Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We're Now on Fanster

Thanks to Blogspot for some great hosting over the past couple years.

However, this will be the last official post, as we've been invited to become the official ASU blog on Fanster.com.

If you get to us VIA the address http://www.pitchforknation.com/, you'll go there directly.

If you continue to get to us VIA our Blogspot address, please update your bookmarks to the address above.

Once again, there will be NO MORE UPDATES on this site. Everything will now be on Fanster, accessed through tier site (www.fanster.com) or our site (www.pitchforknation.com). Make sure your update your bookmarks....NOW!

All the same content, some new wrinkles and all the great people from Fanster.com behind us. Get at us there!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Today's Game: Which One's Prettier?


You decide.

No Glasser, Likely No Kuksiks Tonight

The story of the 2008 ASU football season was the multitude of injuries that racked the Devils throughout the year.

Now, the injury bug is hitting basketball.

Derek Glasser will not play tonight at Oregon State (6:30, FS Arizona) after suffering a neck injury Thursday night at Oregon.

Only a game after suffering a concussion in the 84-71 loss to Washington at WFA, Glasser and Joevan Catron collided, snapping Glasser's neck back and sending him to the floor in pain. 

Like I said earlier, I think it's a good idea to keep Glasser out and let him recover, especially with a head injury. The Devils would rather have him at full strength for this week's Thursday/Sunday set with UCLA and USC.

Rihards Kuksiks also missed the Oregon game while battling some sort of virus and apparently he's not better yet either. The Republic says he's "questionable."

With that, I imagine the starting lineup tonight in Corvallis will look like McMillan-Abbott-Shipp-Harden-Pendergraph, which is a major defensive issue. Shipp gives up four inches to Kuksiks on the defensive wing while McMillan often looks confused playing on top of the matchup zone.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Back On Track...?

Last night, the Arizona State Sun Devils played 20 good minutes of basketball and won a Pac-10 game.

Actually, let's backtrack.

James Harden took over in the 2nd half against an 0-9 Pac-10 team, regardless of where the game was being played, and ASU won a basketball game in which they were moribund in the 1st half and played in spurts in the 2nd.

Either way, the Devils won a game they should have at Mac Court yesterday, and there were good things to take from it, but concerns still surround this team as they head to Corvallis on Saturday.

There's no taking away from what James Harden did last night. There's obviously a reason we all complain and moan when the super sophomore plays hesitant basketball; we wonder why he doesn't take open shots early in games and such, and last night we saw what happens when James plays up to his potential.

The Sun Devils certainly didn't have their legs under them throughout the 1st half. They took ill-advised shots, passed poorly and turned the ball over throughout the first 20 minutes. With Rihards Kuksiks out with an illness and the shorter, less heady Jerren Shipp in his place on the wing, they left good shooters like Tajuan Porter wide open for shots from the perimeter and let Michael Dunigan dominate the paint off the bench. I couldn't help but sit and wonder if the Devils were actually putting themselves in the position of potentially losing to the woeful Ducks.

ASU was getting a steady dose of their own medicine, as coach Ernie Kent picked up on the Devils inability to be consistent from the field. His hybrid 3-2 zone frustrated the Sun Devils throughout the first frame and even held them scoreless for over 4 minutes.

Then Harden showed up.

With Jeff Pendergraph returning to his doldrums of taking poor fouls and spending key minutes riding the pine, Harden stepped up and nailed two key three-pointers to start the 2nd half and turn a precarious 5-point halftime lead into an 11-point cushion before the under-16:00 time out.

From there on, the story of the game was either James being able to hit from wherever he was on the floor. He drove the lane, owned the paint and nailed tear trop treys throughout the 2nd half.

He finally put this team on his back and carried the Devils to victory.

Scary moments late in the 2nd half occured when Derek Glasser obviously reaggravated a head injury and remained down on the floor for about 10 minutes after a collision. I will not be surprised if Glasser sits out tomorrow's game at Oregon State. That was a nasty looking shot; nothing illegal, just two players playing tenacious basketball; from Joevan Catron.

Regardless of his minor flaws and frustrations, Glasser is this team's best floor leader and he needs to be ready for the stretch run against the best the Pac-10 has to offer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

PFN Live Chat 2 On Its Way

Thanks to all of you that participated in last week's live chat. Sorry we couldn't get to everyone's question but I think that it was an unmitigated success for our first go around.

So, on that note, let's do it again!

Same bat time, same bat day, same bat channel. Next Tuesday night at 6:00 PM. Let's recap signing day and the weekend for the Devils in Oregon and other notes from around the Pac-10.

