Turnaround evident in Threet, Offense

It has been well documented how anemic the 2009 ASU offense was, and on the same token how Steven Threet struggled for most of spring practice grabbing the starting quarterback job only halfway through fall camp. Following the Sun Devils, 54-9 win over Portland State these seem now like distant memories.

By no means are the Arizona State coaches, or junior quarterback Steven Threet for that matter, fully content with the offensive display Saturday night at Sun Devil stadium. Nonetheless, it was also pleasing to see the offensive progress the team has made in the off-season.

"We definitely saw some good things," Threet acknowledged, "but there is room for improvement. There were a couple of plays I could have got to certain guys, maybe get (the ball) outside of my hands a little quicker. They're always things you can improve on. But it was nice to see us executing pretty well in the first game.

"It was good to see some of the things on film and some of the mistakes we made – they are easily corrected. So I think it was good for us to be able to sit down as an offense and watch it together and see what everybody else saw on the field."

First-year offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone communicated to his players that he would like to keep the number of sacks, dropped balls, turnovers and penalties to less than 12 percent of the total plays. Threet said that after the first game of the 2010 campaign that the offense just missed out on achieving that goal.

"We were at 14 percent," Threet said, "a couple more plays than we would have liked. But for our first game we did all right. There's always room for improvement and that's what we have to focus on this week in getting ready for NAU."

While Threet and his teammates aren't fully content with the offensive performance, there is undoubtedly a sense of accomplishment that the hard work of fall camp at least in the first game of the year has paid off.

"We just ran our base offense but we executed it really well," Threet remarked, "and it's stuff that you will probably see from us all year. It is (plays) that we have to be good at and it's nice to run those in a game and see them against a different team."

Following one of the worst seasons offensively for the maroon and gold, saying that the team was clamoring for a competent signal caller and scheme that would keep defenses on their heels would be a gross understatement .

With Mazzone's arrival the ASU offense suddenly had more bounce in their step as they were eager to study and ultimately execute a high octane system full of innovation and deception.

Steven Threet seemed to be the perfect quarterback for the job. He played 11 games at Michigan in the 2008 season and ran a system that was very similar to Mazzone's scheme. It was all but a foregone conclusion in the winter that Threet would be the starting quarterback for the 2010.

Granted, that prediction was fulfilled but the path was hardly as smooth as some anticipated it to be. For more than half of spring practice, Threet was losing the starting job battle to sophomore Brock Osweiler, and Threet entered fall camp trailing, albeit not by much, in the race for the starting role.

What does Threet credit his perseverance to?

"Just staying with it and realizing that mistakes will be made," Threet replied. "There were some days in spring practice where the offense didn't look great, there were some days I didn't look great. But just keep working at it and realize there will be bumps in the road and it's just how you deal with them and learning from the mistakes and try to not making them again.

"That's what I focused on personally and I think that led to a lot of improvement."

Naturally the offense as a whole also didn't have an easy road en route to playing at their current level. Threet noted that good old fashion hard work and dedication helped this unit advance.

"That's just a testament to the coaching staff and the work ethic of the guys we have on the team here," Threet said. "We were really focused in summer workouts getting together on our own and getting the timing down on some routes. The offensive line was working on their protections. We were watching film, we were in the weight room…so the guys decided that it was up to us and what we wanted to do in the off-season and that would set the tone come fall."

Threet was impressive distributing the ball in the season opener, completing 14 of 21 passes for two touchdowns and 239 yards, and even with one interception his passing efficiency was still 184.17. The junior commended the offensive line in pass protecting him, and when he did have to make some plays on his own he did quite well scrambling for 24 yards on three carries.

Running the ball isn't foreign to Threet because that was a big staple of the Michigan offense. However, the Mazzone scheme won't call for many plays of that nature and Threet will only run those when the defense will force that decision.

"Me running the ball isn't our biggest threat offensively," Threet commented. "But it is something we can get positive plays out of. I'm glad that I can help the running backs out and keep the defense honest."

Out of the three ASU quarterbacks, Threet is perceived to be the least athletic but he did actually play basketball up until his sophomore year of high school and claimed he could even dunk as well.

"I might surprise some people athletically," Threet noted. "I've done it (running the ball) before and I won't be successful doing it every play. But I will use it to keep the defenses honest and when I use it ever so often it does a good job."

The true spread offense implemented at Michigan by then first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez was the catalyst for Threet's decision to transfer from his hometown school to ASU. He acknowledged that this resolution was rather difficult knowing that he would have to sit out the entire 2009 season.

Yet, it was a sacrifice he was ready to make because it was the best decision for him at that time to aid him in being the best player he could be. Being introduced to the Sun Devil program during his first ever Tempe trip naturally planted the seed.

"When I came down here for my visit," Threet recalled, "I knew this is something I wanted to be a part of and I'm glad I made that decision."

In that year of hiatus Threet was able to work on his mechanics and footwork and when Mazzone arrived last February there was naturally a lot of focus on learning the new offense and all of its nuances.

"I've had a bevy of offensive coordinators in college and a bunch of different offenses," Threet said. "So to be finally able to really sit down and learn one, try to get really good at this (scheme) has helped me a lot. I'm able to improve a lot more quickly practicing just this offense and that's all I'm worried about."

Some Michigan fans were vocal about not being too sorry seeing Threet leave the program, yet the ASU quarterback doesn't feel a sense of vindication after Saturday's performance nor does he feel that he has to continually prove himself this year to his critics.

"The team was young that year," Threet reflected on the 2008 Wolverines. "It was a tough year and we were only able to get three wins. Now I'm just focused on what I can do to help Arizona State win."

Following the Portland State win, ASU head coach Dennis Erickson stated that it was easy to tell by Threet's performance that he did have prior experience as a college football quarterback. Threet admitted that there is certainly a different energy on game day compared to practice and that his familiarity with that concept naturally helped him in his Sun Devil debut.

"Being there before and knowing what I have to do helped me execute on the field," he said.

Threet's swagger was a trait that became more and more noticeable as he was poised to capture the starting job. He's obviously aware that the quarterback has to exude confidence that will trickle down to the rest of the offense, but at the same time he feels that his teammates on this side of the ball had already a high level of poise because of their success in fall camp.

"As a quarterback you always try to be on a level field," Threet explained. "Not getting too high or too low. You can't let a three and out or a turnover really affect you.

"I always play the next play."

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