Gambo: Vontaze made an impression
While I go to most of the Arizona State home football games every year I had to sit the first one out this season as I was in California with my daughter for a soccer tournament.
Now, while I did get to see some of Oklahoma-BYU, Notre Dame-Nevada and Alabama-Virginia Tech in between soccer games, I knew that I wasn't going to see any of the ASU game until I got home. Now with a final score of 50-3 I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Idaho State is a terrible football team and they got spanked by the Devils as they should have.
But when I watched the tape of the game one thing kept jumping out at me. And that was the play of Vontaze Burfict whom I may start calling Vontaze Perfect. Wow what a debut for the freshman who wasn't cleared to play in the game until Friday. For a kid who hadn't practiced in two weeks and wasn't even at the walk-through Friday afternoon, he sure did make quite an impression in his first game with the Devils. And if first impressions are everything -- well you get the point.
I would normally like to hold reservations on a newcomer until I have seen him play at least a few times, but no need here. I have seen enough over a few plays to know that what ASU has is special, real special. Burfict came in with a lot of hype as the highest rated recruited player to ever sign with ASU. And boy did he live up to the hype. The first thing you noticed was pressure and knock down of the Idaho State quarterback, then the recovered fumble, then the sack and then the big hit for a stop on a running play.
The kid is the real deal. USC wanted him, Dennis Erickson got him. Erickson has even compared him to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, whom he coached at Miami. And while some will say it's unfair to compare the Corona, California product to the NFL great, I say the comparisons are warranted. And that ASU has one of the top linebackers in the country.
Last year USC had Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga, the three best linebackers in the Pac-10 if not the country. Now ASU has a player in that mold and it won't be long before Burfict is talked about as the best in the conference.
Due to his lack of practices you didn't see much of Burfict until the second half and even then on a limited basis. But what you saw was pure domination. Now this was Idaho State and he will need to do it against the big boys real soon. But for now you judge him based on what we have seen thus far. What stood out on Saturday was his presence. You knew he was there, you focused on him, you watched him swarm to the ball. You saw the big-hit ability and the read/react ability. His number also stood out as you don't see many linebackers with a single-digit number as Burfict has with 7. Most linebackers wear numbers in the 50's.
Just how good Burfict will be is up to him. The talent is there, there is no doubt about that. In what many believe will be a down season for a young ASU team, Burfict just gave a whole lot of people a reason to pay attention. While offense gets all the attention, there is nothing quite like watching a dominant defensive player wreak havoc week in and week out. Think Terrell Suggs ASU fans. I'm just sad ASU is off this week. I can't wait to watch the kid play again.