The 2009 season did not unfold the way Dennis Erickson and the Arizona State football team would have liked, but the offseason is upon us. Now, it is time to hit the recruiting trail and find top notch talent that wants to play in the Valley of the Sun.
The first focus in recruiting must revolve around improving the talent on offense. First things first, the quarterback play in Tempe has been average at best since Rudy Carpenter left in 2008.
So, who will take the reigns of the ASU offense in 2010?
Erickson might have already done his recruiting for quarterback last year, as he received a transfer from the University of Michigan, Steve Threet.
Also, to couple with Threet, Erickson recruited Pete Thomas from the San Diego area, who is four-star caliber quarterback and is ranked No. 17 by Scout.com. Thomas is also rumored to be signing early with ASU to participate in spring practices.
Threet, the freshman Thomas, Szakacsy, and Osweiler will all be matched up against each other—and let the best man win.
In terms of the running game, the ASU offense has not been the same since 2007, when Ryan Torrain was the featured running back for Dennis Erickson. Torrain's combination of speed and power was vital to the offense's success in 2007, however, no running back that has donned the maroon and gold has played like him since.
Erickson already has two running back commits for next year, Taylor Walstad of Chandler, AZ, and Deantre Lewis from Norco, CA.
Lewis, who hails from the same school as 2009 Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart, drew interest from numerous rival Pac-10 schools including Oregon, Oregon State, and Arizona.
But the Sun Devils won the recruiting battle for Lewis and are deeply excited to see him perform. Lewis had a 321-yard, six touchdown performance as a Junior for Norco High School. Returning tailbacks Cameron Marshall, Jamal Myles, and James Morrison will surely have a say in who wins the job at running back.
Another area that has truly been a sore spot for ASU, has been the tight end position. The great names such as Todd Heap and Zach Miller are long gone, and in the past three seasons Erickson has not had that comfort blanket over the middle for his quarterbacks.
Next season might be different.
Erickson recruited one of the top tight end prospects last season in Chris Coyle (Oaks Christian H.S., CA), however, Coyle's debut season was over before it even started when he broke a bone in his foot. Coyle along with fellow freshman Max Smith should provide a much bigger lift to a struggling offense for next season.
Although, Erickson did not accept his good recruiting class last season in regards to the tight ends. Josh Fulton from St. Mary's High School, in Phoenix, AZ commited to play for ASU back in June. Fulton is ranked the No. 14 tight end according to Scout.com, and the Sun Devils beat out California, Boise State, Colorado, and Washington for his services.
Maybe the writing was on the wall for Fulton, and his time to shine is now. The 6-foot-5-inch 240 pound tight end could come in and instantly produce for Erickson's offense, especially with all of the holes to fill.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest holes to fill for next season will be at the wide receiver position. Seniors Chris McGaha and Kyle Williams will no longer be making spectacular one-handed catches or electrifying the crowd. That new responsibility will be placed on the young shoulders of Kerry Taylor, Gerrell Robinson, and T.J. Simpson.
All of those receivers have the experience, however, none has truly stood out and asserted themselves as a premier go-to receiver. But, as Erickson has done so many times on his countless stops as a head coach, he went out and signed a junior college playmaker at wide receiver.
George Bell, a 6-foot-3-inch lightning fast receiver could be the number one target that has been missing in Tempe for some time. Bell hauled in 80 receptions for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2008 for Southwestern J.C.(CA).
Now I know junior college talent is not the same as the Pac-10 or the Southeastern Conference, but to be that dominant at the Junior College level is still very impressive.
ASU has also received early commitments from Kevin Anderson (Lakewood, CA) and Randy Knust (The Woodlands, TX). Andreson received offers from LSU, Washington, Washington State, and California, but he chose to play for ASU. Knust (6-foot-3-inch) is another big receiver, but still has the speed (4.5 40-yard dash), to stretch the defense down the field.
The receiving corps will have a lot of new faces, which might lead to mistakes early in the season, but if these freshmen come into camp ready to compete for a job, they will receive the proper experience early on to shine bright late in the season when the games count.
But if the offense is going to improve dramatically next season, it starts and ends with the offensive line. Contrary to many fans' perception this season, the offensive line did do a pretty good job in terms of protecting the quarterback, but the run blocking has to be a cause for concern.
The ASU rushing attack looked good against teams like Idaho State, Louisiana Monroe, Washington State, and Washington, but the bottom line is that the offensive line has to be more consistent and grow together as a unit this offseason to help the offensive attack in 2010.
A big loss upfront will be left tackle Shawn Lavauo. The Honolulu native is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick when spring rolls around, but the ASU coaching staff has yet to receive a commitment from an offensive linemen.
Without an offensive line that can keep the quarterback clean and open holes for the running backs, the two consecutive losing seasons might turn into three.
Up Next: A look at recruiting needs for the ASU defense