Osweiler asserts himself in ASU QB competition

Brock Osweiler is too polite to say "duh" to a reporter when he is told Arizona State fans are frustrated with consecutive losing seasons.

Yes, the sophomore quarterback also has noticed that nearly all the fan ire is pointed at what has been a mostly inept offense the past two seasons.

He has eyes. He has ears. His senses have communicated to his brain that those in maroon and gold seem a bit perturbed with football's fortunes of late.

"Yeah, it's pretty obvious when you're standing in a stadium with 60,000 people and you hear boos," he said. "It's not hard to have that roll by you."

There were moments when more than a few frustrated Sun Devils wanted to boo themselves.

"It's understandable," Osweiler said. "I would want to watch a team move the ball and score points, too. I understand where they are coming from."

Arizona State's offense ranked eighth in the Pac-10 in scoring (22.3 ppg), ninth in total offense and ninth in passing efficiency in 2009. The defense, meanwhile, ranked among the nation's best. If the offense had merely been mediocre, it's likely the Sun Devils, losers of four games by five or fewer points, would have earned a bowl berth.

And then fans would be a heck of a lot less grumpy.

But this is old news. The new news is Osweiler.

At the beginning of spring practice, the general feeling was Michigan transfer Steven Threet would shortly be anointed the savior of the offense. When Dennis Erickson talked about a quarterback competition, reporters nodded their heads and asked more questions about Threet.

At least this reporter acted that way.

Osweiler's spring blossoming is a bit of a surprise. While the winner won't be announced until fall practices, it's not a stretch to say that, barring a poor performance in Saturday's spring game, Osweiler will head into the summer with a slight lead.

There's a reason Osweiler was marginalized. Threet started eight games for the Wolverines in 2008 and played fairly well. Word was he'd asserted himself during the offseason. Osweiler made one start last year and looked mostly awful at Oregon. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 14 yards with an interception. He got knocked out of the game on a hard hit, but remained on the bench mostly because Samson Szakacsy replaced him and played much better.

“Brock could have come back,” coach Dennis Erickson said after the game. “It was a coach’s decision to keep him out, partially because of how Samson was playing.”

Yet the experience that caused many to count Osweiler out may be the reason the 6-foot-8, 237-pound true sophomore found a comfort-level this spring.

"The playing experience I got last year really put me in a good position to be a leader for this team," he said. "I understand what it's like to prepare for a Saturday."

He also has taken time to focus on learning the nuances of the game and his position. Recall that Osweiler was headed to Gonzaga on a basketball scholarship (no, his previously listed height isn't a typo) before deciding to play football in college. Football was not his first love. Also recall that he looked overwhelmed at times last year because that's how true freshmen often look when they get playing time, particularly at quarterback.

Osweiler also has taken to the Sun Devils' new spread scheme under new coordinator Noel Mazzone.

"This offense is great," he said. "I think it's going to put us at a level offensively where we haven't been for the past couple of years."

If that happens, then the Sun Devils figure to go bowling again and the heat will be off Erickson.

And those frowns in the stands will turn upside down.