And maybe more XFL talk.

Until then, submit your questions and comments ahead of time to pitchforknation@gmail.com.

The Rich Get Richer at LB

A widely used axiom in pro sports dictates that getting a player back from an extended absence is just about as good as making a major deal for a player just before a trade deadline.

The difference here is that when you get a player back from injury or the such, you don't have to give anything up.

Such is the case today as Gerald Munns announced that he is returning to the Sun Devils.

Munns missed eight of the Devils final nine games last season due to undisclosed personal issues. He had a tremendous game in the win over Stanford in early September, garnering Pac-10 Defensive POTW honors. He also broke his pinky finger in that game, missed the loss to UNLV and then left the team.

This is what we had to say about Munns' injury and absence last October 1:

"We found out on Monday that Munns would miss the Cal game due to personal reasons, but now we find out this morning that those personal reasons will keep the starting linebacker out for the remainder of 2008.

We respect confidentiality obviously, but there's definitely curiosity around why Munns is gone for the year. He didn't play against UNLV due to pinky surgery and he, like most of his fellow linebackers, was completely ineffective against Georgia. But now, out of nowhere, he's gone for the year.

The only thing that we can hope for is that he gets his personal matters, whatever they are, in order for his own sake. Munns has a lot of raw talent and has the ability to be a very good defensive player."

I stand exactly by that. There's no real reason to press and dwell on why Gerald sat out the bulk of his junior season, but according to Dennis Erickson, "he's back to the old Munnsy;" at least that's what he told Jeff Metcalfe.

This announcement comes at a spectacular time as well; with Morris Wooten gone, ASU severely lacked a major playmaker in this second layer of the defensive front. Now Munns, Travis Goethel, Mike Nixon, Ryan McFoy and Vontaze Burfict are the nucleus of what could be a very good linebacking corps.

Talking Recruiting on The Fan

Earlier today, I did a guest spot on The Fan AM 1060 with Bob Kemp to talk about yesterday's National Signing Day and the 21-member Sun Devils 2009 signing class.

We hear from Dennis Erickson, talk about who could make an immediate impact for the Sun Devils and several of the other players that will play for the Maroon and Gold starting next season.

We'll have a more in-depth look tomorrow afternoon in the Podcast.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Afternoon LOI Update

Let's take a look at what ASU has done on National Signing Day so far, as were now 3 hours from the official ASU press conference.

-Regardless of what ESPNU might be ticking by...they still had him going to USC as of about an hour ago...Vontaze Burfict has signed. Now the legwork to get him eligible probably begins.

-As we talked about in the live blog last night, Burfict's teammate, DT William Sutton, also sent in his letter of intent. You can't do much about his height (6'1") but his size (265 lbs.) as a high school senior and still growing adds bulk to what's shaping up to be a dominating defensive line.

-Other teammates sending in their official LOI's are Saguaro's DT Corey Adams and OL Kody Koebensky (pictured, courtesy of AZCentral.com).

-After a whole lot of waffling over the past few weeks, Walnut Creek WR Diante Jackson shunned Arizona State and a previous verbal commitment to Colorado to sign with Oregon. His speed and athleticism will certainly fit in well with Mike Bellotti's offense.

-There's word floating out there that outside of the 20 LOI's the Sun Devils have received, there's still one player that they're waiting on a decision from. It's a feeling eerily reminiscent of the one we had while waiting for Omar Bolden to commit. Methinks this has to do with WR Randall Carroll, who still as of this second has not signed on the dotted line to his verbal commitment, USC.

-Out of all the commitments received today, Dean DeLeone, LeQuan Lewis, Brock Osweiler and Matt Tucker are all eligible for Spring Practice.

And It's Finally Official

Short and sweet:

Vontaze Burfict is a Sun Devil.

Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic says he has signed.

Te'o Shuns USC

In what is apparently coming as a major surprise to many national recruiting insiders (but didn't to us here at PFN, because we pretty much called it in last night's Live Chat), Hawai'i linebacker Manti Te'o just signed a LOI with Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Te'o is considered the top outside linebacker available in this year's recruiting class. Vontaze Burfict is the considered the top inside linebacker.

It's easily the biggest defensive recruit that Weis has landed in South Bend in his tenure there. And it's also something we always love to see at PFN: a giant stiffarm to the face of Troy.

It might be a blessing in disguise for USC though, as we mentioned last night, Te'o is on record saying that he wants to go on his 2-year Mormon mission once he turns 19, which will certainly take him away from Notre Dame pretty much right after his freshman season.

