Pac-12: Jon Hargis

Pac-10 lunch links: Will Foles play at UCLA?

October, 29, 2010
Happy Friday.

Lunch links: No word on Barner's injury

October, 13, 2010
I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Two years ago, Adam Tello was a big reason to doubt Arizona State. When he briefly became the starting right offense tackle as redshirt freshman, his ascension revealed just how down the talent on the Sun Devils line was.

Tello didn't pass the sight test. Whatever he was listed at, he looked like he carried about 270 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. The sight test, of course, isn't always right, but it proved prescient in Tello's case as he struggled mightily in losses to UNLV and Georgia.

"I remember mentally just not being in the right spot," Tello said. "Mentally, I just fell apart. Everything I got thrown into and I just fell apart. It carried over to playing on the field."

[+] EnlargeArizona State offensive line
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireGarth Gerhart (snapping the ball) is Arizona State's most experienced offensive lineman with 10 starts.
His confidence evaporated in the desert heat. He was a non-factor in 2009 -- back problems didn't exactly help, either.

This preseason, however, Tello might be a reason for hope. While he's again ascended to the starting lineup because of roster attrition -- the retirement due to knee injuries of guards Zach Schlink and Matt Hustad and the absence of Jon Hargis due to another knee injury -- he no longer does badly with the site test.

He's a solid 290 pounds. He bench presses over 400 pounds. He looks like a Pac-10 offensive lineman.

"This year I'm ready," he said. "I'm healthy. I got stronger. I got bigger in the weight room."

It all comes down to the offensive line for the Sun Devils. Sure, the quarterback competition is grabbing the spotlight, but Brock Osweiler, Steven Threet and Samson Szakacsy each appear capable of giving the offense at least competent play at the position. Perhaps even more than that. But the line's competency will determine the ultimate trajectory of the season -- either a third-straight losing one or a run to a bowl game.

Make no mistake: There are legitimate reasons to question the line. With four career starts, Tello will be the Sun Devils second most experienced lineman behind center Garth Gerhart (10 starts). Left tackle Dan Knapp is a converted tight end. Right tackle Evan Finkenberg is a redshirt freshman. Right guard Brice Schwab is a JC transfer.

There isn't anyone on the team who hasn't heard the doubts about the line. While many players and coaches feign ignorance when asked about preseason rankings and skeptical media reports, Gerhart admits he reads just about everything. No, he doesn't like it or agree with it.

"It's real frustrating," he said. "You always see this stuff, 'Oh the offensive line is terrible! They're struggling!' It kills you because you know that you're that person they're talking about. But I think we might change people's minds about what they think of the offensive line at Arizona State."

Both Tello and Gerhart know there's an easy way to find out what their chances are this season: Block their own defense. The Sun Devils front seven should be one of the best in the Pac-10. That's been hit or miss thus far, but a new spread offense, which features a quick-hit passing attack, and better (read: faster) depth at the skill positions, should make life easier up front.

Gerhart also knows how fast teams can turn things around (in either direction). He and brother -- you may have heard of a former Stanford running back named Toby Gerhart -- used to talk on the phone in 2007. The Sun Devils were headed to a 10-win season. Stanford finished 4-8 after going 1-11 the year before.

"He used to tell me how it sucked, how he hated it and how happy he was that baseball season was coming around," the younger Gerhart recalled. "But [last year] he started telling me they were going to surprise people, and sure enough, they surprised everybody."

Will the Sun Devils surprise folks in 2010? Only if Tello, Gerhart and their linemates dramatically improve over the past two seasons.

The good news is they at least look like they could do it.

Pac-10 lunch links: Cal's Riley expects a big senior year

August, 16, 2010
First you traded the Cadillac in for a microphone. Then you lied to me about the band. And now you're gonna put me right back in the joint!

More injury issues at UCLA, Arizona State

August, 12, 2010
Projected starters at UCLA and Arizona State are done of the season.

