Burfict not living up to the hype
The sky was the limit for Arizona State middle linebacker
Vontaze Burfict in 2012.
In his first two years for the Sun Devils, Burfict showed
the ability to dominate football games while also showing
the propensity for losing his temper and committing
boneheaded penalties that crippled his team in crucial
Apparently most were willing to overlook the latter in
projecting Burfict’s future.
Going into the season, Burfict was thought to be a sure-
fire All-American and a high first round pick in next
April’s NFL Draft. Sporting News named him the “meanest
man in college football.” Lindy’s Football Annual picked
Burfict as their preseason Defensive Player of the Year–
not for the Pac-12, but for the whole country.
And when Burfict came out and registered three sacks in
ASU’s season opening 48-14 thrashing of UC Davis, I’ll
admit, I was drooling over the prospect of what #7 would
do for the rest of the season.
The drooling process has stopped. Since that game,
Burfict has been, in a word, okay. I’m not going to say
the junior has been awful. He hasn’t. He’s been decent.
But that is certainly not the adjective that was being
attached to Burfict’s resume two months ago.
He ranks 42nd in the Pac-12 in total tackles. He’s 12th
in tackles for loss and 6th in sacks, although he’s only
had one since the UC Davis game.
I’ll go a step further. Burfict has been ASU’s third best
linebacker this season. Earlier this season, ASU head
coach Dennis Erickson called senior outside linebacker
Colin Parker ASU’s best defensive player. “No question
about it” Erickson said. Shelly Lyons doesn’t have the
sheer numbers that Burfict does, but has shown a penchant
for the big play, with two interceptions (one returned for
a touchdown—ASU’s only defensive touchdown this season), a
forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
And while Burfict has scored points for playing with more
control in 2011, even that went out the window last
Saturday night when he was flagged for two personal foul
penalties in a 41-27 road loss to Oregon. The first one,
a late hit on Ducks’ tight end David Paulson, preceded an
Oregon touchdown on the very next play.
I’ll be the first to admit that I thought both calls on
Burfict in Eugene were iffy at best. Paulson had stepped
out of bounds, but continued to run down the field at full
speed. If I’m a coach, I want my player to complete the
play and stop the ball carrier’s progress. I believe that
Burfict’s reputation caught up with him, and that’s a big
reason why the flag was thrown.
While we’re at it, that’s the reason why the second flag
was thrown as well. Burfict came in a hair late and
delivered a blow to Kenjon Barner, who had been ridden out
of bounds by Deveron Carr. Another player probably
doesn’t draw a flag on that play. But ESPN analyst Kirk
Herbstreit summed up the play perfectly on the game
broadcast when he said “when you come in high, and you’re
number 7 for Arizona State, you’re gonna get called.”
That might be the most frustrating part of the Burfict era
at Arizona State, is his indifference to his own
reputation. The perception is that Burfict is a dirty
player (man, I hope I don’t get reprimanded by the Pac-12
for saying that). When that reputation has been
cultivated over two years, anything borderline will draw a
flag. It’s that simple.
CBS Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman agrees.
Feldman joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 620 on
Monday afternoon and pondered similarly. “You’d hope at
this point, that he would be able to have a better sense
of ‘okay, I’m hurting the team,'” Feldman said. “Not only
has this guy has played a ton of football by now, you’d
hope he would be a leader, and in some ways maybe he is,
but in other ways, he has put them in such a bind that it
has got to be frustrating for the coaches and the fans
There’s a lot of football left to be played this season
for Arizona State, and the program has set lofty goals for
the remainder of the year.
Those goals won’t be met if Vontaze Burfict plays