Q&A: ASU Style

Your ASU questions are answered here! Dawgman.com invited Hod Rabino, Publisher of DevilsDigest.com, to answer questions posed by our subscribers. How is former UW assistant Eric Yarber doing? How do ASU fans see Dennis Erickson right now? How strong is ASU's offensive line? Defense? Hod answers those questions, and many, many more.

What effect has Eric Yarber (Former UW Assistant) on ASU recruiting?

When you talk about the ASU coaches and their effect on recruiting, everyone on the staff pales in comparison to recruiting coordinator and safeties coach Matt Lubick both in terms of quality and quantity. The most notable recruit Eric Yarber has brought in is Clint Floyd who has been a fairly solid contributor thus far as a safety and special teams player. Defensive tackle Otis Jones would be in the rotation this year if it wasn't for a torn ACL in the spring, and WR Kemonte Bateman has struggled to qualify and is currently enrolled in a JC. Nonetheless, Yarber's pedigree has helped the Sun Devils land some quality WR's recruited by other coaches, as well as a secure a commitment from 2010 WR prospect Kevin Anderson.

A lot of the Seattle media viewed the Arizona game as a make or break game for UW, does the ASU media view this as a make or break game for the Devils?

I don't know if I call it make or break, but suffice to say that it would be hard to see ASU finish 2009 with a 6-6 or better record without beating the Huskies this week. The ASU schedule becomes quite brutal after in teh upcoming weeks with games at Stanford, back to back home games with Cal and USC, and a road game in Oregon. It will be quite some time until ASU is favored again in a game, so they know they have to take care of business this week if they want to be bowl eligible.

When DE took over as the head man there we all feared within two years they'd be a well oiled machine like OSU was when he took over. What has kept them from getting over the hump?

2007 was a rousing success with a 10-3 record and notching a share of the Pac-10 championship. In 2008 ASU never recovered from their upset loss at home against UNLV, which occured right before their toughest stretch of the season with games against Georgia, Cal, USC and both Oregon schools. I guess you can make the argument that the team came into last season overconfident and didn't have any resiliency, a trait that they had in spades the year before.

This year the change at QB, bringing in an inexperienced Danny Sullivan, has taken a major toll on the passing game. The defense however, has improved every year, and as expected is playing at a very high level this season. 2010 is potentially the year where it should all come together for the Sun Devils on both sides of the ball.

Other than Kyle Williams who are the offensive weapons we should watch for? How strong is their Oline?

At RB Dimitri Nance is playing at the level that everyone has expected him to play at. While not flashy, he's a very effective north-south runner and a very well rounded tailback. His backup, Ryan Bass, is a potential home run hitter who has exceptional quickness and good open filed moves. At WR, aside from Williams, you would have to account for Chris McGaha who is one of the best WR's in the conference, as well as Gerell Robinson a very physical WR that is really coming into his own this year.

The O-Line has been much improved since the last two seasons., despite a rash of injuries to key players at this position. The shot gun formation has helped cut down on the sacks and the front five has blocked very well in the ground game. This is a unit that is still fairly inexperienced, yet with a bright future ahead.

How has their offensive line been in pass protection this year? Against BCS teams?

It had a bad outing against Louisiana-Monroe, giving up four sacks that night, but otherwise has played solid and given up just one sack in each game versus BCS opponents. Left tackle Shawn Lauvao has been doing a great job protecting Sullivan's blind side.

How has their defensive line been in getting pressure on opposing QB's? Against BCS teams?

This is one aspect that has been extremely disappointing so far on what has been a very impressive defense overall. Up until the Washington State game, ASU had only one sack against a BCS team. The floodgates opened last weekend in Pullman, where the Devils recorded a school single-game record 12 sacks. Now the question is do Husky fans consider the Cougars a BCS team...? All jokes aside, it will be very interesting to see if ASU will continue to pressure the QB as well as they did in their last game.

How often do they send extra guys after the QB (other than the 4 DLs) on passing downs? What guys have been successful getting QB pressure? Against BCS teams?

With very talented and fast linebackers and safeties, ASU isn't shy of blitzing and do so more often than last season. Again, overall sacks hasn't been the forte of this otherwise dominating defense. I would look out for linebackers Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Magee and Mike Nixon to be active participants when ASU does blitz.

What is the strongest part of ASU's defense?

By far their front seven. Even though it's a down year for defensive end Dexter Davis he still occupies two blocking offensive linemen on nearly very down. Fellow end James Brooks, who was suspended for the first three games, has hit the ground running and had a great outing in Pullman last week. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is another player that really shined against WSU, after a fairly quiet start to the season. The three linebackers previously mentioned, along with Travis Goethel and Gerald Munns have been having great seasons thus far.

This defense is exceptional against the run, and does quite well against the pass. It will give up some big plays, and tend to start a bit slow, but will usually clamp down in crucial game moments.

What is the general fan sentiment on Erickson at this point in his tenure at ASU?

Overall kind of on the fence. Obviously they were very pleased in 2007, and very disgruntle after a 5-7 record last year. So far, ASU's wins haven't been all that impressive and their losses have been frustrating since they came in a very winnable games. Obviously the criticism comes at the offensive side of the ball, particularly in the passing game. The general hope is for this team to make any bowl game they can this year, and have the core of young players gain valuable experience for what should be a promising 2010 campaign.

I read somewhere that the fans are not sold on their starting quarterback, yet Erickson has chosen to stick with him. What's the story on that and is it simply a case that they have nobody else ready to step up and take the job away?

Fans have been singing the praises of backup QB Brock Osweiler, wanting him to supplant Danny Sullivan. Truth of the mater is that while the true freshman has a bigger upside and better skills, he hasn't come close to outplaying Sullivan in practice, let alone a game. Could that happen later this year? Hard to say. For now, the coaches intend to stick with Sullivan as a starter but you can expect to see Osweiler early in the game against Washington.

Their running game is not good - how well is Sullivan distributing the ball?

With over 136 yards/game, the running game has been doing quite well overall. The passing game is largely what has prevented ASU from being undefeated this year. Sullivan tends to lock onto WR's and has problems with intermediate routes and communication with his targets. He has 53.4 completion percentage and a QB rating of just 103.95 He's a player that normally looks solid in practice, but cannot transform that performance to Saturday. It will be interesting to see how he does after a bad outing in Pullman where he threw three interceptions, against a Washington defense that hasn't been playing all that well against the pass.
Know your foe - Washington Huskies


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