Sun Devils junior offensive lineman Matt Hustad has opted to retire after he couldn't beat recurrent knee problems. That means the two guards listed No. 1 on the preseason depth chart have ended their careers in the early days of fall camp due to injury: Hustad and Zach Schlink. And that doesn't included returning starter Jon Hargis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the spring.

Meanwhile, at UCLA, the foot injury defensive end Datone Jones suffered Tuesday is worse than originally thought and could end his season.

The Sun Devils are reshuffling their line, according to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic:
With Hustad out, the Sun Devils changed their line Tuesday, moving 6-foot-7, 345-pound junior Brice Schwab to right guard. Junior Adam Tello was at left guard Wednesday, with junior Dan Knapp and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg at the tackles. If that line stays intact, ASU's front will open the season with just 14 career starts, 10 coming from center Garth Gerhart.

As for UCLA, Jones could still come back this season, though he has a redshirt year available. He will be replaced in the lineup by Nate Chandler, who played tight end last year and defensive tackle during spring practices.

Opening camp: Arizona State

August, 4, 2010
Arizona State opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Three starters on offense, four on defense and both specialists.

Big names: LB Vontaze Burfict, DT Lawrence Guy, K Thomas Weber, P Trevor Hankins

What's new: New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has been charged with fixing an offense that has struggled mightily for three consecutive seasons. Also new are linebackers coach Trent Bray and receivers coach Steve Broussard.

Key competition: Sophomore Brock Osweiler and junior Michigan transfer Steven Threet were in a dead-heat at the end of spring practices. Threet entered spring as a solid favorite, but Osweiler, who struggled in his one 2009 start, surged and made the competition wide-open. It wouldn't be surprising if both saw action in the Sun Devils first two games, which are both against FCS foes.

Breaking out: Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons will flank Burfict at linebacker and give the Sun Devils an athletic threesome. Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad should give the receiving corps a boost. CB Omar Bolden is back after missing most of 2009 and he looked good during spring drills.

Quote: Coach Dennis Erickson on the QB competition: “You’d like to name one before the first game, but you never know. The good thing is that we have two good quarterbacks and that will help us as the season goes on.”

Notes: The Sun Devils lost their top-two guards to knee injury: Jon Hargis and Zach Schlink... Bray is defensive coordinator Craig Bray's son as well as a former two-time All-Pac-10 linebacker for Oregon State... The Sun Devils have the fewest returning starters in the Pac-10... They are coming off their first consecutive losing seasons since 1946-47... Erickson hadn't posted consecutive losing seasons in 19 years as a head coach until last year... The Sun Devils lost four games by five or fewer points, including three on late field goals in 2009... ASU was tapped ninth in the preseason Pac-10 media poll.

Arizona State loses two to injury

August, 3, 2010
Arizona State issues on the offensive line just got a little worse.

Sophomore Zach Schlink, listed No. 1 at right guard on the preseason depth chart, has opted to "retire" due to longstanding knee problems.

The math up front for the Sun Devils isn't encouraging: When guard Jon Hargis went down with a knee injury during spring practices, that left only center/guard Garth Gerhart as a returning starter from a 2009 unit that struggled.

It's likely that sophomore Adam Tello will replace Schlink with the No. 1 offense. The other starting guard, junior Matt Hustad, also has battled knee injuries throughout his career. He started five games in 2009 before a knee injury ended his season. He also missed the 2008 season with a knee injury.

Schlink's promising career never really got started. The sophomore, who saw significant action as a true freshman, has required four knee operations and didn't play last season.

Also seeing his Sun Devils career end due to injuries is defensive tackle Otis Jones, but his loss is not as painful because ASU is deep at defensive tackle, where Jones was slated to be a reserve.

Don't be surprised if ... Arizona State

July, 23, 2010
Second in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles (you can see Arizona State's 2009 prediction here).

