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2010 Arizona State Preview
Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict
Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 6, 2010


After an ugly six game losing streak to end a 4-8 campaign, Arizona State needs to turn things around in a hurry. The offense still needs some work, but the kicking game should be tremendous and LB Vontaze Burfict leads a brick wall of a defense. Check out the CFN 2010 Arizona State Preview.


Arizona State Sun Devils

Preview 2010
 

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

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Dennis Erickson
4th year at ASU: 19-18
22nd year overall: 167-83-1
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Arizona State Players
1. LB Vontaze Burfict, Soph.
2. PK Thomas Weber, Sr.
3. DT Lawrence Guy, Jr.
4. CB Omar Bolden, Jr.
5. DT Saia Falahola, Sr.
6. WR Kerry Taylor, Sr.
7. WR Gerell Robinson, Jr.
8. LB Brandon Magee, Jr.
9. DE James Brooks, Jr.
10. RB Cameron Marshall, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Portland State
Sept. 11 Northern Arizona
Sept. 18 at Wisconsin
Sept. 25 Oregon
Oct. 2 at Oregon State
Oct. 9 at Washington
Oct. 16 OPEN DATE
Oct. 23 at California
Oct. 30 Washington State
Nov. 6 at USC
Nov. 13 Stanford
Nov. 20 OPEN DATE
Nov. 26 UCLA
Dec. 2 at Arizona

While it’s not quite do-or-die time in the desert, Dennis Erickson might want to keep the governor on speed dial just in case.

After beginning his Sun Devil career 8-0, Erickson has slumped to an 11-18 mark, creating a great deal of anxiety around Tempe. The savior for a brief period of time, many have begun wondering if the coach still has what it takes to turn things around. Last year’s eight losses were the most by the school since 1994, a tipping point that’s going to make 2010 a crossroads year at Arizona State.

The strangest twist in the Sun Devils’ recent problems is that the offense, not the defense, has been the main culprit. The arrival of Erickson was supposed to bring an inventive and balanced attack that rose to a Pac-10 level, but instead Arizona State has been feeble and lacked any pop. It responded by hiring coordinator Noel Mazzone, who’s installing an up-tempo, no-huddle system designed to keep the chains moving and opponents on their heels. It sounds good in theory, but do the Devils have the personnel to make it work? While it’s not a bad collection of talent, it’s also not going to keep the league’s defensive coordinators up at night.

The key for Arizona State—again—will be at quarterback. Out of the physically gifted trio of Brock Osweiler, Steven Threet, and Samson Szakacsy, the staff needs to cull a consistent triggerman capable of running Mazzone’s system and distributing the ball. If unsuccessful here, it’s unlikely the program will be able to escape mediocrity in 2010.

Did the Sun Devils overachieve with the fast start in 2007, or has it been underachieving ever since? It’s a question that needs to be addressed sooner than later because the rest of the Pac-10 is beginning to pass them by.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback competition. Comparatively speaking, nothing else will seem to matter quite the same in August. Hulking sophomore Brock Osweiler and Michigan transfer Steven Threet are the primary combatants, though neither was able to pull away in the spring. The raw talent and strong arms are there, but now one of them needs to put it all together and do his part to help turn around an impotent attack that ranked 102nd and 67th in passing efficiency over the last two seasons, respectively.

What to watch for on defense: The perimeter pass rush. Oh, Arizona State will get plenty of push from the interior, but it also needs to generate pressure from the defensive ends. While Dexter Davis didn’t get to the quarterback nearly as often as the staff would have like, he did draw plenty of attention from opposing blockers. If the secondary is going to remain stingy, it’ll need more help up front from the likes of James Brooks, Greg Smith, and Jamaar Jarrett, who are all in the hunt for a starting job.

The team will be far better if … it improves in close games. Sure, Arizona State was 4-8 last season, yet they actually outscored opponents 268-253. The problem was that the Sun Devils routinely got off to slow starts and didn’t have the offensive firepower to claw all the way back. In fact, six of their losses were by no more than 11 points and four were by five points or fewer. Had even two of those nail-biters gone in its direction, the program would have been bowl-eligible.

The Schedule: The Sun Devils have to play five road games in Pac 10 play, and they're not easy with USC and Cal to deal with along with the rivalry date at Arizona and tough games against Oregon State and Washington. The key will be the middle of the season with three road games in a row and just one home date from September 11th to November 6th. The only two home games in a row are right off the bat, and they could be costly. Last year Kansas State went 6-6 and didn't go bowling because it played two FCS teams, and ASU could have the same issues with Portland State and Northern Arizona on the slate. There isn't a sure-thing win anywhere else outside of the October 30th game against Washington State.

Best Offensive Player: Senior PK Thomas Weber. Hey, Weber is one of the premier kickers in the country, but this is hardly an ideal situation for the offense. The former All-American and first freshman ever to win the Groza Award, he gives the Sun Devils their best chance to put points on the board. He can also reach the uprights from beyond 50 yards, meaning the offense doesn’t have to travel too deep into enemy territory in order to be in scoring range.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore LB Vontaze Burfict. Every once in a while, you can just see the greatness oozing from a young player. Burfict is one such example. Every bit as gifted as advertised, he hit the ground running as a rookie, parlaying 69 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles into Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. A 6-3, 245-pound guided missile from middle linebacker, he could be the face of the program as early as this season.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive line. Sure, the quarterback makes a lot of sense as well, but if the front wall can’t finally get its act together, no hurler will survive the onslaught. Arizona State has struggled mightily in the trenches over the past few seasons, enduring a slew of injuries and failing to make life easier for the skill players. Now, they must overcome the season-ending knee injury to LG Jon Hargis, the heart of the group. Anonymous to many, unproven linemen, such as Brice Schwab, Zach Schlink, and Evan Finkenberg, will impact the direction of the Devils in 2010.

The season will be a success if ... the Sun Devils can somehow scrap their way back to .500. They’ll be 2-0 after opening with Portland State and Northern Arizona, but the schedule gets thorny after that point. There are trips to Wisconsin, Oregon State, Washington, Cal, USC, and Arizona, and visits from Oregon and Stanford. It’s going to take seven wins to bowl because of the two FCS games, an unlikely result considering this tough slate.

Key game: Dec. 2 at Arizona. There’s a strong likelihood the Sun Devils won’t be playing their rival for postseason eligibility, so this could qualify as a de facto bowl game. The Wildcats have won the last two in the series and have pulled ahead in the Pac-10 hierarchy, meaning Arizona State will have ample motivation for revenge when they make the short trip south to Tucson.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Red zone touchdowns: Arizona State 55% – Opponents 43%
- Average yards per rush: Arizona State 3.7 – Opponents 3.4
- First quarter scoring: Arizona State 44 - Opponents 87

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