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Football to open season against Portland State

August 30, 2010

Week One vs. Portland State Get Acrobat  Reader

Arizona State opens its 98th season of football when it hosts the Portland State Vikings at Frank Kush Field/Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday, September 4. The Sun Devils are expected to feature one of the staunchest defenses in the country, led by linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. ASU features 51 returners from last season's team, including six starters on offense and five on defense.

Season Openers: Arizona State is 68-27-2 (.711) all-time in season openers, including victories in the last seven. The Sun Devils have won 10 of their last 11 season openers.

Home Openers: ASU holds an all-time record of 48-15-1 (.759) when opening the season at home. Including last season's 50-3 win over Idaho State, ASU has won 13 of its past 14 home openers and 11 straight.

Coach Erickson in Openers: Head coach Dennis Erickson holds a career record of 15-6 in season openers, including a 3-0 mark at Arizona State.

On the Air: The ISP-Sun Devil Sports Network will carry all 12 of ASU's football games live on their 10-station radio network, including flagship station Sports 620 KTAR AM. Tim Healey (play-by-play) and former Sun Devil quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst (color analyst) will call the action. The game can also be heard on Sirius/XM Radio.

Lights, Camera, Action: FSN Arizona will televise the Sun Devils match-up with the Vikings. Tom Leander and Juan Roque will call the action from the booth while Jody Jackson handles the sideline duties.

Sun Devils vs. Vikings: This will be the first ever meeting between Arizona State and Portland State. Dennis Erickson is 4-0 in his career against Portland State. Erickson led Idaho to victories over the Vikings in 1982 (56-0), 1983 (17-16), 1984 (49-14) and 1985 (51-17).

Pac-10 Predictions: Arizona State has been picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 in the annual Media Poll. Oregon, who visits Sun Devil Stadium on September 25, was picked to win the conference crown.

Captains: Jon Hargis, Omar Bolden, Thomas Weber and Gerald Munns have been named the captains of the 2010 Sun Devil football team.

Next Up: The Sun Devils will host the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks next Saturday, September 11 at Frank Kush Field/Sun Devil Stadium. WHO'S BACK: 51 letterwinners return from the last season's squad, including six starters on offense and five on defense. Headlining the returners on offense will be wide outs Kerry Taylor and Gerell Robinson, who combined for 49 receptions and 537 yards in 2010. Sophomore Cameron Marshall is the leading returning rusher after running for 280 yards on 64 carries with two touchdowns in his true freshman season. Junior Garth Gerhart will anchor the offensive line from the center position. He started seven games along the line last season. One of the nation's top defenses will be lead junior defensive tackle Lawrence, who totaled 37 tackles 4.5 sacks and seven total tackles for loss in his 11 starts last year. The linebacking corps will be lead by Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year Vontaze Burfict, who was second on the 2009 team with his 69 tackles, including seven for loss. He will be joined by fellow linebackers Brandon Magee, Shelly Lyons and Gerald Munns to form one of the most potent group of linebackers in the country. Redshirt junior Omar Bolden returns for 2010 after missing almost the entire 2009 campaign with an injury. Bolden has four career interceptions and 86 tackles in his Sun Devil career. Thomas Weber, Trevor Hankins and Thomas Ohmart will anchor the special teams, as senior kicker Weber looks to continue his rise in the ASU place-kicking record book, while senior punter Hankins looks to improve upon his 2009 season, when he led the Pac-10 with his 44.2 yards per punt. Junior Ohmart returns for his third season as the starting long snapper in 2010. WHO'S GONE: Arizona State will have several key positions that will see new starters. Danny Sullivan, who started nine games at quarterback, is gone, as are leading receivers Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha. Dimitri Nance, who led ASU in rushing last season, is also gone. On the other side of the ball, Arizona State must replace Mike Nixon's team-leading 73 tackles at linebacker, as well as Travis Goethel's 57 tackles. Pierre Singfield and Terell Carr, both starting corners last season, must be replaced as well.

Getting Defensive: The 2009 Sun Devil Defense was one of the stingiest in the nation, allowing only 297.6 yards per game, tops in the Pac-10 Conference and 13th nationally. The Sun Devils were especially tough against the run, allowing opponents only 108.6 yards per game on the ground, #1 in the Pac-10. They allowed only two 100-yard rushers all season. They were just as tough against the pass, allowing only 189 yards per game through the air, also the best in the conference. Overall, ASU finished in the top two in seven defensive categories, leading five of them.

Three and Out: In addition to leading the Pac-10 in several defensive categories, the 2009 ASU Defense also was one of the top teams in the nation to force opposing offensives into three-and-out possessions. The Sun Devils averaged 3.75 three-and-outs a game, for a total of 45 in their 12 contests.

Push `Em Back, Push `Em Back,: In 2009, the Sun Devil defense routinely made tackles for loss or for no gain. The defense finished 2009 with 120 plays that went for negative or no yards, totaling 292 yards lost for the offense. The Sun Devils were a negative play machine against Washington State on October 10, recording 26 Cougar plays to go for a loss or for no gain.