Don't be surprised if ... Arizona State's offensive numbers are significantly better in 2010

[+] EnlargeThomas Weber
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireHaving a healthy Thomas Weber all season could make a difference in the Sun Devils' record.
Let's just get this out of the way: Arizona State's offense was terrible last year. It averaged just 18.1 points per game against Pac-10 foes, which ranked ninth in the conference (another moment for a team to say, "Thank God for Washington State").

Oh, and heading into 2010, that unit must replace seven starters, including its quarterback, best lineman, leading rusher and two best receivers.

So how could anyone be optimistic about the Sun Devils' offense?

Start with this factoid: Arizona State scored 34 touchdowns last year. UCLA went to a bowl game despite scoring just 25 in the regular season.

What was the difference between the Bruins and Sun Devils? Field goals. UCLA connected on 28, Arizona State just 11.

The Bruins had All-American Kai Forbath. The Sun Devils had former Lou Groza Award winner Thomas Weber sitting on the bench hurt. Weber kicked five field goals in the opener but was healthy enough to only contribute three more the rest of the way.

The Sun Devils, who finished 4-8, lost four games by a combined 13 points. Think a few more field goals would have helped? How about 51 more points, which is the difference in that department between the Bruins and Sun Devils?

But it's not just about the healthy return of an outstanding kicker. The Sun Devils will be substantially better at quarterback, no matter who wins the competition between Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler. While it's an indelicate thing to say, Danny Sullivan was simply not a Pac-10-level QB. Threet and Osweiler both are impressive physical specimens who have talent.

The Sun Devils' receivers and running backs won't wow anyone, but as groups they are reasonably solid. New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has skill to work with and he brings a fresh set of eyes and new ideas.

Of course, the offensive line, particularly after the loss of guard Jon Hargis to a knee injury, is a huge question. But if the Sun Devils get lucky with health issues up front going forward -- they certainly are due --then they should be OK.

And OK might be pretty darn good. Combined with a stingy defense, a mediocre offense -- instead of a terrible one -- will get the Sun Devils to a bowl game.

Tuitea leads Sun Devils in weight room

May, 17, 2010
Arizona State's Toa Tuitea, a sophomore defensive tackle, has been named the Sun Devils' "Hard Hat Program Champion," which recognizes his work in the football program's strength and conditioning program.

He topped a list of 48 Sun Devils who were honored.

A news release from the school said the "Hard Hat Program was created to reward those individuals who do what's right in the weight room even when no one is looking ... a Hard Hat Player is someone who is self-motivated, a competitor, committed to personal and team excellence, dependable, accountable, disciplined and most importantly, puts the team first."

To become a Hard Hat Player, a player has to achieve a certain point total during winter workouts. He earns points based on his effort for strength training, speed development and conditioning sessions. They are also awarded points for competitive events and performing extra workouts in the "Blitz Package Program." Each athlete is evaluated after every workout by the sports performance staff with input from an athlete's position coach when applicable.

The list of the honored includes: Corey Adams, Derrall Anderson, George Bell, Omar Bolden, Jarrid Bryant, Mike Callaghan, Jonathan Clark, Chris Coyle, Dean DeLeone, Eddie Elder, Steven Figueroa, Evan Finkenberg, Clint Floyd, Garth Gerhart, Lawrence Guy, Jon Hargis, J.J. Holliday, Matt Hustad, Osahon Irabor, Patrick Jamison, Keelan Johnson, Brandon Johnson, Anthony Jones, Kyle Johnson, Cameron Kastl, Ronald Kennedy, Dan Knapp, Trevor Kohl, LeQuan Lewis, Shelly Lyons, Cameron Marshall, Shane McCullen, Jamal Miles, Bo Moos, James Morrison, Gerald Munns, Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad, Cole Rarrick, Jamarr Robinson, Andrew Sampson, Zach Schlink, Max Smith, Adam Tello, Steven Threet, Matthew Tucker and Thomas Weber.

Starters or key contributors who didn't make the list (for whatever reason, including injury or excused absence) include: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, receiver Gerell Robinson, receiver Kerry Taylor, defensive end James Brooks, defensive tackle Williams Sutton, defensive tackle Saia Falahola, defensive end Greg Smith and linebacker Brandon Magee.

