2010 Arizona State Preview – Offense
Arizona State WR Kerry Taylor
Arizona State WR Kerry Taylor
Posted Jun 6, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Arizona State Sun Devil Offense

Arizona State Sun Devils

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: Still struggling for answers on offense, Dennis Erickson has entrusted the attack to coordinator Noel Mazzone. The veteran assistant is installing an up-tempo offense that will huddle infrequently and operate out of the shotgun liberally. The Sun Devils want to play faster than the other guys, wearing them down in the second half. His first big decision will be at quarterback, where Brock Osweiler, Steven Threet, and Samson Szakacsy will resume their close competition in August. Elsewhere, Arizona State lacks dynamic talent and adequate depth. The wide receivers have the potential to be solid and Cameron Marshall is ready to be the feature back, but the line continues to be saddled with question marks. While the program is likely headed for the second tier of Pac-10 offenses, the depth of the ditch will depend on the development of the quarterbacks and strides made by the blockers.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Brock Osweiler
24-55, 249 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Cameron Marshall
64 carries, 294 yds, 2 TDs
Receiving: Gerell Robinson
26 catches, 261 yds, 0 TDs

Star of the offense: Senior PK Thomas Weber
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Brock Osweiler or junior Steven Threet
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LT Brice Schwab
Best pro prospect: Weber
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Weber, 2) Senior WR Kerry Taylor, 3) Senior WR Gerell Robinson
Strength of the offense: Big arms, power backs, potential at wide receiver
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency of the passing game, the offensive line, the running game, turnovers, third down conversions, red zone offense, tight end


Projected Starter: If Arizona State has any hope for reversing its recent trend of mediocrity, it'll need to fix its obvious problems at quarterback. And while the race to be the starter is far from over, 6-8, 245-pound sophomore Brock Osweiler has nudged ahead with a narrow edge in a heated competition. He got a taste of action in his rookie year, going 24-of-55 for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks in six games. Yes, he has the powerful right arm you'd expect from such a big hurler, but he's also an unexpectedly good athlete, turning down basketball offers from the likes of Gonzaga before settling down in Tempe. If he's going to remain in the pole position, he has to become more consistent and more comfortable as the young leader of the offense.

Projected Top Reserves: Preparing to flip spots with Osweiler is 6-5, 237-pound junior Steven Threet, a highly-regarded transfer from Michigan. While he's coming off a difficult spring throwing the ball, there's hope he can regroup and mount the kind of challenge that bolsters the overall depth here. Similar to the competition, he has great size, good zip on his passes, and unexpected athleticism outside the pocket. He also has the luxury of experience, having started eight games in Ann Arbor in 2008, going 102-of-200 for 1,105 yards, nine touchdowns and seven picks, adding 201 yards and two scores on 76 carries.

Sliding down the pecking order is 6-4, 205-pound junior Samson Szakacsy, in part because he missed the spring to recover from an arm injury. Easily the best athlete of the trio, he moves with the speed and agility of a wide receiver, giving different looks to the defense. His throwing, however, leaves a lot to be desired, raising hints of a position switch at some point. A starter in two games a year ago, he went 32-of-50 for 362 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

Watch Out For … Threet to not retreat. As inconsistent and inaccurate as he was during April, few around the program doubt he has the tools to be an effective starter in the Pac-10. July and August will be huge for his development, but if he can get the game to slow down a bit, he's capable of looking like a different player before the start of the season.
Strength: Big arms. In Osweiler and Threet, the Sun Devils might have the best combination of pure RPMs in the entire conference. Actually hitting the target will obviously be the key, but there isn't a wide receiver on the roster who's going to out run one of these guy's missiles.
Weakness: Consistency in the passing game. At this stage it's all about timing and putting the ball where the receivers can catch it. In the new offense, accuracy and consistency will be placed at a premium, yet none of the three competitors has much of a proven track record at this level.
Outlook: For the quarterbacks, it's a good news-bad news dichotomy. On the one hand, the program has three players with starting experience and considerable upside. On the other, no one has stood out enough to capture this job and begin repairing the problems in the passing game. Ideally, either Threet or Osweiler pulls away in the summer and doesn't look back the rest of the year, ending talk of a controversy. Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: In his initial year out of high school, 5-11, 220-pound sophomore Cameron Marshall fired the first salvo in what could be a three-year starting career in Tempe. He's slated to be the feature back after opening with 64 carries for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Possessing the desired combination of speed and quickness in a powerful frame, he's the type of runner who can run past defenders as well as through them. Beyond his own personal development, success depends heavily on the play of an offensive line, which has disappointed for years.

