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Green: Dennis Erickson’s mistake

There has been a lot of talk lately about Arizona State’s quarterback situation. The incumbent, Danny Sullivan, has struggled, and there has been a growing cry for true freshman Brock Osweiler to take over.

In a previous blog I wrote how going with Osweiler would be a mistake for Dennis Erickson, and my opinion has not changed.

Though it is fun to think about what the 6’8 Osweiler can bring to the table, what isn’t already at the table waiting for him are enough playmakers or talent to help him successfully grow into the job.

Is there potential at the WR spot? Absolutely. But, outside of Chris McGaha the combo of Gerell Robinson, Kyle Williams and Kerry Taylor have shown nothing more than the occasional glimpse of what they could be. You think watching accurate passes being dropped will help the 18-year-old Osweiler gain confidence?

Take a look at the running game and you will find one that is average, but certainly not good enough to carry the load. Dmitri Nance isn’t bad, but he’s not a pro-type talent that can make Osweiler’s job easier. Ryan Bass, on the other hand, has ability, but one has to wonder if he has the coaching staff’s confidence.

I haven’t even got to the offensive line which, though better than last year’s disaster, is still not totally adept at helping to keep its quarterback upright and vertical. There have been countless times over the first four games where Sullivan has finished a play lying on his back.

All those are bad, but if you can get past all of that you still have a group that has committed an astounding 39 penalties for 331 yards in just four games. Even though some of those are on the defense, the team has a knack for putting its offense in tough situations.

What you have around the quarterback – any quarterback – is an offense that is inconsistent at best, detrimental at worst, and not one that should be led by a freshman with a difficult Pac-10 schedule ahead.

But really, the biggest mistake in this whole situation is not leaving Sullivan as the starter, which many Sun Devil fans think is a capital offense, but rather it is the fact that Erickson elected to give Osweiler playing time in the team’s opener against Idaho St.
What Erickson did at that moment was not only create the possibility for a controversy given that Osweiler played well, but he also took a year of eligibility away from the freshman.

By playing him in that game Erickson gave up Osweiler’s ability to redshirt this season, which has backed the coach into a corner.

On one hand, by not playing Osweiler he’s essentially wasting a year of the guy’s career, but on the other hand by playing him he’s throwing a young QB to the wolves, and nobody knows how he would respond to that situation. Furthermore, if Erickson had left the redshirt option available he has a built-in excuse for why he is sticking with Sullivan as his QB.

Granted, I understand why Erickson had to make Osweiler the backup QB. Samson Szakacsy, who would have probably opened the season as the second string QB, was hurt and, in the event Sullivan went down, there needed to be someone else who could take over.

But now that Szakacsy is nearing his return and Osweiler hasn’t taken a single snap since that first night, you could figure that if Erickson had not sent the freshman in that fateful night, he could redshirt him and gain an extra year of eligibility. After all, the team hasn’t used him since the opening night win and looks like they may not need him at all.

Instead the Sun Devils are riding a two game losing streak and in the middle of a quarterback controversy, one that does not have a happy ending in sight. Either you waste a young kid’s freshman season or you put him in a situation that is not set up for him to flourish.

When the dust settles on the 2009 version of ASU football, it will be looked back on as the season that Dennis Erickson made a costly mistake; the only question remaining is which one he will choose.

Adam can be reached with your questions and comments by email here.