Pac-10 lunch links: ASU's Hargis has surgery

May, 6, 2010
Is everybody in?
Is everybody in?
Is everybody in?
The ceremony is about to begin.

Post-spring Pac-10 power rankings

May, 3, 2010
The post-spring power rankings do not match the pre-spring power rankings.

Why? After all, no games were played.

Well, it's an extremely complicated process that's difficult to explain unless you are familiar with the jargon of sportswriting and theoretical physics. In layman's terms, a supersymmetry exists between bosons and fermions as viewed through a prism of the spring football action principle -- the Nambu-Goto action or the Polyakov action or the Masolian action -- which describes how footballs move through space and time.

Or, I just changed my mind. For now. (Still think Nos. 4-8 are a toss-up).

1. USC: The Trojans move up to the top spot not just because Oregon moved down when the Ducks lost starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to a season-long suspension, though that's the biggest reason. USC will have the best defensive line in the Pac-10, the value of which can't be underestimated, and the hunch here is that Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley are going to make beautiful music together. (Talked to a BIG Tennessee fan over the weekend who, while not a big fan of Kiffin -- surprise! -- acknowledged that his transforming quarterback Jonathan Crompton into a fifth-round NFL draft pick was a minor miracle).

2. Oregon: Oregon takes a step back without Masoli, but the Ducks weren't widely seen as national title contenders just because of him. Nine other starters are back on offense and eight on defense and if you watched the Ducks practice this spring, it was hard not to be impressed. These guys look like the fastest team in the conference.

3. Oregon State: The Beavers were rated No. 3 before two defensive starters quit the team: Linebacker David Pa'aluhi and end Matt LaGrone. Considering they are one of just three teams in the conference breaking in a new quarterback, they seemed ripe for a demotion. But sophomore QB Ryan Katz was so impressive this spring, the Beavers hold steady.

4. Stanford: The Cardinal make the big jump all the way from sixth. Why? We ranked them sixth because we obsessed over what was missing (namely Toby Gerhart) and what was questionable (the defense). They are now fourth because of what is there -- quarterback Andrew Luck, a good offensive line and solid receivers -- and the impression the defense will take a significant step forward with new coordinator Vic Fangio's new 3-4 look.

5. California: Considering the Bears were the only Pac-10 team with nearly all spring practices closed to the media, it's hard to form an impression other than one based on the pluses and minuses from the 2009 depth chart. And that impression remains: There are enough quality pieces here to believe a consistent senior season from quarterback Kevin Riley would make the Bears a top-25 team.

6. Washington: It's tempting to move the Huskies up just because of Year Two of the Steve Sarkisian-Jake Locker combinaton. But we're holding off until we hear reports that defensive ends Kalani Aldrich and Everette Thompson are back and running at 100 percent after sitting out spring with worrisome injuries.

7. Arizona: The Wildcats have plenty of talent on offense but the defense is replacing seven starters. Moreover, while reviews of the new four coordinator system -- co-coordinators on both sides of the ball -- were positive, it remains worthy of a raised eyebrow, at least until it is properly measured by actual game-day stress.

8. UCLA: The new revolver offense, a knockoff of Nevada's "pistol," got mixed reviews, but the rebuilding defense probably looked better than expected. Questions about the offensive line remain, and it's fair to believe that line will be the reason the Bruins either climb into the conference's top half or remain in the bottom five.

9. Arizona State: There were encouraging signs of offensive improvement, even though the quarterback competition between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and sophomore Brock Osweiler, who appeared to lead as spring ended, wasn't resolved. It didn't help, however, that guard Jon Hargis, a starter the previous two seasons, blew out his knee and won't be available in 2010.

10. Washington State: Coach Paul Wulff called it the Cougars' best spring since he arrived. Every account notes that the Cougars will be physically superior to the teams that won just three games over the previous two seasons. Depth is clearly better. On the downside, it wasn't good that Toby Turpin got kick out of school and that Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo are struggling to remain academically eligible. Those are three of the Cougars' top four defensive tackles.

