A Devil of a decision at quarterback

Some thought it should have started in August; some thought it should have started virtually each week of the first eight games. Regardless the disposition, with three-quarters of the 2009 season in the books, Arizona State officially finds itself smack dab in the middle of a good-old quarterback controversy.

The moment that true freshman Brock Osweiler trotted onto Frank Kush Field – to the overwhelming approval of the Sun Devil Stadium crowd – to begin the second half against USC this past Saturday, all Sun Devil fans and critics' attention turned to whether the tide had solidly turned at quarterback for ASU.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Long overdue or well-timed?

Or, perhaps the staff with opt to remain with senior Danny Sullivan under center and in the shotgun for the Devils, as ASU embarks to Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., to face the Oregon Ducks, unquestionably the loudest and most unfriendly venue for Pac-10 opponents.

This great debate has unfortunately stolen headlines from ASU's stellar defensive showing against Pac-10 tyrant USC, but its impact has proven to overshadow the impact of the Sun Devil defense, as many question how ASU's win-loss column and overall team morale would stand with better quarterback play this season.

With hindsight taking a backseat, the primary focus is the final three games of the regular season slate, while a secondary emphasis continues to be the future of the quarterback position for the Sun Devils.

Readiness – not athleticism, leadership skills or moxie – has been the main drawback of allowing Osweiler to run free and guide the Sun Devil offense. The Sun Devil coaching staff has emphasized on several occasions that they will refuse to disrupt Osweiler's progress by throwing him into situations for which he is not prepared. The flipside of the equation is that Osweiler, standing 6-foot-7 with a tremendous athletic background, did not show many signs of immaturity against one of the nation's historically intimidating teams and undoubtedly possesses perhaps the most heralded yet least tangible quality an athlete can boast; ‘it.'

Hard to believe such an innocent pronoun can tantalize fans in such captivating fashion; two simple letters that have propelled a diplomatic freshman from Kalispell, Mont., into the topic of message board banter, student section chant and sign fodder and tailgate libation conversations.

At this point, it is much less about statistics as it is about emotions. Enthusiasm versus fear; the sentiments in the stands Saturday were refreshingly palpable. A sense of renewed faith surfaced among the tested Sun Devil faithful after a near two-year stretch that has greatly challenged the pride of Tempe.

As the old adage states, there's no player more popular than the backup quarterback; a statement true enough in this circumstance to surely secure Osweiler companionship to dinner and a movie and skyrocket his Facebook friend count even if he weren't a dead ringer for teen sensation Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame.

Sullivan, bless his heart, is everything a fan could ask for – off the field. Rarely during his collegiate career has he been in advantageous situations and in all likelihood, when his playing days are done he will be respected and remembered in maroon and gold lore simply for braving all circumstances even if lost in obscurity in terms of play on the field. ‘Sully' has held his own on the practice field and maintains a cerebral edge over his younger counterpart, but when the play shifts from Kajikawa Field to Frank Kush Field, Sullivan's skills often become lost in translation.

To have met Danny Sullivan makes one feel for him and the treatment that his play has prompted, however the opportunities for the Sun Devils to salvage this season are minimal and the quarterback position clearly has the greatest impact on whether a positive outcome is possible.

Again, at this point emotions dominate this dilemma.

Emotions drive Sun Devil fans to voice their disapproval for Sullivan and for Sullivan to jab back when he sees fit. Emotions spark a near uproar when No. 17 takes the field, and shortly thereafter scrambles for a key first down – including a stiff-arm to a USC defender that is none-too-popular in Tempe – and later lofts a lovely touchdown pass to Chris McGaha, sending Sun Devil Stadium into a frenzy, with Osweiler leading the celebration.

If Sullivan remains the starter, emotions may impede his approach now that Sully's slack is likely measured microscopically. By-and-large, fans and critics have called for Sullivan's proverbial, athletic ‘head' and hope that he spends this week being fitted for a headset and picking out his favorite color clipboard for use on the sideline, not leading the huddle on the field.

Most importantly, however, emotions will not prompt Erickson into a decisive depth chart adjustment – at least not yet, remaining true to his belief that Sullivan is the most prepared and capable of the two, especially in tumultuous territory such as Autzen Stadium. Whether Erickson knows and refuses to say, or if this week's practices will be the proving ground, no early indication has been given and fans can certainly drum up equal reasons to predict Erickson's selection of either player.

Neither quarterback is perfect, but many spectators voice their desire to see that which they do not know over what they have already learned; maintaining faith that despite his novice status that Osweiler's talent and infectious charisma can carry him to levels beyond the bar that Sullivan has set through nine starts this year.

Is the popular disposition a fair assessment or simply an impatient, intolerant fan base eager to find a scapegoat for what has recently slipped into a losing season?

With Osweiler being inserted into the lineup midway against USC, the Sun Devil world saw that Coach Erickson's patience with Sullivan has worn thin, and as the next few days transpire as ASU prepares to face the Ducks, all questions will be answered regarding whether Sully will be allowed at least one more chance or if it is officially time to ‘Brock-and-roll.'


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