Youth is Served: Arizona State fielded one of the youngest rosters in the nation during the 2009 season. The Sun Devils featured 23 student--athletes on their depth chart who were sophomore eligibility or younger in 2009. Of those, 17 made at least one start. Last season, eight true freshmen saw action for the Sun Devils, following the 2008 season when a school-record 10 played.

Making an Impact: When linebacker Vontaze Burfict arrived in Tempe, he brought with him a lot of hype and promise. Burfict delivered on the promises during his freshman season, taking over starting middle linebacker duties in week four and never relinquishing them. Burfict finished second on the team in tackles in 2009, recording 69, including seven for loss and two sacks. He also broke up five passes, forced two fumbles and recovered two more. With a performance like that, it is no wonder that Burfict's trophy case filled up quickly. He was named the Pac-10's Defensive Freshman of the Year by a vote of Pac-10 head coaches. Burfict also earned Freshman All-American honors from, and the Football Writer's Association of America. He was also named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team by The Sporting News.

Start Us Up: 18 Sun Devils made their first career starts in 2009, 14 of which return to the Sun Devils in 2010. QBs Samson Szakacsy and Brock Osweiler, WRs Jamal Miles, Gerell Robinson, T.J. Simpson, RB Cameron Marshall and OLs Andrew Sampson and Matt Hustad make up the offensive players who made their first starts last season. On the defensive side of the ball, LBs Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Magee, DLs James Brooks, William Sutton and Dean DeLeone and CB Deveron Carr all saw their first starting action in 2009. Of those making their first starts last year, Osweiler, Miles, Marshall, Sutton and Burfict were all true freshmen.

Triggermen: Entering the 2010 season, the Sun Devils will have three quarterbacks who have seen FBS game action. Junior Samson Szakacsy played in five games last season, starting two. He threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns on 32-50 passing with one interception. Brock Osweiler saw action in six games, starting one. He went 24-55 with two interceptions and two touchdowns and 249 passing yards. Starting against Portland State will be Steven Threet, who transferred to Arizona State from Michigan and sat out the 2009 season. He played in 11 games for the Wolverines in 2008, starting eight. He was 102-200 for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns against seven interceptions. He was the starting QB when the Wolverines upset #9 Wisconsin in 2008.

Boot It: A pleasant surprise for the Sun Devils last season was the play of punter Trevor Hankins. The former walk-on was the top punter in the Pac-10 conference, averaging 44.2 yards per boot. He punted 69 times in 2009, landing 21 inside the opponents 20 yard line. 12 of his punts were fair caught by opponents and seven went for touchbacks. He blasted 18 punts over 50 yards, including five over 60 yards. His most impressive kick of the year was at Sanford Stadium in Georgia, when he hammered a ball 69 yards while standing in the back of his end zone in the driving rain. Hankins finished the 2009 season ranked number nine nationally in yards per punt.

Welcome to Tempe: Highly accomplished offensive mind Noel Mazzone will join the Sun Devil coaching staff in 2010 as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Mazzone comes to ASU from the New York Jets, where he spent the previous four seasons. From 2006 to 2008 he was the wide receivers coach before serving as the personnel consultant in 2009. No stranger to college football, Mazzone has over two decades experience on the collegiate level. He spent five seasons at Colorado State as the QB and receivers coach, before moving on to Minnesota (four seasons) and TCU (three seasons) as the QB coach. He was named the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss in 1994, coaching there through the 1998 season, before following head coach Tommy Tuberville to Auburn from 1999 to 2001. Mazzone coached under Dennis Erickson in 2002 at Oregon State before joining the North Carolina State staff as offensive coordinator from 2003 to 2004. He returned to Ole Miss as the offensive coordinator in 2005 before joining the Jets organization. Former Washington State University star and NFL player Steve Broussard joins the staff as wide receivers coach. Broussard comes to ASU after having served as the running backs and special teams coach at his alma mater, Washington State University. He joined the Cougar staff in 2007, where he coached running backs for the last three years. Before his time with the Cougars, Broussard coached running backs and wide receivers at Portland State University from 2004 to 2006. During the 2004 season, the team led the Big Sky conference in rushing, averaging 204.4 yards per game. Previously, he served as the offensive coordinator for Diamond Ranch High School in 2001, before being named head coach in 2002. Broussard began his coaching career at Don Lugo High in Chino, Calif. as the offensive coordinator in 2000. Prior to his coaching career, Broussard played both college and professional football. Starting his professional career with the Atlanta Falcons, Broussard rushed for 1,472 yards, caught 48 passes and scored 12 touchdowns in four years. His best season with the Falcons was his rookie year when he played in 13 games, rushed for 454 yards and scored four touchdowns. Former graduate assistant Trent Bray begins his first year as Linebackers Coach. Bray will assume the full-time role of coaching the ASU linebackers, a task he is no stranger to as he served as graduate assistant for the linebackers/defense in 2007 and 2008. Bray enjoyed a stellar playing career at Oregon State University. A member of Dennis Erickson's 2001 signing class, Bray was a standout linebacker for the Beavers from 2002-2005, staring 34 of 49 career games. At 27 years of age, Bray is the youngest full-time assistant coach in the Pac-10 conference. He will turn 28 at the end of September.

