Scott Bordow: ASU ranks 107th nationally in passing efficiency - in the Pac-10 only sad-sack Washington State is worse - and 106th in completion percentage (53.2). For all you Rudy Carpenter bashers out there, the Sun Devils were 67th in passing efficiency last year and 62nd in completion percentage.
Dennis Erickson isn't sure who his starting quarterback will be Saturday against UCLA.
Even worse, he doesn't know who will be taking snaps in 2010.
"If there's one thing we need to have happen it's stability and good play at quarterback, no question about it," Erickson said Tuesday.
Erickson's offseason to-do list is getting longer every day. He needs to put his friendship with Rich Olson aside and hire an offensive coordinator. He has to instill more discipline in the program to address the penalties on the field and the suspensions off it. He'll have to convince an increasingly skeptical fan base that he hasn't already retired.
Even if he crosses off all those things, however, it won't matter if his quarterback can't complete a pass on 3rd-and-7.
ASU ranks 107th nationally in passing efficiency - in the Pac-10 only sad-sack Washington State is worse - and 106th in completion percentage (53.2). For all you Rudy Carpenter bashers out there, the Sun Devils were 67th in passing efficiency last year and 62nd in completion percentage.
(And to think, Danny Sullivan was the people's choice).
College football has changed in the last 10 years with the evolution and predominance of the passing game. Teams can't win now (triple-option clubs like Georgia Tech and Navy are irrelevant to this argument) unless they have a quarterback they can depend on.
Take Stanford. The Cardinal finished 5-7 last year - even with Toby Gerhart rushing for 1,176 yards and 15 touchdowns - because their three quarterbacks threw more interceptions (15) than TDs (11).
This year, Stanford is 7-3 because freshman quarterback Andrew Luck has complemented Gerhart's Heisman Trophy-worthy season with 13 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
"You can't be a top-flight successful program without a really good player at the position," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said.
The question, of course, is whether ASU has such an animal in its program. Erickson acknowledged Tuesday that the quarterback battle next spring will be wide open between Brock Osweiler, Samson Szakacsy and Michigan transfer Steven Threet.
Osweiler and Szakacsy will have the initial edge because they played this season but don't discount Threet's chances. One former Sun Devil said that of all the quarterbacks he watched in camp this fall, Threet had the best throwing motion.
Threet also had a respectable freshman season at Michigan (nine touchdowns, seven interceptions) before transferring because incoming coach Rich Rodriguez's system didn't fit his skill set.
(Incoming freshman Pete Thomas, a four-star recruit, likely will redshirt unless he's so good he jumps the three incumbents).
It's no coincidence that ASU's three most successful seasons in the last 25 years have come when it's had stellar quarterback play: Jeff Van Raaphorst in 1986, Jake Plummer in 1996 and Andrew Walter in 2004. The Sun Devils rarely have had the kind of depth and talent in the program it takes to compensate for a mediocre signal-caller.
"I think that position has to be efficient no matter what you do within your offense in order to be a factor in today's game," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.
Whatever quarterback Erickson chooses will need some help; the lack of explosiveness among ASU's skill players this season is downright embarrassing for a school that long has been noted for its speed and athleticism.
But when the season opens Sept. 4 against NAU, the guy behind center better have a different job description than Sullivan did this year.
Because when all you ask of your quarterback is to not lose games, you've already lost.