"They're not the top team in the conference for no reason. They're a great team, really aggressive. They have the #4 defense in the nation and there's no hiding what they bring to the table. But every time I think about it, if I do get the start, I look back a year ago and someone else did it (beat USC) so I can do that too. I got to think with that mentality and confidence."
When quarterback Sam Keller left the Sun Devils during the 2006 fall camp, the Los Gatos (Calif.) product was forced to not redshirt and assume the backup quarterback role to Rudy Carpenter. It is a position that Sullivan has continued to carry out ever since. An ankle injury to Carpenter suffered last Saturday at the game at Cal, could thrust Sullivan into his first ever start in the maroon and gold, when ASU faces USC in Los Angeles this weekend.
Being in the program for nearly three full seasons, Sullivan is hardly wet behind the ears when it comes to his knowledge of the Devils' offense. Nonetheless, coming into 2008 the junior is only 25 of 44 passing and 258 yards, registering two TD's and one interception. Thus, limited playing experience is one obstacle that he will have to overcome in a hurry if he does get the nod this weekend.
"Trying to adjust to real game speed with starters will be the biggest challenge," noted Sullivan. "I'll take it one step at a time and if you do that things will become easier and easier. Hopefully it (the game) will start fast and we'll get a touchdown early and build some confidence."
Carpenter does have a chance to still start in L.A. on Saturday and Head Coach Dennis Erickson stated that the decision on a starting signal caller for the maroon and gold could come shortly before kickoff. Sullivan naturally knows that if his first career start were to take place against USC that it will be only because of Carpenter's injury.
"Rudy is a good guy, great player," stated Sullivan, "I don't want to have start because of injury. You don't want to (wish) injury on anyone. But when you're given the chance you have to step forward and take this team to the next level and try to beat USC. That what it is."
More than any time before, Sullivan has noticed the increased attention on him during practice from coaches and players and following the session from the media. On the other hand, he does realize that a change for the better with Carpenter's ankle could make this situation a temporary one.
"Yeah, it was pretty cool," acknowledged Sullivan. "Being in the spotlight is kind of cool. We'll see what happens the next couple of days. Nothing is set in stone yet."
The junior confessed that wanting to be in the spotlight is a quality that every starting signal caller should have. "If you don't want it, why are you here playing?" said Sullivan. "I know I feel confident. I waited my time…if I make a bad throw, I make a bad throw. Gotta pick myself up if I do and take one step at a time and things will be easier."
Starting your first collegiate game at USC certainly stands to be a task envied by few, if at all. However, Sullivan has a chosen a pragmatic point of view on this potential landmark game for him. "It's USC – there's no other way to look at it," stated Sullivan. "They're a great team. They've been touted at the top defense (in the country). They're not #4 for no reason. They're the best team in the Pac-10 and still could be the best team in the country."
Sullivan stated that the USC defense is loaded with playmakers, but that's not the only quality that has helped the Trojans become a national powerhouse. "They're very aggressive," said Sullivan."…hopefully we can exploit some of those things and try to get the ball to our playmakers."
The increased reps at practice have helped Sullivan develop a rhythm in practice and produced a performance which ultimately drew praise from Erickson. The junior admitted that it did take him a little bit at the beginning of practice to get used to the starting wide receivers on the team, but a connection was established in the later parts of Tuesday's night session. "Hopefully it doesn't take this long," he said of his connection to the wide receivers."Hopefully I can use this time to get the motivation and rhythm down."
Sullivan praised his various aerial targets and stated that the level of talent of these players can obviously help him out immensely. "Just trying to get the ball to them and let them do something," stated Sullivan, "is saying something about those guys. It takes a little pressure off of me."