Senior Class: ASU has just 12 seniors on its roster this year, its fewest since the 1985 squad had just 10, which was the year prior to ASU winning the Pac-10 title and the Rose Bowl. ASU's 2007 Pac-10 title team had 27 seniors, while its 1996 undefeated regular season and Pac-10 title squad had 22. The 1986 Pac-10 and Rose Bowl champion team had 18. The 2010 and 1985 Sun Devils are the only ASU teams to have a dozen or fewer seniors in the past 35 seasons (1976-2010). How odd is it to only have 12 seniors? Digest this...the St. John's BASKETBALL team is scheduled to have nine this year. The 12 is the smallest senior class in the Pac-10.

Welcome Additions: Arizona State will be adding two players to the 2010 team who already have plenty of FBS experience. Transfers Steven Threet (QB) and Aaron Pflugrad (WR) are eligible to play in 2010 after sitting out the 2009 season. Threet started eight games at quarterback for Michigan in 2008, while Pflugrad played two seasons at Oregon. Pflugrad made 23 receptions for 247 yards and a touchdown in his 23 games over two seasons for the Ducks. He also returned punts for Oregon. His father Robin, who is a former Sun Devil assistant coach, was named the head coach at Montana over the offseason.

Weber Looks to Cement His Legacy: After an injury-plagued 2009 season that never saw him recover from an early season hip injury, kicker Thomas Weber looks to cement his legacy in the ASU record books during his senior season. The Downey, Calif. product has been stellar throughout his Sun Devil career, connecting on 51-61 (84%) field goal attempts. He made 43 field goals during his first two seasons in Maroon and Gold, the most ever by a Sun Devil kicker over the first two years of his career. He broke the record held by Luis Zendejas, who had 40 field goals in his first two seasons. The winner of the 2007 Lou Groza Award, presented annually to the nation's top placekicker, a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press and a First-Team All-Pac-10 honoree, Weber was sensationally consistent during his freshman season, connecting on 24-of-25 field goals (96.0 pct.), with a long of 53 yards. A three-time Pac-10 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week in 2007, Weber set numerous Sun Devil records in only his first college season, including a record streak of 17 made field goal attempts to begin the year (also a nation-leading streak for the season) and a nation-high accuracy rating. Weber ranked first in the Pac-10, fifth in the nation and tied the Sun Devil single-season record for points by kicking (118) set by Mike Barth as a senior in 2002, while also placing sixth in the country with 1.85 made field goals per game. A sharpshooter off the kicking tee and in the classroom, Weber has earned Academic All-Pac-10 honors three times, earning First Team in 2007, Second Team in 2008 and honorable mention last year. Weber has scored 247 points in his ASU career, good for fourth most in school history. He is one field goal shy of second place all-time in school history.

Extra Time: Wide Receiver Brandon Smith was granted an extra year of eligibility for 2010 after missing all of 2009 with a knee injury. The 6-2 senior has played in one game over the past three seasons, battling injuries off and on throughout his ASU career. In 2006 he played in 11 games, making six catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Cornerback Omar Bolden was also granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing the majority of last season with an injury. Bolden returned the opening kickoff of the game against ULM 89 yards for a touchdown, but suffered an injury on the return and was severely limited over the next two games before shutting it down for the season. He will enter 2010 as a junior with two seasons left to play.

Home Sweet Home: Arizona State has won 246 games at Sun Devil Stadium, four shy of 250. The Sun Devils hold an all-time mark of 246-87-3 (.737) at Sun Devil Stadium since it opened in 1958.

Winning Tradition: Since 1950, Arizona State football has the 14th-highest winning percentage among FBS schools. Over the past 59 years, ASU has a 437-224-8 record for a winning percentage of .659. Ohio State is the national leader with a .758 winning percentage.

Great Success: Fourth-year head coach Dennis Erickson has a career record of 167-83-1, including two National Championships, for a winning percentage of .667 over his 21 years as an FBS head coach. That's sixth among active coaches with at least 10 years experience at a school in FBS. Bob Stoops is the national leader with a .801 winning percentage in 11 years at Oklahoma.

Hall of Fame: Pat Tillman has been selected to the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Hall's Class of 2010. Tillman now joins former Sun Devil coaches Dan Devine, Frank Kush and John Cooper and student-athletes defensive back Mike Haynes, wide receiver John Jefferson, offensive lineman Randall McDaniel, linebacker Ron Pritchard and quarterback Danny White as representatives of Arizona State University in the College Football Hall of Fame. In all, ASU has nine former football coaches or student-athletes in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Experience: Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray and Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone boast a combined 67 years of both college and pro coaching experience, the fifth most experienced coaching duo in the nation.