On a picturesque morning at the Kajikawa practice facility, we were spared the sun’s full August wrath by a light cloud cover. This kept the temperature from reaching triple digits by 9 am, and provided relief for Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devils on a day with two workouts. The Devils are the Pac-10’s giant question mark. They have three quarterbacks, any one of whom could wind up being the starter. Junior Steven Threet, sophomore Brock Osweiler, and sophomore Samson Szakacsy are all competing for the job. According to Erickson, he would love it if one of them would step up and take control of the competition, but so far, none have.
The ASU offense struggled mightily in 2009, and now returns just four starters from that squad. At the skill positions, wide receiver Kerry Taylor is the veteran returner on offense. The problem with the Devils receiving corps is who will catch passes alongside Taylor. Former Duck Aaron Pflugrad (who declined to be interviewed by us, or any media from the state of Oregon) looks to have the surest hands of the group.
On defense, the Devils lost leading tackler Mike Nixon to graduation, but hard-hitting linebacker Vontaze Burfict is back for his sophomore season. Junior cornerback Omar Bolden anchors the defensive secondary, one that features Bolden as the only returning starter, but gave up just over 21 points per game last season.
Erickson and Co. finished 2009 with six consecutive losses, including a two point loss to California, and a three point loss to rival Arizona in the season finale. Speaking of the former OSU head man, the vultures are beginning to circle in the form of pre-season articles from the Phoenix media suggesting this year is ‘win or else’.
Last year’s 44-21 defeat at the hands of Oregon was called a ‘total team defeat’ by more than one Devil in camp. The loss to the Ducks was the glaring example of Erickson’s guys getting beaten in all three phases—offense, defense, and special teams. While most of the guys in camp talked about fixing the problems that plagued them in 2009, only the new season will tell if they’ll actually be able to do that.
Next stop: Arizona
Be sure to catch the Inside the Pac: Season Preview Show on September 1st at 7:30 p.m. on KVAL-TV.