Know your foe: Arizona State

Devils Digest Publisher Hod Rabino answers your questions about USC's upcoming matchup with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Look inside to learn about USC's next opponent, the keys to the game and much more.

Question: What is ASU's injury situation? Sounds like Bolden may be out.

Answer: Cornerback Omar Bolden and wide receiver Gerell Robinson are questionable for Saturday. Center Thomas Altieri and cornerback LeQuan Lewis are doubtful. Tailback Dimitri Nance is probable. Defensive tackle Corey Adams and wide receiver T.J. Simpson suffered season ending injuries last week against Cal.

Q: Would you attribute ASU's rank as the Pac-10's best defense to the quality of opposition played, with Oregon, USC and Arizona still left on the schedule?

A: I guess you can make the argument that the overall quality of opponents so far for ASU hasn't been all that great. Even its biggest out of conference opponent, Georgia, didn't play that well against the Sun Devils. The ASU defense did struggle, especially in the passing game, against the better teams in the conference such as Oregon State and Cal, and against Stanford it seemed that for most of the game they weren't able to stop anyone in the air or on the ground.

But to be fair, ASU has overall done a very good job against the run and is still one of the better units in the league capitalizing on turnovers. Getting pressure on the QB and stopping the pass has been hit and miss so far, and when they can shore up those two aspects this will turn a good defensive unit into a great one. The bottom line is that with ASU's struggling offense, the defense certainly stepped in, like everybody expected they would, and has kept the team in a lot of games, and had a big part in all of its victories.

Q: What type of offense does ASU run, and what is the one weapon you would take away if you were USC's defensive coordinator?

A: It's mainly a three-wide, one back set in shotgun formation. Although, injuries to some WR's last week saw the QB under center and in two-tight end sets quite a bit against Cal and we could see more of that this week. With QB Danny Sullivan struggling in the last couple of weeks, I would expect the Trojans to load up the line of scrimmage and rattle him as much as they can. He hasn't proved, at least not on a consistent basis, that he can punish defenses for blitzing so I do expect USC to bring the heat early and often. If USC doesn't bring pressure, I would expect them to drop into a cover-two or a similar alignment and force Sullivan to make plays.

Q: How has Vontaze Burfict progressed as the year has gone on? Is he comfortable with calling the plays or is he just a read-react type of level now?

A: Burfict has come as advertised. His combination of speed and strength has been jaw dropping at times. His non-stop motor attitude has been infectious among his teammates and he has quickly become a crowd favorite to say the least. He's second in tackles on the team and has overall filled up the stat sheet quite nicely. His knowledge of the defense is what you'd probably expect a true freshman to be at at this point of the season, but his football instincts more than compensate for any lack of knowledge/experience he may have. One thing Burfict has to clean up is his penalties. He had five in the last three games, but none last week which is hopefully a good sign.

Q: How do ASU fans feel about the job that Dennis Erickson has done so far at ASU?

A: Fans are generally on the fence. Going 10-3 in Erickson's first year naturally created high expectations for 2008 which ended up being colossal disappointment. The Sun devil faithful were expecting to see a turnaround this season, especially with a schedule that was front loaded with many winnable games, and so far that hasn't happened. As mentioned, the defense really played well so far but the offense, especially in the passing game, has been below average. There's a good change that ASU won't finish with a winning record in 2009 which can obviously cause some fans to question the direction of the program. Nonetheless, ASU is still a fairly young team, especially on offense, and some realize that the growing pains its going through now should pay dividends in 2010.

Q: What recruits while ASU have visiting for the game this Saturday?

A: Jackson Jeffcoat heads the list of visitors that can be found here:

Recruits visiting ASU for USC game

Q: Corey Adams is a kid that USC recruited last season. How has he looked in his freshman season?

A: As mentioned, he's out for the year as he will go undergo surgery to remove a disk in his back. He struggled for most of fall camp and was overshadowed by fellow freshman defensive tackle, Will Sutton from Corona Centennial. Consistency and playing hard on every snap were some of the issues plaguing him then. Yet, he has been improving every week during the season and was really coming on strong in recent weeks, which makes the timing of his injury that much more frustrating. This surgery may keep him out of spring practice, or at the very best he may be limited during that 15-practice session. Hopefully, this won't set him back too much for the 2010 season.

Q: What do you think are the keys to the game for ASU?

A: On offense they will really have to play the perfect game to have any chance to win. Not only can they not afford any turnovers, but they will have to keep the USC defense off balance.

On defense, if they can stop the run, like they have been doing for most of the year and force USC to rely more than it wants to on the passing game, that can go a long way towards an upset. Pressure on the QB has to be more effective than it has been recently.

Special teams is something to keep an eye on. With an offense that normally doesn't have long drives, this unit will have to help in field position, as well as not pin the ASU defense deep in red zone. The health of Thomas Weber could come into play if a crucial field goal kick has to be made. The junior has been recovering from a pulled groin and is close to full strength this week.


Taylor Mays and the USC defense will look to shut down ASU QB Danny Sullivan.


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