Offense struggles in Saturday's scrimmage

In sharp contrast to the rainy weather outside, inside ASU's indoor practice facility it was a downright offensive drought on Saturday morning. In a scrimmage dominated by the defense, the offense didn't find much success in the air and especially on the ground and produced just one touchdown by an unlikely wide receiver.

Saturday's scrimmage was arguably the most complete effort submitted by the defense this spring, as they consistently harassed the quarterbacks, forced dropped balls and incompletions, and came away with a few turnovers, leaving very little about their potential despite losing senior play-maker Omar Bolden.

However, one wide receiver that generally had his way today with the ASU defensive backs was walk-on Kevin Ozier. The redshirt sophomore from San Diego Mira Mesa took advantage of the several key wide receivers missing (along with Gerell Robinson who suffered today a shoulder sprain) and posted five catches for 121 yards and a touchdown – a 56-yard strike from Michael Bercovici.

"I'm feeling good right now in the spring," Ozier said. "I'm working hard because walk-on players have to work harder than everyone else to get their opportunities. If I want to see the field I have to go over and beyond everyone else.

"When someone goes down, everyone else has to step up and pick up the slack for that person. This is a chance for me to step up and if I work hard enough I will get my opportunity."

Ozier admitted that converting from quarterback, the position he played in high school, to wide receiver was a rough transition when he first arrived in Tempe in 2009. Today, he looked every bit like a natural wideout and his performance obviously caught the eye of the Sun Devil skipper.

"I thought Kevin Ozier played extremely well," said head coach Dennis Erickson. "He caught the football and did some really good things out there. And Brandon Johnson at linebacker too. We've got a couple (walk-ons) who are really stepping up. And the great thing about that is if we have a couple scholarships available we'll take advantage of them."

Quarterback Brock Osweiler stated that the Ozier has been impressing him for a while with his work ethic and motivation.

"He's a kid that has been real hungry," said Osweiler of the walk-on. "I stayed over Christmas break and I was here in January throwing to guys and there were about four guys who were here every single day and Kevin was one of them. Kevin's hungry and he's out there to make plays and trying earn a scholarship and I thought today he did a great job of that."

Other players who stood out in the passing game were Cameron Marshall with four catches for 23 yards, Kyle Middlebrooks three catches for 17 yards, George Bell two catches for 31 yards and Gerell Robinson one catch for 34 yards ***

Osweiler completed 15 of 26 passes for 145 yards and an interception. His backup Taylor Kelly was 6 of 9 for 43 yards and an interception, while Michael Bercovici was 4 of 7 for 108 yards a touchdown and an interception.

"We dropped two or three touchdown passes," Erickson commented. "We dropped balls and threw interceptions; it wasn't a good day offensively. We've got to get better on offense if we're going to win a lot of football games. Today was unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. Then again, when you're going against each other, you're either good on offense or good on defense. It's never good on both sides."

When asked how he thought Osweiler performed today, coach Erickson was quick to point out that his quarterback's numbers were both a representation of not only his performance, but also the struggles of the entire offense.

"He had some balls that were dropped," noted Erickson. "He made a couple bad decisions, I thought. He threw a pick in the red zone and you can't do that. Those are things he'll learn as time goes on. You've got to throw that one out of bounds. But I thought technically, and some of the throws he made, were pretty good."

Osweiler agreed with his head coach about the ongoing offensive struggles, but also sees the potential and talent. With two more weeks remaining in the spring, the starting quarterback knows there's still an opportunity for the offense to find its stride and fight back.

"Offensively, we had too many drops," said the quarterback. "I made too many mistakes and the offensive line made mistakes. Today wasn't a good day for us."

"But that's okay. You need those every once in a while to kind of take a step back and really diagnose the film and see where you're making those errors and clean it up for the fall. But overall it was a great learning day for us. And I think we will get better from it."

***

Bad snaps and the inability of the offensive line to run block were other issues that plagued the offense throughout the scrimmage, culminating in very pedestrian numbers on the ground. Starting running back Cameron Marshall carried the ball six times for just three yards and his backups didn't fare much better. Osweiler was in fact the leading rusher with 14 yards on eight carries, much of those carries were as a result of stout coverage downfield.

"How we performed offensively today is not very good," said Erickson. "Is it a concern? Sure, it's a concern. Can we get it corrected? Of course. We're extremely good and have a lot of talent, but we've got to make plays, and today we didn't make many plays."

***

The main culprits in the run stop department were defensive tackles Bo Moos and Will Sutton. Derrall Anderson who was moved from linebacker to defensive end had probably his best spring session and recorded a sack, as did Moos and Vontaze Burfict. Nonetheless, the offensive line did pass protect quite well today. James Brooks had a strip/fumble recovery on Osweiler and added a tackle for loss on a run the next play.

Anthony Jones intercepted Taylor Kelly which would have been in game condition a pick-six. Osahon Irabor intercepted Osweiler and Harrison Evens added an interception off Bercovici.

"Defensively we played extremely well, just like we're very capable of playing," Erickson remarked. "This is as good of a spring as I've seen our defense play. We ran to the football, we tackled extremely well and we made plays. It was a great day, defensively, and that's what I expect this fall."

"I thought the secondary played really well," Osweiler said. "Early on in the spring they were making a few mental errors and we were kind of catching them on it. But today I thought they played very sound. Their technique was good. The safeties and corners were exactly where they needed to be to make plays and I thought they did a great job."

The challenge for the Sun Devil coaching staff this spring has been trying to establish depth to a secondary that had been without Deveron Carr and now must find a replacement for all-conference performer, Omar Bolden. Aside from Irabor continuing his strong spring performance, Saturday marked another chance for Devan Spann earn more playing time in the backfield.

"From what I could see, and without having yet watched it on tape, they (the quarterbacks) completed a couple," observed Erickson. "But we tackled really well and covered pretty darn well too. Again, when you lose a guy like Omar, now somebody has got to step up. And they're starting to step up, which is good to see."

Byron Kline and Joe Healey contributed to this article.


Sun Devil Source Top Stories