting either Parker or fellow senior Shelly Lyons to the straining field side position -- the two are battling for the top boundary side spot -- or playing senior Oliver Aaron -- currently the third-team boundary linebacker but one who has played both position -- there, or sophomore Anthony Jones.
Jones is the rangiest athlete of the group, a player with athletic potential comparable to Magee, but he missed last season due to academics and has yet to play a game.
Having played in each of his three seasons in Tempe, Magee has a redshirt year available and could elect to return in 2012. He was expected to be an NFL Draft candidate next spring, and after being selected in the 21st round of the MLB Draft earlier this year, delayed a potential professional baseball career to play for the Sun Devils this fall.