Q & A with Hod Rabino

DevilsDigest.com's Hod Rabino answers questions about the 2010 Sun Devils as the Oregon Ducks prepare for a Saturday show down in Tempe.

Q. After three games in the 2010 what is your assessment of the ASU Sun Devils?

Rabino: ASU played two FCS opponents out of the gates and there wasn't much that could be learned from those contests, because the Sun Devils were dominating, vastly inferior opponents, albeit not for all 60 minutes of each game.

Therefore, the game at Wisconsin was the team's first true test and by and large ASU impressed in all three team phases. The offense was able to engineer a few 60 yards plus drives, the running game (surprisingly) proved very efficient and quarterback Steven Threet did well distributing the ball. The offense had issues scoring once they got to the red zone and that aspect naturally has to improve.

You can make an argument that the defense thus far has not been the dominant force it was suppose to be and against NAU it was unexpectedly less than stellar giving up 20 points. Yet, the 20 points it surrendered in Madison last weekend were obviously more impressive. It did give up 440 yards and allowed 43 percent of 3rd downs to be converted. Nonetheless, it allowed just seven points in the second half and has still yet to surrender a point in the 4th quarter this year.

Special teams have improved leaps and bounds from 2009. ASU a stable of dangerous returners and has Trevor Hankins the punter with the highest average per punt. Kicker Thomas Weber has been just OK so far and will need to shake off a rough outing against the Badgers.

Q. Which player has surprised you the most and which player has been the biggest disappointment?

Rabino: Ironically I'm going to pick two wide receivers that fit this description. Biggest surprise is Kerry Taylor. The senior is coming off a horrible year despite starting eight games. In 2009 he generally looked extremely unhappy and to be honest wasn't listed as on the standouts is off-season drills. With a very deep stable of wide receivers this year I'm shocked in a very good way to see Taylor lead the team in receiving yards (180) and have the highest average yards per catch (13.8) among the receivers with the most significant playing time.

Gerell Robinson by all accounts was having a great off-season but a hamstring injury effectively took him out of all of fall camp and he was able to play only in the last two games. He is still looking for his first reception of the year. It was obvious that he was going to be behind the learning curve with all the time that he had missed, but it is disappointing not to see him bounce back quicker and start realizing his potential.

Q: What game is the easier/more important to get the team up for, a big OOC game at Wisconsin or the PAC10 opener at home against the Ducks?

Rabino: I think the team is as much up for the Oregon game as they were for the Wisconsin one. They naturally know that they missed a great opportunity to make a statement against Wisconsin but as weird as it sounds that loss did give them a lot of confidence which is key playing such a talented team like Oregon. ASU knows that a win this weekend would go a long way in helping them get over the hump this season and avoid a third consecutive losing season. So the motivation level that the team had last week is the same, maybe a little higher, for this week. After all, it is the Pac-10 opener.

Q. The Quack Attack seemly has scored 50 points easily against ASU for the past few years. How does ASU plan to stop them this year?

Rabino: Overall, ASU believes that it has a faster and more athletic defense than last year which is probably the biggest requirement in contending with the Oregon offense. Discipline in your assignments is a another huge factor in defending the Ducks and I think ASU has enough experience to adhere to that.

The fact that this year's ASU offense is also a spread and shares many similarities with Oregon should go a long way in helping the ASU defense prepare for this contest.

Q. How much does ASU think this Oregon team is different than last year?

Rabino: I'm sure they view Oregon as dangerous as they were last year. The Ducks obviously don't miss Masoli, James is still the best RB in the league and their defense is already posting ridiculous numbers. Last year this game was a huge challenge and this year it will be more of the same.

Q. How much different is Steven Threet than Danny Sullivan in his skills and has he surprised you with his play?

Rabino: As expected, Threet has been a major upgrade at quarterback. There is no substitute for experience and the fact that he started eight games at Michigan two years ago shows in his poise, toughness and decision making. Even after just three games he certainly has the chance to go down as one of the best signal callers to ever play in Tempe.

Q. Who are some of the standouts ASU has at each offensive position?

Rabino: At running back Cameron Marshall and Deantre Lewis have played well this year. Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks are the jacks of all trades on offense and have probably done better as returners than playing a running back or wide receiver. Taylor, Mike Willie and Aaron Pflugrad have done well at wide receiver. Garth Gerhart and Dan Knapp have a had a solid year so far on the offensive line.

Q. What are this year's expectations in Tempe?

Rabino: It goes without saying that the team wants to avoid a third consecutive losing season and show itself and its followers that it is marching in the right direction. Because it played two FCS schools, a 6-6 record won't translate to a bowl appearance so ASU will have to try its hardest to achieve seven victories.

Anything beyond that is gravy.

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