Arizona State Football: Vontaze Burfict Ready To Lead 2011 Sun Devils

William BoorCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2011

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Kicker Thomas Weber #26 of the Arizona State Sun Devils is congratulated by teammates after kicking a 36 yard field goal against the Arizona Wildcats during the second quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Vontaze Burfict is arguably the best defensive player in the country.

Despite the tremendous amount of success the Arizona State linebacker experienced during the first two years, he was held back and hampered by his immaturity and inability to control his emotions.

Now, entering his junior year, the 6'3", 252-pound linebacker will be asked to lead the Sun Devils defense.

With Omar Bolden out due to injury, the Sun Devils will look to Burfict for guidance. Burfict will not be looked at by his teammates alone, as the eyes of the nation will be on him as well.

There is a tremendous amount of hype, as Burfict’s name is popping up on watch lists across the country.

Burfict was the Blue Ribbon Magazine Preseason National Defensive Player of the Year, a Playboy Magazine first-team All-American, a Phil Steele first-team All-American and has been named a member of the Bednarik Award Watch List (best defensive player) and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List (top defensive player),

The Southern California product led the Sun Devils with 90 tackles (54 solo) in 2010. He forced two fumbles, broke up three passes and accounted for 8.5 sacks.

Stats may not lie, but they often do not tell the entire story.

Burfict’s numbers are eye-popping; however, some of his decisions are head-scratching.

As good as Burfict’s numbers may have been a year ago, they could have been better.

Held back by personal fouls and outbursts of anger, Burfict looks to be more mature coming into 2011, meaning his junior season could be his best yet.

Burfict has already embraced his new role as a leader. He has told The Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller that he is willing to step up.

He has shown an increased work ethic this season and knows all eyes are upon him.

Burfict has been good in the past, but this season, with his leadership abilities, he may be even better and take his game to a whole new level.