It Has Arrived

From my family to yours, I wish you a happy and healthy National Signing Day.

Remember to celebrate responsibly and never drink and drive.

Either way, I'm working all day today, so I'll try to keep up as much as possible with today's exploits, but I'll certainly come through with an update on ASU's class tonight after Dennis Erickson has his press conference at 4:30 PM.

The kids were obviously keeping an eye on today are Burfict, NorCal stud receiver Dionte Jackson (who has ASU in his final three after giving a soft verbal to Colorado) and WR Randall Carroll out of Los Angeles.

Until this afternoon, I'll tide you over here at PFN with some highlights of five-star linebacker Vontaze Burfict out of Corona, CA. We reported last night that he has committed to ASU after telling USC to buzz off.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

PFN Live Chat #1

And away we go. At 6:00, the floodgates open. If you've got a question, submit it in the box below. I'll make my best effort to answer any questions you've got. If all you've got is a pithy comment, send it too and I'll post it up.


The worst kept secret in West Coast recruiting finally is apparently official.

Michael Becker of the Riverside Press-Enterprise just reported that All-American linebacker Vontaze Burfict has chosen to play at Arizona State. He'll make the official announcement tomorrow.

According to Becker, a representative of Burfict called USC earlier today and informed the football office of his decision.

A lot of this decision will end up being due to academics, as Burfict's eligibility will without a doubt be called into question in the coming months.

Let's talk more about it. Live chat in 50 minutes. Be there.

Condi says No Thanks

In a random sidebar to today's ASU news (and tonight's LIVE BLOG/CHAT at 6:00 PM), we bring you the latest in Condoleezza Rice's post-cabinet career search.

GWB's Secretary of State, who has been linked to jobs in college football and even as a possible commissioner of the National Football League, was apparently a candidate to be outgoing Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen's successor.

Now, the Seattle Times says that it's not going to happen. Instead, Rice will become a teacher at Stanford University.

Hansen will retire on July 1 after 26 years (drunk) at the wheel of the Pacific-10 Conference, and it's going to take a strong willed commish to succeed Tom and fix some of the inane decisions he's made while at the helm.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Night Bits & Pieces

-Whatever confidence in LA that is left about Vontaze Burfict keeping his soft verbal commitment to Southern Cal has pretty much completely waned. Most of it, as expected, is related to the fact that Burfict's academics will prevent him from even being granted admission to USC, regardless of whether or not he's a five-star recruit. In his blog today, Scott Wolf says...

"I'd say it's about 70-30 in favor of ASU right now...he's worried about admission to USC...but there is a special admit program...so I'm not sure he's thinking clearly and might just be listening to his Centennial buddies at ASU."

Of course, the "Centennial buddies" he refers to are RB Ryan Bass, LB Shelley Lyons and LB Brandon Magee, who all also went to Centennial High School in Corona, CA. (Fun fact: OL Zach Schlink also went to Centennial...the one in Peoria, AZ though)

-Speaking of Los Angeles, the Trojans are the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to players getting invited to the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine. They're sending 12 of their players to Indianapolis for America's most glorified physical. The Sun Devils are sending four seniors to the combine: QB Rudy Carpenter, SS Troy Nolan, LB Morris Wooten and OG Paul Fanaika.

In my humble and usually accurate opinion, I think Fanaika and Nolan have the most pro upside and probably will be the only Sun Devils drafted this year. Fanaika's footwork and size make him appealing to scouts while Nolan's (usually) sure hands and good field awareness could make him a player at the pro level.

I'm slightly surprised that Mike Jones didn't get invited.

Here's a list of Pac-10 players making the trip with the players in italic being my pick as the team's best chances to make an impact in the NFL:

Arizona (2): WR Mike Thomas, OT Eben Britton
Arizona State (4): QB Rudy Carpenter, OG Paul Fanaika, LB Morris Wooten, SS Troy Nolan
California (6): TE Cameron Morrah, C Alex Mack, ILB Anthony Felder, ILB Worrell Williams, OLB Zach Follett, DE Rulon Davis
Oregon (7): WR Jaison Williams, RB Jeremiah Johnson, OT Fenuki Tupou, C Max Unger, DT Sonny Harris, CB Jarius Byrd, SS Patrick Chung
Oregon State (5): WR Sammie Stroughter, OT Andy Levitre, DE Victor Strong-Butler, CB Brandon Hughes, CB Keenan Lewis
Stanford (4): RB Anthony Kimble, C Alex Fletcher, DE Pannel Egboh, CB Wopamo Osaisai
UCLA (1): RB Kahlil Bell
USC (12): QB Mark Sanchez, WR Patrick Turner, DE Kyle Moore, DT Fili Moala, ILB Rey Maualuga, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Brian Cushing, OLB Kaluka Maiava, CB Kevin Ellison, CB Josh Pinkard, CB Cary Harris, KOS David Buehler
Washington (1): C Juan Garcia
Washington State (1): WR Brandon Gibson

Just for the record, USC is sending as many outside linebackers as ASU is sending players. Ouch.