Projected Top Reserves: Now that Dimitri Nance and Shaun DeWitty have graduated and Ryan Bass transferred, depth will be a concern in Tempe. The pressure is squarely on 5-11, 208-pound sophomore James Morrison to take snaps from Marshall. A former walk-on, he raised awareness last spring, but failed to earn a carry in the fall. For a physical runner, he shows unexpected shiftiness and quick feet, allowing him to slip by defenders. Any regression, however, could make him vulnerable to the newcomers in the latest recruiting class.

The third of the likely trio of this year's runners will be 5-11, 211-pound true freshman Marcus Washington . Though signed in 2009, he delayed his enrollment and took part in his first spring this past April. A good-looking back between the tackles, he runs with power and will break fee from initial contact. The early indications are that he'll also contribute as a blocker, which cannot be underestimated on this squad.

Watch Out For … the running game to struggle. What do you get when you combine a middling offensive line with a stable of inexperienced backs? In all likelihood, a ground game that's going to average less than four yards a carry and labor to pop off big plays.
Strength: Power runners. Do you notice a trend with the top three backs on the depth chart? All of them are 5-11, north of 200 pounds, and capable of punishing defenses between the tackles. In the case of Marshall, he not only runs with authority, but also has the speed to get to the perimeter.
Weakness: Explosiveness. In general, this is a station-to-station stable of backs that isn't going to frighten defenses with their big-play ability. A year ago, the Sun Devils carried the ball 382 times, yet had just two runs over 50 yards, one from former WR Kyle Williams.
Outlook: Losing four scholarship backs from a year has sapped the Sun Devils of a lot of experience and talent in the backfield. While Marshall has a bright future and every-down back skills, he and his teammates won't have an easy time navigating opposing defenses this fall. Unit Rating: 6


Projected Starters: With its top two receivers from a year ago gone, Arizona State is in the hunt for a couple of new go-to guys. At "Z" receiver, 6-0, 197-pound senior Kerry Taylor is a returning eight-game starter, yet played a minor role compared to Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha, catching only 22 passes for 259 yards. However, he has the sure hands and sound fundamentals to ably replace McGaha and become the Sun Devils' most reliable option on third downs. After playing in the shadows, he's well-positioned to finish his career with a flurry.

On the outside, "X" receiver is expected to be in the strong hands of 6-4, 223-pound junior Gerell Robinson. One of Dennis Erickson's marquee recruits of 2008, he took his first big step toward stardom as a part-time starter in 2009, finishing third on the team with 26 receptions for 261 yards. No, he doesn't have game-breaking speed, but with his size and strength, he doesn't need to be a burner to get behind a secondary. Instead, he can out muscle defensive backs on jump balls, and use his long arms to pluck balls out of the air.

In the slot, or "H" receiver, Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad is eligible after sitting out last season, and is ready to become an instant contributor. The 5-10, 180-pound junior had 23 career receptions in Eugene, while also contributing on special teams. A coach's son, he's quicker than he is fast, and has the sticky hands and sharp fundamentals to become the quarterback's best friend on quick-hitters over the middle.

Junior Trevor Kohl may be an unlikely candidate and not look the part, but that won't stop him from moving closer to the starting tight end job. The 6-1, 248-pound walk-on is a ferocious and technically sharp blocker, who will be a legitimate asset to the running game. As a receiver, he won't be a scary threat, but he has caught a ton of balls in the offseason in an effort to become a more effective three-down player.

Projected Top Reserves: The Sun Devils can't wait to unwrap 6-3, 198-pound junior George Bell, a coveted recruit out of Southwestern (Calif.) Community College and the backup at "X". With a desired blend of length, 4.4 speed, and leaping ability, he's hoping to create mismatches in the secondary and opportunities for yards after the catch.

Behind Pflugrad in the slot is 5-10, 180-pound sophomore Jamal Miles. An all-around playmaker, he's the kind of hybrid who can be used as a receiver or a runner in a multitude of ways. Essentially, the staff wants to maximize his speed and darting quickness, building on last season's six receptions for 58 yards and three carries for 13 yards.

There's hope that 6-1, 189-pound junior T.J. Simpson, a backup at "Z" can make it back for the summer after sitting out the spring with an injury. While raw, he's also one of the fastest members of the offense and the kind of field-stretcher who can max out the quarterback's strong arms. He'd actually started three games a year ago and made five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns before getting hurt.

