INSIDE ASU with Devils Digest

THE PUBLISHER OF, Hod Rabino, delves deep into Arizona State for readers. ASU is on a roll but is there a win total Dennis Erickson still needs to meet this year? ASU's strengths and weaknesses? The Sun Devils injury report? Recruiting this year down in the desert? The ASU offensive and defensive lines? Rabino covers those topics and more, right after the jump….

Most every Beaver fan knows ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler but many might be hard pressed to name a single ASU running back in the Sun Devils stable. Who in that group should OSU fans watch out for on Saturday?

Well, to be honest I would be surprised if the name Cameron Marshall doesn't ring a bell to the average Pac-12 fan. The junior running back had 141 yards and three touchdowns in ASU's win over USC last week and is by far the best running back on this Sun Devil squad. Marshall is the perfect combination of power and speed and is a big factor in balancing the ASU offense. So he is certainly the running back the OSU fans should look out for on Saturday night.

The win over USC was huge and ASU fans are no doubt dreaming of a Pac-12 title game entry, but is there still a set number of wins most fans feel Dennis Erickson has to attain this season or risk losing his job?

It seems that the consensus is that 9 wins, which could result in a Pac-12 South championship and is definitely reason enough to extend Erickson's contract. Seven wins, which would mark just a one additional win improvement over the 2010 record, is more than likely to spell trouble for Erickson. So what does an 8-win season mean for Erickson's future? That is an interesting question which I don't know if any of the decision makers in Tempe can answer one way or another right now. That would be almost a "no man's land" record where you showed improvement and made it to a bowl game after three futile years, but at the same time fell short of your expectations of winning the Pac-12 South.

The strength of the ASU offense and defense? The biggest weaknesses?

The Sun Devil pass offense is in the upper echelon of the conference and save the loss to Illinois has truly been able to carry the team. The rushing game, even with a running back as talented as Marshall and a veteran offensive line has been inconsistent. However, I feel that this facet of the offense at times this year was abandoned far too quickly and the coaches intend to halt that trend.

Coming into the season the prevalent thought was that ASU's rush defense would be Top 3 in the league and their pass defense would be one of the worst in the Pac-12. Sure enough, after four games the Sun Devil rush defense is ranked just seventh but the pass defense is ranked third. Having said all that, it's fair to say that the ASU front seven is the stronger suit of this defense and the secondary is generally lacking quality depth -- especially at corner.

How is MLB Vontaze Burfict playing this season? There have been times that he has been seen limping late in games both last year and this year – is he dealing with cramps? Something else?

Burfict plays at 100 mph on every snap, so bumps, bruises and even limping are just byproducts of his style of play. So far this week he has practiced with no limitations. In a recent interview with Devils Digest, Burfict admitted that he has been somewhat less aggressive with his play so he could avoid the penalties and mental mistakes that have plagued him his first two years in Tempe. His overall number of tackles, 22, is lower than expected but he still leads the league with four sacks and had a red zone interception in the USC game. So he's still effective even though he has administered less bone-jarring hits this season.

ASU was dealing with a lot of injuries headed into USC. What's the full ASU injury report look like for Oregon State?

USC was the first game this year that ASU came out with no serious injuries. While they are not expected to get anyone back from injury, all the players who participated in the USC game are expected to see the field against Oregon State as well.

Who are some of those MVP guys who do the dirty work for ASU but don't get as much of the credit or limelight as the others oft-mentioned in the media?

On offense you would probably have to say center Garth Gerhart. The senior is a leader on an experienced offensive line, and is very assignment sound with great technique. Several ASU players are expected to get drafted by the NFL in 2012, but very few will get selected higher than Gerhart.

On defense my vote would go to Bo Moos and Colin Parker. Moos, a senior defensive tackle, probably doesn't pass the eye test compared to others who play his position, but this typical blue collar player is an important cog upfront especially in the run defense department. Parker, a senior linebacker was just this week called by Erickson as the best defensive player on the team so far. His team-best 31 tackles are good for No. 7 in the Pac-12 but playing alongside Vontaze Burfict he probably doesn't get as much publicity as he should.

How is recruiting going for ASU, what's left for the Sun Devils to do over the next few months?

Recruiting is actually going extremely well, if not borderline surprising, for Arizona State. The Sun Devils' 2012 class is currently ranked 20th by and you can't ask for much more from a team that hasn't been to the post-season the last three years. An aggressive approach by the ASU coaches and the recruiting staff at the school have paid very nice dividends so far and a Pac-12 South championship season could easily land ASU with a handful of four-stars to its class.

In terms of positions of need in the class, I would say that running back, offensive line, defensive end and safety probably rank as the highest priorities but ASU is still on several prospects in other positions and those are the type of recruits you take with no hesitation and regardless of position.

Does the 2011 ASU team generally do a lot of talking and try to get into the opponent's head?

Extremely ironic that you mention that. USC was surprisingly over the top with their trash talking last week leading up to the game and judging by the game's events and final score these actions backfired in a major way. ASU did a great job ignoring the verbal jabs lobbed at them and I expect them to continue and do so again if a similar situation presented itself in the future. This Sun Devil team is very respectful of every opponent and leaves the talking off the field.

Dennis Erickson's teams throughout his college career, including while he was at Oregon State, have been known to commit an above average amount of penalties. Is that something that has upset fans in past years, or was it something they looked at as just part of the deal and what you have to accept in building/fielding an aggressive defense and team?

There is no doubt that discipline issues have plagued Erickson's Sun Devils in the last couple of years and this year continues to be one of the biggest blemishes on the team. Yes, you will find a minority that doesn't care about the number of infractions every week as long as the team wins. Yet, the majority of the Sun Devil nation undoubtedly doesn't share that opinion and often brings that up as a point of criticism against Erickson. Winning will obviously quiet everyone up so with a 3-1 record thus far the cries over excessive number of penalties have been relatively down compared to the lean seasons under Erickson.

Talk a little about the ASU offensive and defensive lines – who are the guys that OSU fans should keep their eyes on Saturday.

On the offensive line we mentioned Gerhart at center and I would also keep an eye on right tackle Dan Knapp who is one of the better linemen on the team.

On the defensive line I would keep an eye on defensive Will Sutton who despite being the best on the team at this role, is having a relatively quiet season. At defensive end, JC transfer Davon Coleman arrived in Tempe with high accolades so far as been of the better front four contributors for ASU.

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