Scrimmage will measure team's progress

Sun Devil stadium will host ASU's last pre-season scrimmage tomorrow morning. The Saturday early affair is intended to give Coach Dennis Erickson and his staff a better look at the improvement the team made throughout fall camp.

"I just want to see where we're at," Erickson said. "Like I just told them, it's an evaluation of players first of all. Who are the players, who are we going to put in the slots, so we'll have a pretty good evaluation at the end of Saturday because we're really not going to scrimmage much after that, we can't afford it injury wise. It's an evaluation of players and where are we defensively as far as the depth chart and what we want to do, strengths and weaknesses.

"Same thing offensively, where are we, what do we do good, what do we have to do to become a good offensive team early in the year, things like that and continue to quarterback competition. I evaluate those guys every day, it's my job, and I look at them when they warm up. It's a continuance of that and it's really just to see where we're at, offensively probably more than defensively because it's new."

In order to give each player ample opportunities on the field, Saturday's scrimmage will be formatted to do just that as well as adding the kicking element to the game. Injuries such as the ones to defensive tackles Toa Tuitea and Lee Adams (suffered this afternoon) will certainly dictate the number of snaps.

"We'll have much more involvement from the kicking game," Erickson commented. "We'll have live four times, and live return three times, a couple kick-off returns, and just one kick-off cover. The kicking game will be involved a little bit more.

"I'm going to try to split it up so the 1's get four turns so that I can give two to Steve (Threet) and two to Brock (Osweiler) and then Sam (Szakacsy) will have some and Taylor (Kelly) might have some. We'll probably have about 7, 12-play (series). It kind of depends because we're hurting a little bit at defensive tackle. We had eight and now we're down to about four so that will determine how that will go too."

The quarterback battle is still undecided, as Erickson continues to take every opportunity to evaluate the signal caller and that is naturally a process that will take place at Saturday's scrimmage as well. Although tomorrow's performance by Osweiler, Threet and Szakacsy will have some weight in the final decision, it will not be the defining factor.

"It's more about what happened the whole year," Erickson noted. "People are going to have bad scrimmages and good scrimmages, which we've had. It's kind of like taking 4 tests, if you get 4 A's you've probably got a pretty good chance. You get a B, C and a D, like I used to all the time, it becomes an issue. Its more of a gut feeling of Noel (Mazzone) and I sitting down and talking about what we've got to do."

The importance of a reliable quarterback is obviously indisputable. With a new offensive scheme in place, a leader on offense needs to emerge in order to successfully execute the new system. With the numerous factors that affect the final decision, Saturday's scrimmage will also be a valuable opportunity for the quarterbacks to showcase their leadership abilities, on and off the field.

"Leadership is obviously key," Erickson declared. "Accuracy in what we do and understanding what to do with the football, I mean there are a number of different things. The bottom line with the quarterbacks is who takes you to the end zone, who scores points.

"I don't care how they get there; I don't care if complete two passes. It's scoring and taking them into the end zone and productivity moving the football. Obviously a scrimmage isn't always taking it into the end zone because that's not how they're made out to be. But, who moves the team is I guess the best way to put it. Accuracy, and getting the ball out with what we do is a real important thing."

With three talented athletes in the running, it's anyone's guess when one will have a standout performance to secure the starting job. In the meantime, Erickson is prepared to take his time in making a decision.

"I think we're closer," Erickson said regarding naming a starting quarterback. "Noel and I talk about it every night so we'll see. It could happen after tomorrow's scrimmage, it could happen after we play Portland State. I wish I knew."


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