Watch Out For … more yards after the catch. The new, quick-hitting offense is designed to put the receivers in a position to make receptions on short and intermediate routes and take off for daylight. It's a low-risk passing attack, which could reap substantial dividends when executed properly.
Strength: Talent mix. Whatever the quarterback is seeking, these receivers can provide it. Robinson and Bell offer outstanding size. Taylor and Simpson can get behind the secondary. And Pflugrad and Miles are dangerous weapons in the slot. Together, this unit has enough diversity to fill just about any need in the passing game.
Weakness: A proven go-to guy. Is it Taylor, who caught just 22 passes last season? Or how about Robinson, the guy with only six career starts. Without McGaha and Williams, Arizona State could spend a big chunk of the season searching for a clutch receiver the quarterback can rely on when a first down is a must.
Outlook: While it's subject to change, this is currently an ordinary collection of wideouts and especially tight ends. However, there are some players entering the season with untapped potential. If Robinson and Bell can maximize their considerable upside and Pflugrad elevates the slot, this group could look considerably better by November.
Unit Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Though all-star Shawn Lauvao may be gone, Arizona State welcomes back a wave of letterwinners, lending hope that it can turn things around in the trenches. His replacement, however, might be a fresh face, 6-6, 290-pound redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg. He's come a very long way in a short period of time, adding 25 pounds of mass while maintaining his quickness and athleticism. He's spent a ton of time in the offseason working on his footwork and pass protection skills, which will be tested if he stays in this spot.

The favorite at right tackle is another first-year player, though he arrives with a great deal more fanfare. Junior Brice Schwab was recruited by a slew of major programs, originally committing to USC while at Palomar (Calif.) Junior College, before deciding to continue his career in Tempe. At 6-7 and 345 pounds, he has the reach and pure strength to become a dominant pass protector on this side, particularly after he has more time to work on his technique and fundamentals. More comfortable to the right of center, this appears to be where he's going to stay.

Now that senior Jon Hargis has torn his ACL and is lost for the year, 6-5, 292-pound junior Matt Hustad is taking snaps with the first team at left guard. He had started all five games he played in last season before suffering an injury of his own that kept him out of the rest of the year. Versatile and athletic, he's not your typical plodding lineman, but needs to stay healthy for an entire year, which has been an issue during his Sun Devil career.

There's cautious optimism that Hargis' partner at right guard will be 6-4, 311-pound sophomore Zach Schlink, one of the school's top recruits from the 2008 class. While last season was supposed to be his breakout year, he wound up missing the entire season and using a redshirt instead. However, he's trimmed down and is in great shape, determine to become the tenacious and menacing run blocker he was hailed as coming out of high school.

The new man at center is going to be 6-1, 305-pound junior Garth Gerhart, a veteran who has worked hard for this opportunity. The brother of former Stanford star Toby Gerhart, he's a versatile cog in the front wall and one of its most powerful blockers. He started seven games in 2009, two at center and five at right guard, which will make this a smooth transition.

Projected Top Reserves: Further depth at guard will be supplied by 6-3, 290-pound junior Adam Tello, who has settled in here after struggling in his auditions at tackle. Although limited when lured outside the box, he plays with a high motor and enough strength at the point of contact to move the pile on running downs.

Bucking to become the first tackle off the bench is 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Patrick Jamison, Schwab's backup on the right side. Though he lacks prototypical size, he has added considerable weight since arriving and compensates by being one of the Devils' most skilled technicians. A quality athlete, with a good feel for the job, he'll gradually see his workload increase over time.

Watch Out For … the trainer's report. For the second straight year, this group was riddled by injuries, a body blow it can ill-afford. If the offensive line is going to progress, it's imperative that Schlink, Hustad, and the rest get through the season with as few bumps and bruises as possible.
Strength: Depth. For the first time since Dennis Erickson arrived, Arizona State has legitimate depth up front, going three-deep in some cases. A healthy nine players have earned a letter in Tempe or in junior college, a luxury this program hasn't enjoyed in years.
Weakness: Blocking. Sure, it sounds a little too spot on, but the Sun Devils continue to have problems winning the battles at the point of attack and holding blocks long enough for the others to make plays. Arizona State was 93rd nationally on the ground and 79th in sacks allowed, testament to its problems up front.
Outlook: No unit holds the fate of the 2010 team in its hands more than this one. The Sun Devils have plenty of potential up front, but there are an equal amount of question marks. Is Schwab the real deal? Ditto Schlink. Will Finkenberg survive as a rookie at left tackle? Can everyone finally stay healthy? Will anyone be able to replace the Hargis' leadership? While the Devils should make progress, it's unlikely to be as much as the staff would like.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2010 Arizona State Preview | 2010 Arizona State Offense
- 2010 Arizona State Defense | 2010 Arizona State Depth Chart
- Arizona State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006