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August 31, 2010

Threet named opening game starter

There wasn't much suspense in the last week as to which quarterback Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson would select as his opening game starter.

It was clear junior Steven Threet was a virtual shoo-in to win the job last week and so that proclamation by Erickson came as no surprise to any of the several dozen reporters in attendance at Monday's first regularly scheduled press conference of the season.

There will be plenty of suspense going forward, however. It will be in how well Threet performs early in the season and whether he will be seriously pushed at any point by either sophomore Brock Osweiler or junior Samson Szakacsy.

Erickson said that although Threet would start, Osweiler would play an as yet undermined amount in the Sept. 4 contest against FCS member Portland State.

"We are going to start Steven Threet on Saturday against Portland State," Erickson said in his opening remarks. "Brock Osweiler will play in that football game. In our decision-making, [Threet] was the most consistent throughout fall camp although Brock had a great camp. The biggest thing is, I saw great improvement from both of them. I feel like we have to be strong with two of them so we will play them both to start out with and see what happens. Steven will get the start against Portland State and we will go from there."

Erickson stopped short of saying the quarterback position will be a heavily shared, but it appears that's not been ruled out.

"I don't know and I don't have an answer for that," Erickson said. "Steven (Threet) has earned the start and he will start. Brock (Osweiler) will play hopefully in the first two football games and then we will see what happens as time goes on. There isn't that much difference between the two, to be honest with you. I feel very comfortable with the decision I had to make. Both of the quarterbacks can win and be very successful for us."

In the opener, Erickson said he hasn't decided how much Osweiler will play, just that he will.

"It will be based on feeling when I decide to put him in," Erickson said. "I'm not sure when that is going to be. We feel like we will put him in when we get that feel. I don't want to put Steven (Threet) in and then pull him out. We want to get him going for awhile, which could be the first half or three quarters."

Threet started eight games as a redshirt freshman at Michigan two seasons ago before transferring to ASU and has some big game experience including in games on the road at Notre Dame and Michigan. He improved substantially from the spring to fall camp and throughout camp as he relaxed and became comfortable with playing more freely.

"The biggest thing with Steven is Steven is a really intelligent guy and so if I can bring his intelligent level down to mine he plays better," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone ssaid. "I kind of tell him, Steven, when you start thinking like me we're going to be better. When I settle him down and he relaxes -- because he's a high-energy, a little bit of a high-strung kid -- and when I can keep him down and keep his heart rate about where mine is, he really does a nice job.

"Brock is the other way, he's kind of like, 'whatever man, just give me the ball, I'll throw it to someone that's open."

Mazzone said he's very comfortable with both players and has no reservations about using either in any game situation. What he likes most about them is their work ethic and desire to be good.

"They both want to be successful quarterbacks and that's that Peyton Manningism of, you know, you've got to be a student of the game," Mazzone said. "You've got to love it. You've got to wake up in the morning and breathe it, and go at night and eat it and sleep it. They're both those types of kids."

Szakacsy's athletic ability could come in handy, Mazzone said, and the offensive staff has discussed a specific package for his skill set. It was just too difficult, according to Mazzone, for Szakacsy to get completely up to speed on a level equal to the other quarterbacks given the amount of time he wasn't on the practice field working on the new offense in the last year.

"Samson's problem is he fought no spring ball," Mazzone said. "[Threet and Osweiler] have taken all the reps (in the spring) and now you take Samson who had no reps in the spring, he started to kind of get going, then the arm got tired and so he missed a little bit of time (in the fall) and so he's playing a lot of catch up at the position. (He's) probably the most athletic guy out of the bunch with his feet but right now he's a straight playground guy. He's playing off his instincts and athletic ability and I think the more and more he's around the offense and learns it he's got a chance to be a real solid guy and we need him to be."

The key to the success of the quarterback position and offense as a whole, Mazzone said is limiting mistakes.

"The thing you've got to be in this offense, you've got to be consistent because we can't go in there and rely on one or two plays that we're going to keep calling, just calling and calling and it's going to work," Mazzone said. "Everything feeds of each other and so you've got to be a high percentage quarterback in this offense. You've got to be able to distribute the ball to a lot of different guys. I tell the guys (about) our 12 percent rule. As long as we can minimize dropped balls, sacks, turnovers and foolish penalties, if we can keep that under 12 percent of our total plays, we've got a really good chance to win the football game. So that's what I'm talking about: consistency and those little things that knock you off. We make a living on those four and five plays and so you've got to be consistent."


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