TEMPE, Ariz. - This time last year, Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler was in the midst of a cutthroat QB competition and coming off a disappointing 2010 Spring Game in which he did anything but instill confidence in his head coach, Dennis Erickson.
In Saturday's spring game, with not the slightest doubt of job security, Osweiler put on an electrifying exhibition display for the crowd of 6,400 that was so impressive that Erickson called it, "probably as good a performance as we've had offensively since I've been the coach here."
Osweiler, with only two career starts under his belt, showed a confident understanding of Noel Mazzone's no-huddle, spread offense. He completed 17 of his 22 passes on his way to 237 yards, 5 TDs and 0 interceptions in six possessions.
"I couldn't be [happier] with how the offense came out and performed today," Osweiler said after the game.
The usually-humble Osweiler even want as far to say that he believes the Sun Devils will feature "the best offense in the Pac-12."
"Defenses are going to have a lot of trouble this year," Osweiler said. "They can try to stop one guy or maybe two guys, but we have three or four more to throw at them."
And trouble is exactly what his offense gave the "white" defense from the get-go in their 83-27 trouncing.
It started with the first snap, when Osweiler threw a pass to wide receiver Jamal Miles in the flat. As soon as the ball was caught, Miles stopped his momentum, planted his feet and unleashed a 44-yard bomb to senior Aaron Pflugrad to complete the trick play.
It seemed from that point that the offense was clicking on all cylinders.
Mazzone's play-calling started off slowly, with Osweiler completing little swings and short passes before hitting running back Cameron Marshall on a screen for his first touchdown.
But by the next time the first team offense hit the field, there was no holding back.
Osweiler began with some intermediate throws to move the chains before attacking the deeper portions of the field.
The 6'8'' quarterback's first lengthy toss was barely overthrown; falling just out of the reach of wide receiver Gerell Robinson's outstretched hands. Yet, the very next play, Osweiler proved his belief in the senior receiver, coming right back to Robinson for a deep completion and again to cap off the drive with a touchdown.
"I have more faith and trust in this football team than any other football team I've ever played for," Osweiler said.
The Montana-native's third touchdown was more a representation of wide receiver Kyle Middlebrooks' play-making ability than anything. The sophomore speedster broke multiple tackles on a dump off pass where if the defense wasn't playing so vanilla, Osweiler would have surely been sacked before completing the pass.
"It really makes my job easy when the offensive line plays the way they do and our receivers and backs make the plays they do," Osweiler said.
Osweiler closed out the half with a textbook fade route in the back of the endzone to senior receiver George Bell, placing the ball perfectly on Bell's outside shoulder after Bell gave the defender a friendly nudge.
"Oz" topped them all though with his curtain call touchdown on the second possession of the second half. Osweiler hit Pflugrad right on the money in stride, splitting the safeties as he streaked down the field, Arizona State's fifth passing TD to its fifth different player.
"I could list off about 10 playmakers and an offensive line and that's why [ASU played well]," Osweiler concluded.
Overall, Osweiler gave the fans everything they wanted to see and more in ASU's 601-yard performance. He showed a satisfactory pocket presence, or as about as satisfactory as you can possibly conclude from a game where the quarterback can't be hit, scrambling up field on multiple occasions. He also demonstrated his dynamic arm strength that has made him such an intriguing prospect, putting nice touch on a number of out routes while taking calculated risks and not turning over the ball once.
Even further, there were a few underrated things that might have gone unnoticed by much the audience.
Osweiler completed every single one of his swing passes to the motioned backs and recievers, a staple of Arizona State's offense, with a healthy velocity. Last season's starter, Stephen Threet, often lacked that needed zip and accuracy on those simple plays, which lead to many lateral fumbles and rough incompletions.
The junior quarterback also showed excellent leadership in and out of the huddle. After freshman QB Taylor Kelly threw an easy pick-six to linebacker Anthony Jones, a handful of starters began to voice their frustrations with the second team offense. Immediately, Osweiler reassured his teammates to relax by simply saying "we just scored and we'll score again," then buckled his chinstrap and led his team right back onto the field.
Oz truly seemed to be on his game in every aspect, even showing great control of his cadence, making the defense slow off the snap for much of the scrimmage and even getting the defense to jump offsides with his voice fluctuation.
"I'm really proud of Brock," running back Cameron Marshall said. "He goes above and beyond what he's supposed to do."
Receiver Robinson, who seemed to be Osweiler's go-to-guy on the day, also added that he has "nothing but confidence in [his] QB" and that he feels that there's a growing chemistry between himself, Oz and the entire offense.
"It was a very good day for us," Robinson said. "I definitely feel like if we consistently play like that, we'll be the best team in the nation."
For now though, Osweiler is doing his best to curb his expectations from this game, knowing that is game is nothing more than a glorified practice and that the team still needs to improve and execute.
"As long as [we're] going out there, correcting [our] mistakes and getting better every day, I'll take it as a win," Osweiler said. "Our biggest thing is don't turn the ball over and play fast; if we do those two things like we did today, you see what happens."
Still even with that in mind, it's hard not for Osweiler to get excited about the show his offense put on Saturday.
"Anytime you can leave spring ball on a high note, that can carry you all the way through summer and into fall camp," Osweiler said. "Now we have something to build upon."