For most of the past calendar year, the storyline for the ASU football team has been mostly the same: “defense dominates opponent/offense,” depending on if it’s a game day or practice day.
On Wednesday, the script was flipped, as the Sun Devil offense had its way with the defense for most of the afternoon, running the ball well for the first time this spring and throwing the ball at will.
“It was the best day that [the offense] had since we’ve practiced,” ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. “We’re definitely executing better. We’re … getting the balls down the field vertically as well as since I’ve been here, which is part of the reason I hired [new offensive coordinator Noel] Mazzone. I like what I saw today, and we’ve just got to continue to get better and better.”
Sophomore quarterback Brock Osweiler ran the first team and had a magnificent day, throwing deep, powerful strikes to a number of different targets.
“[It was] by far my best day of the spring,” Osweiler said. “Not only myself, but I felt like the entire offense. This was really the first day where we really ran the ball and got some serious yardage. We caught the ball well, we did our assignments, our receivers did their blocking assignments. Today was a very big stepping-stone day as an offensive group.”
After the defense dominated most of spring practice, the offense finally broke out and moved the ball at will. Sophomore running back James Morrison had a number of good runs, showcasing an impressive array of quick cuts and hitting the holes quickly.
The wide receiver corps was also outstanding as a whole. Juniors Gerrell Robinson, George Bell and Aaron Pflugrad and senior Kerry Taylor caught everything in sight, jumping high, getting on the ground and taking big hits in the process.
“We’ve just been out here working hard every day getting on the same page as the quarterbacks,” Taylor said. “I give a lot of credit to the new wide receivers coach, [Steve Broussard]. He’s been pushing us every day. Years in the past, we haven’t been really used to that, but he’s bringing the best out of all of us. He’s either going to make you or break you, so we’ve all taken on the challenge individually and as a whole wide receiver unit.”
Learning from Rivers
One of the biggest changes Mazzone has brought is the emphasis on the quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly.
“[The quarterbacks] are getting the ball out of their hands so much quicker,” Erickson said. “The ball is getting out so fast and that’s what Noel’s really worked with them on. We’re getting the ball out so much quicker and it’s making a huge difference.”
One of the models Mazzone has used to show his quarterbacks what he wants is San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers. Mazzone was the offensive coordinator during Rivers’ senior season at North Carolina State in 2003.
“I don’t think there was a day that went from Jan. 1 to the start of spring ball that I didn’t watch something on him,” Osweiler said. “He’s a pretty good guy, I think, to learn from.”
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