-ASU track and field coaching legend Senon "Baldy" Castillo passed away Saturday at the age of 89. Castillo coached the men's team to the 1977 NCAA title and has a yearly meet, the Baldy Castillo Invitational, named after him. 

-Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devils will hold their annual National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday at 4:30.

A 24-Hour Reminder

The Weekend from Hell

SHAMLESS PLUG: Don't forget about tomorrow's PFN Live Chat, 6:00 PM right here at PitchforkNation.com. Be there!

The good news for Arizona State, at least today, is that Justin Dentmon left Tempe on Saturday night and he's never coming back.

The bad news is that, barring their early departures, Isaiah Thomas and Klay Thompson will be back. Three more times each.

An 84-71 loss on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena sunk the Sun Devils today from 14th in the nation to nearly out of the rankings. Our beloved Sun Devils now sit at #24 and #23 in the two major college basketball polls and most likely now sit about one loss away from the dreaded "receiving votes" category.

This weekend of basketball was an unmitigated disaster for Arizona State. It was disastrous for several reasons:

1) It resulted in a horrendous shift in the Pac-10 Standings. With UCLA's sweep of the Bay Area, they and Washington now sit tied atop the standings, two full games ahead of Arizona State. USC also manhandled California on Saturday night, moving them to 6-3. The Golden Bears and Sun Devils, both victims of an 0-for this weekend, are tied for 4th at 5-4...Cal of course having the tie-breaker with their head-to-head win...and both now sitting just one game ahead of the Arizona Wildcats. Speaking of the Cats...

2) The Devils lost to two teams that the Arizona Wildcats absolutely rolled. Washington's disgusting defense let the 'Cats put up 106 points on Thursday night. Two days later, Arizona trapped and pressured Washington State into mistake after mistake in the 2nd half as the Wildcats built up a double-digit lead midway through the 2nd half. They used this pressure to neutralize Klay Thompson; in effect, they did what the Devils should have been doing.

3) The Devils matchup zone is now in a state of disrespect. Tony Bennett said it himself after the game on Thursday: why should his Cougars run anything else other than perimeter shots from their outside gunners when he KNEW Arizona State wasn't able to throw anything at them defensively other than their zone? Complete defensive breakdowns in back to back games don't impress the Selection Committee. It then all happened again on Saturday when Dentmon and Thomas found themselves wide open nearly every time they wanted to take a long range shot. The Sun Devils looked tired, confused and frustrated throughout their loss to Washington...a foreign concept to me seeing as that even two years ago, when the Devils were the worst team in the Pac-10, that team even ran the zone better than this team did on Saturday.

4) Arizona State now only currently holds tiebreakers with one team ahead of them...and that's UCLA, who seems primed to take advantage of this ASU meltdown and start to run away with the conference again. The Devils have now lost to Washington, USC and California in the first go around, and if the Devils can't take advantage of their rematch, ASU will find itself in a very unfortunate situation if conference play continues to be as tight as it is right now.

5) Rihards Kuksiks' production has dropped from slim to none. You could tell early on in the WSU game that Rik has lost a ton of confidence in his long range shooting. When our favorite Latvian is not clicking, his shooting motion clearly changes. It goes from a quick, confident release to a slow, deliberative motion. To me, it gives him too much time to think about the shot, and it's what we saw out of him early in his career when I said, on this site, that I thought Kuksiks would be a transfer candidate. The goal is clear for Kuksiks: stop thinking and the shots will fall.

It's now or never for the Sun Devils. There are nine regular season games left for the Sun Devils and five of them are at Wells Fargo Arena. The two games coming up for the Devils in Oregon are, in my mind, must wins.

These games against Oregon State, who the Devils completely smoked last month, and 0-9 Oregon will give them chances to work out these kinks. The games could not be coming at a better time for a team whose confidence is obviously teetering on the brink. And they'd better get it in gear in those games, because visits from UCLA and USC the week after won't give them any chance to try and recover.

SHAMELESS PLUG (again): Let's talk about all of this more tomorrow in the Live Chat, right here at PitchforkNation.com at 6:00 PM.