After the Arizona State Sun Devils lost a second consecutive game, Dennis Erickson’s job status has been the talk on local radio stations. Typical, right?
The Sun Devils just finished up two games against top-10 teams, one on the road, and one at home against maybe the best team in the country. Think whatever you like, but coaches, players, and fans all feel the maroon and gold could be, and probably should be 4-0.
So why is Erickson’s future being questioned once again?
ASU Athletic Director, Lisa Love, cut ties with Dirk Koetter in 2006 due to “lack of competitive traction” within the Pac-10 Conference. Essentially, Koetter and his Sun Devils never won football games when they were underdogs.
And in some cases ASU was embarrassed under Koetter. That is not the case with Erickson’s squad.
It did not help that Koetter could not win on the road, especially in California. To be beat consistently by the four California schools in the Pac-10 hurt recruiting in a major way.
When Dennis Erickson took over, the cupboard was not bare at first, but the lack of quality recruiting in the late stages of the Koetter era has led to Kerry Taylor and Sai’a Falahola being the only senior starters for ASU.
The Sun Devils have a total of 13 seniors.
Now with Erickson looking at a 21-20 record at ASU, and only one win over a top-25 team, the seat in his Sun Devil Stadium office seems to be heating up.
But as a fan, how can you not be encouraged? Sure, the story seems to be eerily similar to the past two seasons, but ASU has shown the improvements on offense, and even improvements on a defense that ranked first in the conference just last year.
Arizona State was awful on offense the past two seasons. Erickson witnessed the chaos first hand, and pulled the plug on the Rich Olsen experiment.
Now, the “scientist,” Noel Mazzone, runs the Sun Devil’s offense. The overzealous cheering in the Tempe area on Saturday nights is partly his doing.
In terms of talent, the recruits that Erickson has persuaded to Tempe are making impacts in droves.
Start at the quarterback position. Did anyone think ASU could attract a quarterback from the University of Michigan to transfer to Arizona State? Or how about the No. 1 linebacker in the country from California, who signed with the Sun Devils instead of USC, UCLA, or another high caliber Pac-10 school?
Vontaze Burfict signed with ASU following a 5-7 season. Steven Threet linked up with the offensive minded Erickson that same year.
These program-changing players trusted Erickson to turn the program around, but apparently it is harder to convince the talk radio hosts.
Now, with four solid recruiting classes under his belt, Erickson has his players in place to make a push for the top of the conference.
Just look at freshman sensation Deantre Lewis. Lewis is another California recruit venturing to the desert and making an instant impact on the college football landscape.
In four games, Lewis gained 278 yards rushing and 168 receiving, with four touchdowns. The freshman running back might get his first start this weekend at Oregon State and for good reason too.
Lewis is averaging 9.6 yards per carry.
However, the players are young and are going to make foolish mistakes, but there is time to learn and grow as a football team. A football program will never take the next step up the totem pole if fans are calling for the coach’s head nearly every five years.
Once again, Arizona State is 2-2, and could easily be 3-1 or 4-0. However, that is not the case.
The predictions for the rest of the season have been talked about, discussed, and tossed aside, for now. The bottom line is ASU has to win five more games to reach a bowl game.
Is that too tall of a task for Dennis Erickson’s young team? Absolutely not.
After two heavyweight fights against two of the best in the country, it is not out of the question for ASU to reach a bowl game. To write the 2010 season off as “done” or “over” is foolish.
As Sun Devil’s offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said, “a football season is not a sprint, it is like a horse race.”
Arizona State is now at the first turn in 2010, and have fallen behind, but as Mazzone said, “Secretariat was 16th at the first quarter-mile mark at the 1973 Kentucky Derby, but ended up winning the race in record time.”
Under Dennis Erickson, ASU had a quick turnaround in 2007, but fell behind the “Pac” the past two seasons, now is the time for ASU to make that “record setting” push.
To be honest, there is no better time than now, for this team to realize their potential, and turn the corner. A brutal three-game road trip to the northwest is their competition in the race for a bowl berth.
Right now, everyone is neck and neck (other than Washington State, sorry Cougars), but when it comes time to accept bowl invites in December, don’t count Erickson and this Sun Devil team out.