Pac-10 Q&A: Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson

December, 21, 2009
In his first 19 years as a head coach, Dennis Erickson posted just three losing seasons and never two in a row.

So you can understand if Erickson, having just suffered through his second consecutive losing season at Arizona State, isn't thrilled about watching seven other Pac-10 teams play in bowl games over the coming days.

Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona State coach Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils have posted back to back losing seasons for the first time in his career.
Without those extra practices, he's free to think about his 4-8 team losing four games by five or fewer points, including three on late field goals.

Not that he isn't busy.

Erickson has been recruiting hard to address the Sun Devils shortcomings -- many of which are on offense, particularly the line -- and he's also trying to hire and offensive coordinator.

Erickson knows that the glow of his 10-win season in 2007 has faded. He knows that Arizona State fans aren't happy about the program posting consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1946-47.

Neither party is accustomed to losing. It's fair to say there's pressure on Erickson to reverse that trend for both next fall.

It won't be easy. The Pac-10 looks to be even deeper in 2010 and the Sun Devils and Oregon State are the only two teams looking for new starting quarterbacks.

So, before the bowl season takes off in earnest, it seemed like a good time to check in.

You had a great start but the past two seasons haven't produced bowl games, give me your state of the program.

Dennis Erickson: I believe the program is in good shape. We had a plan coming in here where we were going to build it from the ground floor up and that's what we've done. Obviously, we've played a lot of freshmen over the last couple of years and we've had some injuries. But we're getting better and better all the time. Defensively, we're about where we want to be. That's the No. 1 thing. We've played well defensively. The biggest problem the last two years is we haven't been real productive offensively. We've got to get that taken care of. If we can do that, we'll win a lot of football games.

Was there one critical moment this fall where if things had gone your way the season might have turned out differently?

DE: Without question. There were a couple of times. If we win down at Georgia, even though they didn't turn out like everybody thought they were going to be -- we got beat by a field goal there [20-17] -- things might have gone differently. But probably more than anything was the Cal game [a 23-21 loss], where we had a chance to win it and they came down and beat us at the end. We had a bunch of them like that -- Georgia, that one, USC [a 14-9 loss] and, of course, Arizona [a 20-17 loss]. That one [Cal] could have really got us going, though. Had we won that game, I really believe we would have probably won a couple more.

When do you expect to name your new offensive coordinator? And what are you looking for?

DE: That's a good question as far as when it's going to happen. I'm going to take my time. I'm going to talk to five or six different coaches, maybe even more than that. I don't know when I'm going to get it done because there may be some guys in the NFL who I want to talk to and I wouldn't do that until their season is over with. Hopefully by the middle of January I'd have that done, possibly earlier than that. What I'm looking for is a guy with experience being a coordinator, who's coached the quarterbacks, who does a good job of coaching and teaching the quarterbacks, who's been a play-caller. Those are the biggest things I'm looking at. I think, for philosophy, everybody is kind of the same, somewhat the same. We're looking for some new ideas like everybody else is. That's something I want to talk about. I'd like to be multiple, formation-wise. I don't want to be in the gun all the time and I don't want to be under center all the time. I want to mix it up. I think you've got to run the football, so we've got to find a way to do that.

How do you see things going in the quarterback competition this spring? Is there already a pecking order in your mind?

DE: Not really with a pecking order because it's really kind of a toss up. Brock [Osweiler] really improved from where he started a spring ago. Obviously he was put in a tough situation at Oregon. I think Samson [Szakacsy], once his elbow is completely healed, he gives you a chance because he's so athletic and accurate. He did some good things, though his inexperience hurt us at times. Steven Threet has more experience than all of them because he played at Michigan. It will be really interesting. I don't know if I've ever been blessed with three guys like that. We'll let the competition roll and see what happens. If possible, I'd like to make a decision by the time we go into camp in the fall, but I don't know if I can do that. It's really kind of open. Pecking order? That's a good question. I think you'd start with the guys who played a lot last year and then work your way down, but all three will get opportunities with the first group, particularly during the first weeks of spring football.

