Last year about this time, the big question surrounding ASU football was which signal caller would be running the offense. Now, 5 days into fall camp Brock Osweiler can feel the difference and confidence that comes with being secure in the top spot.
"Its different but at the same time you almost have to prepare even harder," Osweiler admitted. "You know there isn't a guy that's next to you playing at the same level. Its my offense now, I need to be the leader of it and I need to perform on a daily basis, I can't take any days off and I need to be consistent out there with my play. You prepare a little bit different but at the same time, you almost kind of take it to an even further level because you need to be the guy leading the offense."
Osweiler has had a few glimpses of what it takes to lead the maroon and gold offense including the start last season against the University of Arizona where he lead the team to victory. Throughout the off-season he has continued to build as a quarterback to prepare him to take the reins this season.
"I hope so," Osweiler admitted. "I feel more confident than I've ever been since I've been here but you build confidence with the work that you do in the offseason. You build it in the film room; you build it in the weight room, throwing routes on the practice field. I'm ready to go, I've got a lot of talent around me with our running backs, wide receivers and offensive line. I'm looking forward to that first game, I'm ready."
Along with more responsibilities, Osweiler has also acquired a greater amount of pressure to perform as the expectation high for the 2011 maroon and gold.
"I love it," Osweiler commented. "When I was young and I started playing quarterback, that's why I started to play. I wanted the ball in my hands. When the game is on the line I want to be the one out there making the decision, maybe we win or we loose but at least I have enough confidence in myself.
"I trust myself but more importantly it's my teammates around me. I'll take that pressure any day, I'll take these guys into battle, any team in this country and it's just because of the hard work we've put in this offseason."
Since Osweiler's arrival in 2008, the Sun Devils have not qualified for a bowl game, but this year all signs point to a different fate, including the work the squad has done during this year's offseason. The entire unit is aware of the expectations that have been placed on this year's team, but in reality, those expectations are nothing compared to the ones they have for themselves.
"If you guys had been in this building since we started our winter workouts from day one to the end of the summer, you guys would all understand why we're saying what we are. This team has worked harder than any team that I've been a part of in my life. The mindset of this team is unbelievable right now, the confidence we have, the energy, the family atmosphere we've created around the building, and there are a lot of really special things going on around here.
"We're not destined for a 6-6 bowl game, we're not destined for a 7-5 bowl game. We know that this team can do bigger things but in saying that, we have a long month ahead of us and a lot of work ahead of us so we can accomplish those goals. We have one goal and one thing that we're working towards, a championship."
One advantage the Sun Devil offense has is going up against a powerful maroon and gold defense day after day. The defensive end unit, although not as deep as years past, has some talented athletes that continuality put pressure on Osweiler and the rest of his quarterback group.
"Junior (Onyeali) comes off that edge pretty hard and fast," Osweiler said. "He has a lot of power, a lot of speed. But that's just one guy. We've got Jamaar (Jarrett) on the edge, we've Davon (Coleman), and he's a beast out there too. We've got a lot of guys, that's just three to name but our defensive ends and defensive tackles put a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks."
Wide receivers took a great deal of criticism last year, with many dropped passes throughout the season across the board but one person in particular, George Bell. With 9 receptions for 84 yards, for many Bell fell short of their expectations but since fall camp began ha showed signs of a complete turn around.
"We threw two extra days this summer, so 4 days a week and George was a guy that never missed a single day," Osweiler said. "I think a lot of chemistry was built over the summer with George and myself. He has really come into camp with a chip on his shoulder I think.
"A lot of people have been on him for some drops last season, some people said he underachieved and what not so we came into camp with the right mindset. He's been working his butt of everyday, making big plays. He's in a position right now where he's got a lot of confidence which at any position, you really need to have and George is making plays because of it."
"I hope he has a great season," Osweiler stated. "Kickers come in clutch as we all know. I don't think we would have won that game in Tucson without Thomas Weber having the night that he did. A kicker is very clutch to a football team and a football team's season but in saying that, Alex worked very hard this summer. When we were out there throwing, he was out there kicking. He has a lot of talent and a great work ethic and I hope the best for him."