Know your foe: Arizona State

As we did last year, we submitted subscriber questions to Hod Rabino, Publisher of Devil's Digest, and he gave us his answers. What's the deal with Vontaze Burfict? Is Dennis Erickson on the hot seat? Why is Steven Threet throwing so many picks? What's the key for Arizona State as they look to beat Washington on the road? Check out Hod's answers to give you some insight into ASU football.

QUESTION: Ask Hod if the rumors are true about the conduct of the ASU players...Allegedly many of the players were taunting and harassing the OSU fans in Corvallis. Allegedly Vontaze Burfict head-butted their QB Katz in one of the scrum piles during the game.

HOD RABINO: "It is true that the ASU players were talking back to the OSU fans and I say talking back because those fans were reportedly yelling racial slurs to the ASU players and the extra Corvallis police officers that were brought in and posted near the ASU bench didn't do much to squelch the situation. I'm not condoning what the ASU players did and they probably should have ignored those taunts but I guess you file that under the easier said than done category.

"Burfict head-butting Katz was caught on TV, although it wasn't in a scrum pile. Dennis Erickson admitted that the linebacker is easy to bait and this unfortunately was one example."
QUESTION: What is the single most disappointing facet of the team thus far?

HOD ROBINO: "It would have to be the ASU defense as a whole. This unit was tops in the Pac-10 last year and it was widely believed that it could be even better in 2010. So far that hasn't been the case. To their credit they have played well in the second halves of games giving up just eight points on average during that period and last week in Corvallis marked the first time they surrendered any points in the fourth quarter. On the other hand their pass rush as been non-existent, gap assignments have been lacking, the group still racks up a good number of penalties (although they did show improvement against Oregon State in that department), and are caught often out of position both defending the run and the pass. All these factors dig ASU into a hole during the first half and the defense does just enough in the second half, again even though they barely surrender any points, to keep opponents' drives alive. All in all, coaches and fans alike expected this defense to be much dominant than it has been."
QUESTION: Is Erickson on the hot seat with the fanbase?

HOD RABINO: "Certainly there is a segment of fans that would view Erickson in that category but it won't happen for three reasons. First, financially ASU cannot buy him out and then bring a coach that would cost them even more. Second, this year Erickson brought in new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone who had successfully revamped this offense. You can't just blow it up after only one year and expect the offense to function at the level it is now. Third, to me 2011 is the season of no excuses that you can really judge the team by. The amount of returning talent next season is bordering the ridiculous (close to 20 starters) so a team that is fairly young now can be a seasoned squad that should be contending for a BCS bowl next year. Again, a coaching change this year just doesn't make sense."
QUESTION: Do they consider themselves a bowl quality team?

HOD RABINO: "Yes they do. Even the most pessimistic ASU fan while naturally disappointed with the three straight losses, knows that this team could easily have been 5-0 or 4-1 at this point. The offense, even though it has its shares of problems like turnovers and red zone efficiency, has been putting up big numbers and on one than more occasion have shown to be a dangerous group. As mentioned, the defense has been below par in some areas, but is still giving the team a chance to win games in the second half. A lot of mental mistakes, which can certainly be attributed to youth, are holding back this team right now from having a winning record. Needless to say that ASU will have to not only break this three-game losing streak right now, but also string some consecutive wins of their own if they want a shot at a bowl this year. Furthermore, because they played two FCS opponents they will need at least seven wins this year to be bowl eligible."
QUESTION: Do they have a definite preference in realignment options?

HOD RABINO: "Everyone in the league wants to remain with the southern California schools and ASU is no different. ASU has a strong fan base in Colorado and judging by the 10,000 plus fans that traveled to Bolder in 2006 it goes without saying that the Buffaloes are only behind USC and UCLA on the realignment wish list. I would think Utah because of its proximity and the fact that the state of Arizona has a large Mormon population would be desirable as well. So if the rumor of ASU being in one division with Arizona, USC. UCLA, Colorado and Utah came true I can't imagine many Sun Devil fans being upset with that realignment."
QUESTION: Are they losing ground to U of A in instate recruiting?

HOD RABINO: "I don't agree and the numbers don't support that assertion. Now if you ask me if ASU is losing in-state prospects to other Pac-10 teams in general I would concur with that. But when it's all said and done I expect ASU's 2011 class to have up to six in-state commits and since the class will be only around 15 total players that number would be comparable with other classes in terms of percentage of in-state prospects."
QUESTION: What is key to beating UW this weekend?

HOD RABINO: "We've been hearing the same key for three weeks now and that is minimizing mental mistakes on both ends of the ball and increasing red zone efficiency."
QUESTION: Why has ASU thrown so many interceptions recently?

HOD RABINO: "Steven Threet, like many quarterbacks out there tends to try too hard to make something out of nothing, and throw ill-advised passes. Erickson said that Threet hasn't done a good job with his progressions so that's another reason. I talked about the first half hole that ASU has been finding itself in the last two weeks and that can naturally put the team in interception prone situations as the game progresses."
QUESTION: In recent years the ASU Oline has struggled. How does it look thus far this year?

HOD RABINO: "A bag of mixed goods like the rest of the offense. ASU's running game has vastly improved from last year and the talented running backs are just part of the reason. The Sun Devils' front five has by and large done a good job of creating ample running lanes all season. Pass protection has been shaky the last two weeks. They are a lot of new faces on the line and running a spread offense without a tight end for most of the game certainly can make pass protection an issue. I don't know if I would call pass protection the biggest issue hindering the ASU offense these days and a factor responsible for the three-game losing streak but it's an area to keep your eye on as an area that needs improvement."
QUESTION: In the ASU - Oregon game, Would you describe the ASU OL vs. the pass rush? Was it the offensive scheme of ASU to utilize the quick passes to counter a strong Oregon pass rush?

HOD RABINO: "The quick pass is something that ASU has been and will utilize against any pass rush regardless of the team and their quality of pass rushing. It's simply part of the offense's DNA and again in a spread scheme that most of the time doesn't employ a tight end a quick release by the QB is vital for the passing game. ASU didn't particularly do well against Oregon since they gave up four sacks in that game and surrendered six more versus Oregon State the following week. Needless to say that it's an area that needs to shore up in a hurry for ASU."


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