August 15, 2007

Sullivan: Offense has major potential

If you want the truth, Danny Sullivan will tell you straight up, he wishes he hadn't played last season as a true freshman. But he knows it was what he had to do for the team -- a team that didn't have another scholarship quarterback after Sam Keller transferred out of the program.

"It wasn't enough playing time at all. It was helpful but it wasn't enough," Sullivan said of last season, when he played in six games and completed 6-of-15 passes for 46 yards in mop-up duty. "I wish I had that redshirt back. Coach (Dennis) Erickson tells me every day, "God I wish I had your redshirt," but that's the way it goes sometimes."

Though he didn't play as much as he would have liked, Sullivan earned invaluable game experience, which he believes will carry him into this season as he backs up Rudy Carpenter.

"The game did slow down for me during the season," Sullivan said. "As it went along, it got a little easier. Washington State felt pretty slow. I hope that it doesn't go back to being fast because the spring game wasn't."

Sullivan has matured physically, gaining some 30 pounds in the last year. With the help of a new quarterbacks coach, he's also improved his mechanics.

"Coach (Rich) Olson's told me -- one thing I noticed last year I was pointing the ball up and it's a longer delivery when you come out of it so he told me to point it down," Sullivan said. "It's getting out of my hand quicker. I'm making smarter decisions. It's actually helped a lot with me throwing the ball powerful too. Quicker release, getting back quicker so you can see everything happen quicker."

Along with his more polished approach to the game, Sullivan believes he is benefiting from a simplified scheme brought to the program by Erickson and Olson.

"I think it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterbacks," Sullivan said. "It doesn't put any pressure on the receivers but it takes a lot of pressure off us because we know on certain plays you're either (throw it) here, there or throw it away. Don't be greedy. That's what coach Olson's written on the board in the quarterbacks' room. Don't be greedy."

The camp atmosphere is quite different for Sullivan and his teammates -- particularly the quarterbacks -- from last year when Carpenter and Sullivan were battling it out for the starting nod.

"Everyone on the team had pressure because if they did something bad it might look bad on the starting quarterback," Sullivan said. "We're more loose this year. Coach Erickson just wants us to be loose. We took it and ran with it. It's been amazing.

"Everyone's gotten together as a unit, wanting to get better as a unit. We came into this off-season saying we have to get better as a team if we want to compete for a Pac-10 Championship. We had our senior leadership step up in the off-season. I think we're competing for a Pac-10 Championship and a BCS Bowl. That's high hopes, I know, but that's what we want."

With 10 returning starters and a system in place that has earned support across the board, Sullivan said the team could be as potent on offense as it has been at any time in recent memory.

"It's got a lot of potential," Sullivan said. "We have almost everyone returning back from last year. Rudy's a great quarterback and he's got the experience. We've got a great offensive line led by Mike Pollak and Brandon Rodd. Our receivers, they've grown quietly. They can play. You know we have the running backs. This offense has a lot of potential to be very good."

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