Arizona State Football: When Will Vontaze Burfict Grow Up?

Wes FreasContributor ISeptember 13, 2010

Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson and LB Vontaze Burfict
Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson and LB Vontaze Burfict

Another game into talented Sun Devil linebacker Vontaze Burfict's career, another set of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, one that led to a Northern Arizona score that needlessly tightened up a sloppily played game last Saturday in Tempe. This makes three late hits in two games on top of a slew of them during his freshman campaign, not to mention a phantom punch against a U of A player that made headlines on YouTube after last year's matchup.

While Burfict turned up the energy this past week, finishing with 11 solo tackles and a sack against NAU, he remains an enigma. The most-heralded recruit ever signed to play in Tempe—and a preseason Sporting News All-American this year—he has yet to show the maturity that will enable him to stay on the field in key situations, especially heading into Wisconsin this Saturday and the impending Pac-10 schedule.

In Week 1 vs. lowly Portland St., he sat much of the game and finished with just two tackles. He was seen sitting alone on the bench in full "woe is me" mode and sulking instead of being active with the other defensive reserves supporting their teammates.

While Burfict has all the physical tools in the world, unless his head catches up with his body, he's going to further be labeled a problem child, and worse, will deprive his team and Devil fans of his obvious physical talents on the field. With so much expected of him coming out of high school, and with the flashes of greatness he shows when he's out there, there's no doubt he's perhaps the team's most talented player, regardless of position.

Here's hoping he grows up fast, starting this Saturday, as the Devils will need all hands on deck to be competitive at Wisconsin. An upset win on the road against a ranked opponent could propel the team to a surprise season. Burfict will undoubtedly show up physically, but let's hope his brain shows up too.