Dennis Erickson starts the 2010 season in the unfamiliar position of being on a collegiate hot seat. After beginning his Sun Devil career 8-0, Erickson has slumped to an 11-18 mark. Erickson has never been fired from a college head coaching job but if he does not get ASU headed in the right direction in 2010 he will likely be headed to retirement.
What has been killing ASU the last couple of years is overall inconsistent play at most of the positions on offense. They have had huge holes in the offensive line that the team hasn't been able to fill and Erickson hasn't developed an his type of quarterback.
What ASU has going for it is a tough defense with a serious chip on its shoulders. Erickson has molded this unit to be intimidatory and they led the Pac 10 in personal fouls last season. ASU was first or second in the Pac-10 in run defense, pass defense, and scoring defense in 2009.
Only five starters return on defense but, the coaches like the core of this unit. Jr DT Lawrence Guy and SR DT Saia Falahola are the leaders up front. Both of these guys have the ability to plug up the middle and bring the pressure inside. Jr James Brooks and So Greg Smith will lineup on the ends.
So LB Vontaze Burfict returns in the middle after only one year is regarded as one of the top players in the conference. On the outside he will be flanked by Jr LB Shelly Lyons and JR LB Brandon McGee who will be starting for the first time. the trio has the size and speed to rank among the best in the conference.
In the secondary Jr CB Omar Bolden returns after sitting out eight games last season with a knee injury. So CB Deveron Carr will join him on the other side. So S Keelan Johnson returns with a full years experience. Jr S Clint Floyd is expected to team up with him.
If Erickson is going to keep his job he needs to show some progress on offense. He hired offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to install an up tempo offense that will huddle infrequently. That sounds pretty similar to what WSU has been trying to do under Coach Wulff.
First on the agenda is picking a starting quarterback for 2010. Jr Brock Osweiler, Jr Steven Threet, and Jr Samson Szakacsy will resume competition in August. Osweieler and threat were the co leaders coming out of spring practice but neither were the definitive leader.
The Devils lost a lot of talent at running back due to graduation. So Cameron Marshall will be the starter at TB and has promising potential. He will be backed up by So James Morrison. there is nothing in this backfield at the moment which really screams home run.
At wide receiver Sr Kelly Taylor and Jr Gerell Robinson return. Jr Aaron Plufgrad is eligible after transferring from Oregon last season. Aaron is expected to make an immediate impact. No word on whether his sister the cheerleader followed him. Jr Trevin Kohl will man the TE position. Keep an eye on JC transfer George Bell who could make this unit look quite a bit better once he hits the field.
On paper Arizona State should be improved on the offensive line. Erickson has been rebuilding it ever since he got here but injuries continue to be a major problem. The Devils have been built some depth the last couple of years and are now counting on the current starting group to start jelling as a unit.
Jr OT Brice Schwab, Rs OT Evan Finkenberg, and where the leaders at the tackle positions coming out of the spring. On the inside Sr OG John Hargis tore his ACL so he is gone for the season. Jr OG Matt Hustad and So OG Zach Schlink are slated for inside. Jf Garth Gerhart will be the starting center.
Washington vs ASU
We lost to these guys last year? We had no business doing that but we had no business beating Arizona either so maybe that evened things out. This year the game is going to be played in Husky Stadium and most of the experts out there will be picking the Huskies.
Washington lost last years game because the offense lost their composure under the onslaught of a profanity fueled ASU defense which took UW out of their offensive game plan. The ASU "Hail Mary" at the end of the game created one of the key losses that knocked Washington out of a bowl game in 2009.
I don't see ASU improving on offense. They are unsettled at QB and have legitimate questions at almost every offensive position. I think they are at least a year away from where they want to be as an offensive team. Defensively these guys will be tough. Vontaze Burfict is an absolute havoc creating man child. On a whole they should be able to maintain their defensive numbers from the previous season.
I am picking Washington at this point and it is one we have to win if we want to go bowling in 2010.