With the departure of Robert James, talent at Arizona State's outside linebacker positions appear more competitive, with several players looking to make their mark. One of those players is Ryan McFoy, who was moved to linebacker by this coaching staff after playing as a true freshman at safety.
McFoy had 15 tackles in a reserve role last season, but he has received first team reps through the first week of spring ball, and has been impressive at times.
When asked about his improved play, McFoy credits his dedication to spending extra time learning the defensive schemes during the last several months.
"At the end of the season I felt I was aggressive in learning it but I know I could really improve so all winter I made it my determination to study the whole playbook and actually get in with coach Bray, and he told me how to do this, how to do that," McFoy said. "You have to take extra measures."
The move to linebacker was not an easy one for McFoy. He struggled for several months in practice last season and often drew the ire of Bray, a coach who has little tolerance for mental mistakes. McFoy stuck in there and was noticeably improved by Holiday Bowl preparations in December.
"It was frustrating at first but I just got used to it," he said of the adjustment. "Just learning and doing everything the coaches wanted us to do, it's not easy. He wanted us to do it perfectly. I had trouble doing that. Just knowing what gaps you have to hit and reading certain keys. I had trouble doing that at first but as you develop it gets easier. Basically you have to study it a lot and once you study, it's like studying for a test or something, it will become natural for you. You just know what you have to do."
McFoy has added about 10 pounds since the end of last season, and is noticeably bigger and more muscular. He said he now weighs 215 pounds, which is more linebacker-like than the 198 pounds he weighed when initially making the move.
"I feel bigger and faster," McFoy said. "This winter program they had us doing some crazy stuff. They wanted us to get big so I was working hard. But really it doesn't matter how big I am because I know I'm tough. It was just mentally, not physically, learning the position."
Through the first week of practice, McFoy said the team is looking good, but it's been a lot of the basics so far.
"Coach Bray inserted some new coverages but pretty much it's the same," McFoy said. "Basically it's refreshing your memory right now."