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April 10, 2010

Passing game on display in scrimmage

In the last couple years, Arizona State's offensive coaches and players have learned the hard way that what happens on the Kajikawa Practice Field doesn't always translate to Sun Devil Stadium. So when they built on the success they had earlier in the week with a four touchdown effort Saturday in front of several hundred fans in the stadium, it was a sign -- modest though it may be -- that their vehicle could finally be headed in a forward direction.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler effectively led the first-team offense, with a 14 of 26 performance for 170 yards that included thee touchdowns and one interception, a ball that was tipped and should have been caught by the intended receiver.

Importantly, all four of the team's scoring strikes were longer than 20 yards, a sign that there may be an emerging big play ability in an offense that is largely designed to have a lot of screens and quick passes generate yardage consistently, but in small chunks.

"I feel we did a pretty good job but we're not where we need to be," Osweiler said. "But that's okay. I'd say for spring ball, where we're at right now is a pretty good feeling but we'll build on it and keep getting better and better. I think it's kind of at that point in spring ball where someone's got to take the ball and run with it. That's all I was trying to do this week. Get some energy, get some excitement, get some touchdowns as well with the offense."

The split end position was the biggest benefactor of the team's vertical success, with Gerell Robinson hauling in five catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and George Bell making six grabs for 77 yards and one score.

"Last week we were all thinking while we were playing which kind of took away from us going full speed. I feel like this week we've learned [and are] accustomed to the offense so now we're rolling on all cylinders," Robinson said.

Quarterback Steven Threet didn't start as quickly as Osweiler in his series' with the second team, but finished the session very strong and had comparable numbers on the day. He went 13 of 24 for 145 yards and one touchdown.

ASU coach Dennis Erickson was pleased much of what he saw from both the offense and defense, but was particularly encouraged by how well he felt the offensive line protected the quarterback, and with the caliber of play from the signal callers.

"I thought offensively we made a lot of plays in the passing game and that's kind of what this thing is all about," Erickson said. "Made some catches, some big plays and then I thought both quarterbacks both played really well at times."

Erickson is still seemingly taking a wait-and-see approach to his perspective of the depth chart at the position.

"[Osweiler] played really good," Erickson said. "He's been very accurate. Obviously he made some mistakes, they both are because it's something new but they've picked it up. We're pass protecting so much better than we ever have here. This kind of offense, what our offensive coaches are doing creates a lot of different problems for different defenses with misdirection and so forth. It's fun to see the offense have some success, that hasn't happened a lot in these [scrimmages]."

With a combined 315 yards passing on 50 attempts from its top two quarterbacks, ASU certainly aired the ball out, though the completion rate of 54 percent was a bit low for what offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone would like to see in this style of offense. A lot of those missed opportunities were the result of well thrown ball defended nicely by players in the ASU secondary, or even nearer to the line of scrimmage, and there were a handful of dropped passes.

It was clear however, especially in the face of a swarming, active defense, there is more big play potential over the last couple seasons.

"I definitely feel like this is a brand of football the Pac-10 hasn't seen," Robinson said. "Oregon has their style of it but this is a different style that Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State run. I feel like we've got a leg up on the other competition because they don't know what we're capable of and especially with (Noel) Mazzone calling plays the sky's the limit."

When questioned by a reporter, Erickson joked that he felt good about hiring Mazzone due to what he's observed from the offense thus far in the spring.

"We're to a point now after three years where we have to take the next step and we're making a lot of progress toward that," Erickson said. "It's fun to see. It's fun to see those guys have some success offensively, it really is."

Notes

  • There is a brewing battle taking place at the right tackle position, with Evan Finkenberg siphoning first-team reps away from Patrick Jamison during the scrimmage.

    "[Finkenberg] and Jamison are battling for that right tackle position and they both have their ups and downs. Finkenberg's young but he's very athletic. Him and Patrick are battling and who knows what will happen when we get Simmons here in the fall."

  • Defensive tackle Saia Falahola (ankle) and offensive guard Adam Tello (knee) sustained minor injuries in the workout, according to Erickson.

  • Thomas Weber connected on field goals form 38, 42 and 42 yards and missed from 38.


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