How about the offensive line, do you expect a step forward in 2010? And what about some of those injured guys: Are they going to be able to come back next fall?

DE: That's kind of been an Achilles heel for us. Two or three young offensive linemen we think would be great players haven't played much, Zach Schlink being one of them. He starts against Washington last year and plays real well but hurt his knee again and didn't play this fall. We had to redshirt him. He''ll be ready to go in the spring. Matt Hustad, when he was healthy and played, he played really well, then he got hurt against Oregon. We look for him to be back in the spring. We've got some young guys who worked their way into it who played quite a bit. Garth Gerhart will be our starting center. Andrew Sampson played quite a bit last year at guard and center. Guard Jon Hargis is back. Kyle Johnson at left tackle -- he has been a backup but is getting bigger and stronger. He'll be a redshirt sophomore next year. Patrick Jamison, he'll be a redshirt sophomore. So these guys who we recruited three years ago are starting to grow into what they are doing. So we've got guys who have experience in our front and have practiced and know what we're doing. That makes a big difference when we go into spring. And then we've got a couple off junior college guys that will be in here that we really think can help us. We've got a kid, a true freshman we redshirted this year, Evan Finkenberg, who has a lot of promise. Again, we're a little young but we've got guys who have been around here two or three years, too, which makes a heck of a difference. They're a lot bigger and stronger than anybody we've had here over the last couple of years.

Do you expect to get back to a bowl game in 2010?

DE: Without a question. That's one of our goals. If we can continue to improve offensively and stay like we are on defense, that's what we should do. Defensively, we've got a lot of guys coming back. It will be interesting to see. The problem that you have is in our league. I don't see anybody getting worse. I see guys getting better. This league is hard.

ASU found its D at Georgia, but the O is still MIA

September, 29, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Arizona State went looking for itself at Georgia last weekend and it found half a team.

Actually, the Sun Devils might have found more than that after losing a 20-17 heartbreaker on a last-second field goal, but coach Dennis Erickson still isn't sure what he's got this season.

Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Danny Sullivan, who's completed less than 50 percent of his passes, has had his share of criticism.
The defense, now ranked third in the nation, proved itself a salty crew. The offense hinted at a run game. The passing game was thisclose to making enough plays to win.

But, in the end, the offense only managed to produce 204 yards and score 10 points -- the other touchdown came on an interception return -- against a defense that would be below average in the Pac-10.

"I've got to see how this thing carries out -- we've got nine games left in the Pac-10," coach Dennis Erickson said. "It's really hard to tell where we're at, to be honest."

Erickson said that in response to a question about whether talented true freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler is pushing for playing time behind senior starter Danny Sullivan. He said it immediately after defending Sullivan from some grumbles of criticism among Sun Devils fans.

"He's playing decent," Erickson said of Sullivan.

Sullivan completed 10 of 32 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Bulldogs. He missed some open receivers. And some good passes were dropped.

The struggles in the passing game -- the opportunities were there, just not converted -- certainly covered the long road trip with a what-could-have-been blanket.

"We dropped some [against Georgia], but we made some good catches, too," Erickson said. "We’re not throwing like we want to, but up until then we’ve been throwing it pretty well. We just have to become accountable."

Quarterback may not be the chief concern as the Sun Devils prepare for a visit from Oregon State. The offensive line, which had taken some baby steps forward, has been ravaged by injuries. Guard Matt Hustad won't play against the Beavers because of a knee injury and the top two centers, Garth Gerhart (toe) and Thomas Altieri (knee), are questionable. Guard Jon Hargis is fine as long as he can withstand having his shoulder forced back into joint a few times a game, as was done at Georgia.

Oregon State's defense has struggled against the pass. It's yielded 272 yards per game and eight touchdown passes and has recorded just two sacks. But it's been fairly stout against the run (92 yards per game).

