Thursday, August 04, 2011

Actual reporting (!?!) from Arizona State camp

I observed some actual football (gasp) the night before last, and it was just as fulfilling as I thought it'd be after four months of emptiness. I even did actual reporting! You can check it out if you're interested in reading my quasi-professional writing style, which isn't really much different but is more ... umm ... professional.

As you probably surmised from this post's headline and my location in metro Phoenix, I was watching Arizona State open camp in its bizarre, space-age bubble-type thing that is utterly awesome if for no other reason than it allows us spectators to not stand out in the 105-degree heat all evening. Indoor practices FTW. Just don't cross the streams forget to close the first door in the airlock before you go in -- that's not a joke. Apparently an alarm will sound and the place will start to deflate or something. Weird.

Anyway ... I'm not gonna try to writing something super insightful or analytical after watching two hours of padless drills in which not-even-close-to-ready freshmen were getting the same reps as everybody else (although I was pleasantly surprised that about 15 minutes were spent in a starters-against-starters "scrimmage"). But here are some observations about things that might be of interest:
  • Brock Osweiler looks pretty good when he knows where he's going with the ball. When he has to make reads and move his feet, he gets a little panicky ... and the mediocre offensive line doesn't help a lot in that regard.
  • Speaking of which, the offensive line is supposedly a "strength" now, according to Dennis Erickson, but I'm not seeing it. I mean, it should definitely be better with all five starters returning and all three interior linemen being upperclassmen with solid recruiting resumes, but the tackle situation goes something like this: redshirt sophomore Evan Finkenberg (who had a solid freshman year) at left tackle and Dan Knapp (who switched from tight end midway through last season) at right tackle. And this is an offense that passes on almost 60 percent of its plays -- the tackles are kind of important.
  • If Osweiler goes down, the ugly possessions will be plentiful. Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly might be competent enough to guide the ship to a non-Titanic-esque ending, but the true freshmen (Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank) are terrifyingly raw. Velocity = great, understanding of where to throw the ball = bad.
  • Omar Bolden looks shockingly mobile for a guy who tore his ACL four months ago; he was wearing only a knee sleeve and did a bunch of wind sprints and exercise biking while everybody else participated in drills and whatnot. The question I can't answer is whether he can move laterally at all -- my guess is that he's not quite ready for that step. But when I said last week that there was "no chance" he'd be able to get back to 100 percent during the regular season, I might've been jumping the gun. Seeing him yesterday made me think it's somewhat plausible he could make it back in November.
  • Vontaze Burfict is large. He's listed at 250 and looks every ounce of that. He's also incapable of lowering his intensity level below 12 on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Defensive tackle Will Sutton is the loudest person I've ever heard (that's not hyperbole) and might also be very good this year. He was a part-time starter as a freshman in 2009 and then missed all of last year because he was academically ineligible. He's stepping into Lawrence Guy's spot this season (Guy left early to get drafted in the seventh round) and just looks like a physical force, sort of like Darnell Dockett back when he was a demonic DT at Florida State.
  • The defense was somewhat of a disappointment last year (57th in yardage and 55th in scoring), and despite Bolden's injury, I saw enough to think it'll be better this season. There are too many ridiculous athletes and too many guys who have been in the system for three-plus years for another season of meh performances. There are at least five players (Burfict, Sutton, outside linebacker Brandon Magee and defensive ends Junior Onyeali and Jamaar Jarrett) in the front seven alone who could realistically end up as all-conference players this year.
  • There are about six quality receivers who could start for a lot of teams --and that doesn't include out-for-the-year T.J. Simpson -- but only Gerell Robinson strikes me as having the skill set to be a true No. 1 guy. The rest just seem like OK players who will all end up with somewhere around 30 catches for 400 yards and a few touchdowns (which is exactly what happened last year, except Kerry Taylor was the de facto No. 1).
  • Dennis Erickson has truly mastered coachspeak after 35-ish years.
  • ASU doesn't want you to know this for some reason, so I had to take it out of my "official" piece, but they're clearly jacking up the expectations: They're ending practice each night with a team-huddle chant of "NATIONAL CHAMPIONS."
I'll be back out there tonight for more delicious dirt. There's also a lot of other stuff going on in the college football world that I'll react to in a post either late tonight or (relatively) early tomorrow.


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