Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium marks the opening of the 2010 Arizona State football season. What are expectations?
Well, everyone is 0-0, and dead even in the standings, so of course expectations are high. However, ASU and Dennis Erickson have a few reasons to be anxious as kickoff rapidly approaches.
First, ASU finally will get to face another jersey color, not in practice, but in a real live game under the lights. Granted, ASU will be battling Portland State Saturday, but just an opportunity to knock an opponent flat on their rear end, just because they are wearing a different color uniform is great football to watch.
Don’t get me wrong big hits are great to see, and I am sure the fans will be looking for another highlight reel tackle from Vontaze Burfict in the opener, but fans respond to points, and lots of them.
Arizona State has been known as a passing school in years past, but this years’ offense under Noel Mazzone’s tutelage, expects to be a total 180-degree change compared to last Fall. The up-tempo, quick strike style might make ASU’s 2009 offense look like a junior varsity squad. A new mind, a fresh set of eyes, and new hands on the project nearly always improves upon the previous years results, and from preseason camp, the offense looks to be much improved.
The organization, pace and overall ownership of the 2010 Sun Devils’ offense is what is certainly going to make the difference between 2009 and 2010, and more importantly a bowl game, and no bowl game.
But as fans, we cannot get ahead of ourselves.
In recent years, the offseason chatter has been filled with promise and optimism before, and when the season was over, the results showed where the team was truly at in terms of overall production. Which almost begs the question, how can a 4-8 team from just a season ago, be so confident and so eager?
The off-season is a long grueling process for die-hard fans to sit and wait until the next season comes around, and for the coaches, a break is not in sight, and it truly is a long and grueling process. The optimism and promise has slowly boiled due to the labor and effort that this ASU staff put in to improve the roster from top to bottom.
Coach Erickson’s style has always been to recruit a handful of Junior College guys that will improve your team instantly, and then fill in the rest of your class with overlooked quality talent with top-notch speed. Both of those sentiments were once again true this year with Erickson blazing the recruiting trail. In the long run, these guys probably will not be in the same mold as NFL caliber players like Chad Ochocinco, Nick Barnett, or Stephen Jackson, but with four of the JUCO recruits vying for starting jobs in Week 1, success might be within reach this Fall.
The names like George Bell, Mike Willie and Brice Schwab, might not be meaningful to you yet, but as the games unfold, these three men on offense will be a big reason why this offense progresses ten fold compared to 2009. With three JUCO transfers in line to start, coupled with two transfers from national football powerhouses, Steven Threet (Michigan), and Aaron Pflugrad (Oregon), this offense will have a brand spanking new look on all levels.
Even at running back, a new face has graced Sun Devil fans with his presence. Deantre Lewis, a freshman from Norco, Calif., has surprised fans with his elusiveness, athletic ability and pure speed from the moment he stepped onto campus. At 5'10" 190 pounds, Lewis has ideal size for a change of pace back.
Sophomore Cameron Marshall is the starter at running back, but I would not be the least bit surprised if Lewis is starting by week six, and sharing reps with Marshall. Lewis is that good.
Everyone in attendance is going to want to see a show, Lewis might break one Saturday to increase hype to even another level, but in the end, when the final whistle is blown, ASU must be on top of the scoreboard by a hefty margin, or else the boo birds will be circling Frank Kush Field, early and often.
Statistical categories are nice to look at the next day in the box score, but the point total at the end of the night is what ultimately matters. Fans will be expecting a great dominating show by the maroon and gold, and rightfully so. Fans want to believe the chatter and the hype of preseason camp, and now the time to determine which side of the fence you are on comes Saturday.
Will the offense have a fast start, or start off slow and sluggish like the past few years? How comparable are Threet and Osweiler at QB, and do we have one solid performer?
Is the defense better or worse in the first eye test of 2010? Maybe the biggest and most important question is, how will the offensive line perform in 2010? Is left tackle Dan Knapp, really as good as the coaches have lead us to believe? All questions that will undoubtedly be answered Saturday night, and the more yes and positive answers to those questions the bigger the lead and ultimate victory will be.
As a fan saying this, I am not expecting a score of 50-0, or anything in that nature. It is Week 1, emotions are going to be high, mistakes and penalties are going to be made, so a 35-10 game is not totally out of sight. Anything better than that is a huge bonus in my book, and optimism and expectations would remain constant.
A glass half full approach is most certainly needed. I have said many times that I would take a “wait and see," approach to the 2010 Sun Devils, and sure enough, the waiting process is over.
On Saturday night, an overmatched Portland State team will try and keep the score as respectable as possible, but for fans in the stands, the score counts, and the result at the end of the night is most important.