So if the Beavers crowd the line to stop the Sun Devils' running game, which only ranks seventh in the conference in any event, then Sullivan is going to have to make plays.

Or face more criticism.

Erickson doesn't think Sullivan will start pressing because of fan gripes.

“I don’t think that will bother him because he knows that I don’t worry about it," he said. "You can’t play that position and worry about what people say. If you do, you’ve got a problem.

Erickson might not ask his offense to do too much, considering how well his defense is playing. The Sun Devils also get back suspended end James Brooks, which will allow Dexter Davis to move back to the weak side, where he's a better pass-rushing threat -- no tight end to double-team him. While the defense has been strong overall, it's only recorded two sacks so far.

The ASU D has earned a few admirers.

"They have a great-looking defense," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "They gave Georgia fits in every way. Running the ball, short-yardage situations, many times they just stuffed them."

But that's only half a team.

The Sun Devils will face much better defenses than they've seen thus far in the weeks ahead. If they want to push into the top-half of the wide-open conference race, the offense must improve.

Pac-10 injury update

September, 28, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Updating the worst part about the game.

Arizona is banged up but it has a chance to get much healthier during its bye week and before it visits Washington on Oct. 10. Receiver Bug Wright is out after knee surgery, but running back Nic Grigsby (shoulder), running back Keola Antolin (ankle), defensive end Brooks Reed (ankle), offensive tackle Mike Diaz (concussion), offensive guard Vaughn Dotsy (concussion) and receiver Delashaun Dean (thigh bruise) all could be ready to go after the bye.

Arizona State
The Sun Devils get defensive end James Brooks back from a three-game suspension, which means senior end Dexter Davis can move back to the weak side, where he has a better chance to get to the quarterback. On the downside, the struggling offensive line has issues. The top two centers, Garth Gerhart (toe) and Thomas Altieri (knee) are banged up, as are guards Jon Hargis (shoulder), Zach Schlink (knee) and Matt Hustad (knee). Hustad is doubtful for Oregon State's visit, while the others are questionable. Also, tight end Jovon Williams (knee) is questionable.

Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond is likely out for a few games with a knee injury. Coach Chip Kelly may provide more specifics during his news conference today, but he typically calls every player "day-to-day" and forces reporters to read between the lines. Kelly did say Saturday that he didn't believe Thurmond would be done for the season. Safety T.J. Ward (ankle) and receiver Rory Cavaille (shoulder) are both questionable.

Oregon State
Receiver Darrell Catchings, who just came back from a wrist injury, is now out for 2-3 weeks with an ankle sprain. Also, linebacker Keaton Kristick suffered a stinger against Arizona and probably won't practice much this week.

Backup tailback Jeremy Stewart hurt is right knee against Washington. It's unclear how serious the injury is.

Defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo (broken leg) and end Marshall Jones (neck) suffered season-ending injuries against Washington State. Linebackers Jordan Campbell and Nick Garratt sprained their ankles and are questionable for the Cal game as is linebacker Malcolm Smith (ankle), who sat out against the Cougars.

The Huskies might get receiver Devin Aguilar back for the visit to Notre Dame. Aguilar sat out the Stanford game with a sprained knee.

Washington State
The Cougars can't stay healthy. They probably lost a starting offensive and defensive lineman against USC: Steven Ayers (ankle) and defensive tackle Josh Luapo (knee). Starting guards B. J. Guerra (knee) and Zack Williams (ankle) aren't expected to be ready to play at Oregon. Defensive end Kevin Kooyman (knee) missed the USC game but might be ready for the trip to Eugene.

Georgia a big measuring stick for Arizona State

September, 22, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State has been utterly dominant while winning its first two games. The Sun Devils' defense is ranked No. 1 in the nation. The offense ranks ninth with 44 points a game.

Now, take that information, crumple it up and throw it out the window. Coach Dennis Erickson knows that pounding on Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe means little.
Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Saturday's game at Sanford Stadium will be Danny Sullivan's first start on the road.

