A new year brings new beginnings, a fresh start, hope, optimism, and a chance to write a new story.
For Arizona State and head coach Dennis Erickson, 2010 brings similar challenges to the plate.
Four years ago late into fall camp, a quarterback decision awaited, just like this year, down to two solid quarterbacks and one coach to call the shots.
As Erickson gazes out of his corner office inside Sun Devil Stadium, this decision will be a major factor in ASU’s ultimate success, both this season and beyond. There are plenty of factors to evaluate in this equation, including Erickson’s future.
Maybe Erickson is pondering a call to Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to ask for advice about how to navigate this situation. Perhaps leaving a voicemail would better.
Nonetheless, ASU has two quarterbacks, both with quality and production intangibles and mouthwatering measurables. Both Brock Osweiler and Steven Threet have game experience, but compared to Rudy Carpenter and Sam Keller four years ago, Koetter had a win-win situation when selecting between two virtual starters.
Koetter was deciding between two bowl-winning quarterbacks who both lit up the scoreboard like it was going out of style. In the end, a win-win situation for Koetter turned into his demise.
In Dennis Erickson’s case, Brock Osweiler had bright spots against USC and Oregon, but for a freshman to notch his first start on the road at Autzen Stadium was quite a compliment from the coaching staff. Osweiler’s blue-collar effort did not go unnoticed.
The other competitor, Steven Threet, sat out last season after transferring from Michigan, and many staff members and fans across the valley felt that Threet was the most talented quarterback on the roster. With that being said, no one knows how the story would have unfolded if Threet had a shot at quarterback.
While evaluating film on Osweiler and Threet, practice tape the past few weeks will prove who has earned the job, but it probably couldn’t hurt if Threet dropped off a tape of his Michigan win over Wisconsin to persuade Erickson and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Erickson might rest easy if he already had a quarterback with a win under his belt in Big Ten country.
Leadership and accountability are the attributes Erickson is looking for in his signal caller, attributes that have been lost the past few seasons since the previous “quarterback decision.” However, in the end, can Erickson make a bad choice?
Throughout camp, the numbers from both quarterbacks have been similar, and in their final scrimmage of fall camp, both quarterbacks led the offense on scoring drives. Osweiler used his arm on a long touchdown pass, and Threet showed off his legs while scoring on a run.
Moreover, Erickson is playing this game right, letting camp unfold, allowing each quarterback to elevate the competition in their battle and amongst the team, and in the end proving themselves to the coaching staff and teammates.
Now that the season is drawing closer and closer, everyone wants to know, “Who will it be?” For Erickson, the best part about this whole situation is that ASU opens with lackluster competition the first two weeks. Let us not sugarcoat this: Portland State and Northern Arizona are nowhere near the level of Wisconsin, Georgia, or Colorado of past nonconference slates.
These two “warm-up” games give Erickson time to evaluate Osweiler and Threet in game situations, with the lights on, and the score counting. It might be interesting to see Threet; maybe being away from a game setting for two years did some damage, or did it add fuel to the fire? The bottom line is, Erickson wants the guy who will give Arizona State the best chance to win, and you don’t know that until they prove it.
On the flip side, proving it might be a little tougher this year. Both Portland State and Northern Arizona are Big Sky Conference members and competitive at that level, but when placed on the field with even a Washington State for example, the Cougars would chalk up a win against them with ease.
Unfortunately, only one of these wins will count. It is funny to say that two wins on the field only count as one win on paper, but to be honest, no one really wants to play two Division I-AA or Championship Subdivision schools.
Brigham Young dropping ASU to play Oklahoma last year affected ASU and BYU’s scheduled games. However, Portland State will gladly accept the check and opportunity to gain exposure in filling BYU’s spot to play ASU.
In ASU’s case the Portland State and NAU games will be the stage for live game auditions for the starting job. Don’t kid yourself; Monday might be the day Erickson announces who will take first team reps in practice to prepare for Portland State, but over the next three weeks leading up to ASU’s trip to Madison, Wisconsin, a new quarterback might lead the team out of the tunnel.
Many fans are calling for the 6'8" Osweiler to lead the maroon and gold, while others might still be caught up in the hype of “Michigan QB Steven Threet transferring to ASU” headlines and have yet to come back down to earth.
It is a tough decision, but I think Threet will be named the Sun Devils’ starting quarterback. He will take the snaps in Game 1, but Osweiler will get his rebuttal during the Portland State and NAU games.
Leaving all injuries and major setbacks aside, whichever quarterback emerges with top marks entering the Wisconsin week will be the quarterback for the remainder of the season and will propel the Sun Devils to the next level. These phrases have been spoken back and forth for years and years, and just four years ago a decision just like Erickson’s today set a team and a program in a new direction.
Will Erickson’s quarterback announcement split the locker room and divide the team camaraderie that has developed over camp, or will the team rally around their guy and prove preseason polls and previews wrong?
The first test will come Saturday versus Portland State.