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August 13, 2009Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson said following Thursday's practice that he expects freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be certified for initial eligibility by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
"He'll be here for the first game." Erickson said. "Because he's done everything he's supposed to do."
Burfict, a 6-foot-3, 245-pounder who played at Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., is the highest rated prospect to ever sign with Arizona State. He was No. 9 overall and No. 1 at the inside linebacker position in the national 2009 recruiting class by Rivals.com.
Recruits are allowed to practice for up to two weeks while still going through the process of being certified by the Clearinghouse.
Erickson said he has "no idea" when Burfict will be cleared, but said he is confident it will happen in time for the Sun Devils' opener Sept. 5 against Idaho State.
"You've got to understand the Clearinghouse and what goes on with it," Erickson said. "It's a time consuming thing."
Through the first week of camp at Arizona State, Burfict is working with the third-team at middle linebacker, behind seniors Travis Goethel and Gerald Munns. He has, however, made a big impression on his head coach and is expected to play a major role if cleared.
"He's all over the field," Erickson said. "He's physical, he's got a great motor. He's got great football instincts more than anything. He sees a hole open up on a blitz and he takes it even if it's not the hole he's supposed to go (in). He's got great instincts and is strong and fast."
When asked how big it would be to have Burfict available this season, Erickson said, "How big? It'd be awfully big."
Defensive coordinator Craig Bray, who also coaches linebackers, is known for being extremely demanding and brutally honest, but Burfict said he's enjoyed working with Bray to this point.
"I'm just learning the system and he's teaching me outrageous stuff that I didn't know," Burfict said. "I wish I knew it in high school because if I did know it in high school I'd be better."
Burfict spent much of the summer focused on taking the necessary steps to become an academic qualifier. As a result, he said he wasn't as physically prepared for camp as he would have liked to have been. That showed in the team's initial workout when he mildly strained a hip flexor muscle.
"I wasn't ready at all to tell you the truth, I was focused on my grades," Burfict said. "But now that I'm here I'm more focused on football."
Even though he's made an impact in every workout to this point due to his raw natural ability, Burfict said there is a significant adjustment needed to be effective at the college level.
"It's been difficult because there's much bigger guys, guys that know how to play football and at a faster pace," Burfict said. "In high school not everyone knew how to play football, everybody wasn't up to my level. But everyone here is at an even level, everyone is bigger, faster, knows how to play football."