Thursday, June 9, 2011

Arizona State Football: Can Brock Osweiler Contend for the Pac-12 Passing Title?

The names atop the Pac-12's quarterback list for the 2011 season include two potential top 10 NFL draft picks and a player that has already been to a National Championship game. Unfortunately for Arizona State, neither of these names will be stitched to the back of a Sun Devils' jersey this fall.

Brock Osweiler certainly is not at the caliber of Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley and he sure as hell doesn't have the flashy style possessed by Darron Thomas. However, would it be absolutely insane to consider Osweiler a contender for the top quarterback in the Pac-12 conference?

While Osweiler is not a household name just yet, don't be surprised if this massive quarterback bursts onto the scene before this season is through.

A three-star recruit out of Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana, Osweiler drew many suitors because of his size and pocket presence. As a true freshman, he sat most of the season, but received a few starts (with minimal success) once Arizona State fell out of contention.

After spring activities last year, Osweiler fumbled the starting role to Steven Threet.  Threet appeared to give the Sun Devils the best chance to succeed and despite a rocky season, he possessed the poise and confidence that some say Arizona State hadn’t seen since Jake Plummer.  

Then, catastrophe struck. In the second to last game of the season, Threet was sidelined with a career-ending concussion.  While at the time the team didn’t know how serious the injury was, Osweiler stepped in without missing a beat. 

In that game against UCLA, Osweiler completed 75-percent of his passes (27-for-36) and posted four touchdowns.  He also bulldozed his way for 35 rushing yards and collecting a rushing touchdown to boot. 

The next week against Arizona, Osweiler struggled to find a decent rhythm, connecting on only 44.9-percent of his passes.  He did, however, orchestrate a fourth quarter, 12-play drive that put the Sun Devils on top late in the game. 

With Threet calling it quits for good, Osweiler entered the spring knowing that the starting position was his.  He didn’t waste any time building on last year’s strong finish, lacing five touchdown passes in ASU’s spring game.

Osweiler will be the key to Arizona State’s success in 2011.  While the Sun Devils return a conference-high 11 starters from last season, this will all be for naught if ASU can’t hang with the other high-powered offense in the Pac-12.

If Arizona State has any chance of becoming the dark horse that everyone is touting, they will definitely need a league leading season from Osweiler. 

Looming large in the pocket at 6’8”, Osweiler’s build and style can be roughly compared to a young Ben Roethlisberger.  While he isn’t necessarily a scrambling quarterback, he has shown the ability to throw accurately on the run and he isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder when he escapes the back field.

He also possesses a rocket for an arm.  But, like Havoc in X-Men: First Class, controlling this god-given gift could be his biggest struggle in his first complete season. Strong arms tend to induce more interceptions when the player is honing the talent, which, if uncontrollable, can be a problem that obliterates the foundation of any solid program. 

The talent is certainly there for Osweiler.  But with the level of competition at quarterback in the Pac-12, picking him to finish above the proven quarterbacks of the conference would be a drug-induced prediction.

So, can Osweiler contend for the passing title in the Pac-12?  Yes.

But will he finish the season as the top quarterback? Probably not.

However, although his chances of leading the conference in passing this season might be far-fetched, by this time next year, Osweiler could very well be the best quarterback in the Pac-12.