A trip to No. 17 Georgia on Saturday? That's a bit of an upgrade in competition.

"We'll find out a little bit more about what we are as a team, that's the bottom line," Erickson said. "It doesn't matter who they are or what their rank is. We're [asking] right now, 'where are we at as a football team?'"

Erickson repeated variations of those sentiments to a variety of questions: Georgia will be a measuring stick for the Sun Devils.

If they manage to win, or least keep things competitive into the fourth quarter, they might become a top-half of the Pac-10 team, though the Bulldogs probably aren't in the class of California or USC this season.

If they can't keep up, then Arizona State likely falls in with the gaggle of teams scrapping for six wins and bowl eligibility in the lower-middle, bottom-third of the conference.

Of course, one game, win or lose, doesn't a season make. It's possible the Sun Devils in Athens, Ga., won't be anything like the Sun Devils in November. Still, this is the first chance to evaluate Arizona State against a first-rate BCS conference team.

Georgia opened a can of whup butt on the Sun Devils last year, the 27-10 count not doing justice to the Bulldogs dominance.

Georgia took a 21-3 lead into halftime and mostly coasted home. They outrushed the Sun Devils 176 yards to 4 and outgained them overall 461-212.

"They pretty much dominated us," Erickson said. "We didn't play very well and they played well."

The first question is how Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan will handle his first start on the road in one of the nation's tougher venues -- "Between the Hedges" at Sanford Stadium.

That's impossible to say. Sullivan is a senior, but the last time he faced a fast, elite defense, he crumbled after coming off the bench in 2008 at USC.

While the Georgia defense doesn't compare to USC -- it's given up 34 points per game -- two of those games were on the road, so the home crowd should help.

"Until you go in there and experience it, you just don't know," Erickson said.

On the other hand, this is a different group of Sun Devils. The defense is deeper and faster than last year's and, while there's lots of experience, a youth movement led by tackles Lawrence Guy, a sophomore, and William Sutton and Corey Adams as well as linebacker Vontaze Burfict -- all true freshmen -- is most intriguing.

Yet the biggest difference might be on the offensive line.

In 2008, the Sun Devils started converted defensive lineman Jon Hargis at left tackle and 289-pound redshirt freshman Adam Tello at right tackle. Things didn't go well for either.

A far more experienced Hargis is now the left guard, while Tello is his backup. NFL prospect Shawn Lauvao moved out to left tackle, while guard Matt Hustad and tackle Tom Njunge give the Sun Devils far more athleticism on the right side. Neither was healthy last year.

Is it a great offensive line? No. But last year's unit didn't have a chance -- the Sun Devils ranked 113th in the nation in rushing and surrendered 34 sacks (109th in the nation). This time around, it might.

"We're much more solid, we have more depth," Erickson said. "We're playing a little bit better, technique-wise and so forth. We made some moves to get our best players in the right positions. As we go through the next 10 weeks, if we lose a guy or two, we'll put people out there who play pretty well. I like where we're at. Are we a great offensive line? No, but we're getting better all the time and we're better now than we were at this time last year."

Georgia, meanwhile, entered the season having to replace running back Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matt Stafford, NFL first-round picks who dominated the action in last year's game. The Bulldogs seem to be getting their legs under them after opening with a loss at Oklahoma State. They had just 257 total yards against the Cowboys but piled up 530 yards Saturday in their win over Arkansas.

"Joe Cox is playing extremely well at quarterback," Erickson said. "The last two weeks, I didn't see any drop-off."

A key matchup will be Bulldogs sophomore receiver A.J. Green against the Sun Devils secondary, particularly cornerback Omar Bolden. Last year, Green dominated Bolden, catching eight passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Erickson's advice to his team on handling the frenzy of a road game in an SEC stadium? Have fun.

"You talk to our players about it and they're excited to go down there and experience [that]," he said. "It's going to be fun; they're looking forward to it."

Sounds like the Sun Devils are eager to find out who they really are in 2009.