Familiar face is ahead of the Pac again

first_imgAlthough his nomadic career has earned him a reputation as the Larry Brown of football coaches, there is a decent chance this will be Erickson’s final stop on the coaching merry-go-round. At 60, he’s done with the NFL and it’s hard to imagine a better chance for him to have national success than ASU. In a conference that has as many great coaches as any in the nation, the addition of Erickson may swing the pendulum in the Pac-10’s favor. USC’s Pete Carroll, Oregon’s Mike Bellotti and now Erickson give the Pac-10 an unmatched threesome. Erickson did it all in a perfect environment for national success (Miami), but he’s also won big at WSU and Oregon State, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it in Tempe, Ariz. “Of all the moves I’ve made, leaving Oregon State (for the 49ers) was the worst,” Erickson said in the spring. “That was stupid. … “I sure hope (this is it). I’m 60 years old and this is a great school, great university, great place to live. … This is really going to be fun because this is a great opportunity to have success.” As critical as Erickson is to Arizona State, it’s just as important that he brought with him, virtually intact, his longtime coaching staff. All but one of Erickson’s nine ASU assistant coaches have been with him before, including offensive and defensive coordinators Rich Olson and Craig Bray. That, as much as anything, explains Erickson’s immediate impact on an ASU team that has talent but hadn’t quite gotten over the hump under Dirk Koetter (7-6, 4-5 in 2006, 40-34 in six seasons). It also helps that the coaching staff inherited a junior quarterback (Rudy Carpenter) who is among the Pac-10’s best and most experienced passers. At this point, however, Erickson has only proven what everybody already knew – that’s he’s a personable and great coach who knows how to win wherever he goes (at the college level). We’ll find out in the next month if this is the year he wins his third Pac-10 and second national coach of the year award. “We know who we play this week. Cal is as good as anybody in the country,” Erickson said Tuesday. “We didn’t know what was going to happen the first seven weeks, but now we play four teams ranked in the top 20. It obviously wakes you up. “It’s an exciting time for us. To have a nationally prominent team coming in, we’re getting more attention than we’ve gotten in a long period of time. “We know how good Cal is. Believe me, Cal has our attention.” Then again, the Sun Devils have the Bears’ attention as well. Don’t be surprised if the Sun Devils hang in there over the next month, perhaps winning three of their next four. Erickson knows how to play a hot hand. Just get it right: Instant replay is a good thing, overall, but tweaks are still necessary. The biggest involves the need to enforce time limits on how long an official can have to overrule a call on the field, but another became obvious over the weekend. Big East Conference leader Mike Tranghese took an extraordinary step when he called Louisville to apologize for a blown call that contributed to the Cardinals’ 21-17 loss at Connecticut. The officials missed an obvious fair-catch signal by Larry Taylor, who took off running and returned a punt 74 yards primarily because a number of Cardinals saw the signal and stopped covering the punt. Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe erupted after the non-call, but under the rules the officials could not use instant replay because fair-catch signals are not reviewable. Tranghese told Louisville the officials “made a horrible mistake,” but “the bad part is I can’t change the call.” Tranghese wants that subjective call to come under instant replay. He’s right. Just as where a receiver’s foot lands after a potential catch is reviewable, a player’s fair-catch signal should be reviewable as well. Some things should not be reviewable. You can’t stop every play to see if someone was holding, as an example, but this is a clear example of something that could be looked at quickly. “We want to get the play right,” Tranghese said. Amen to that. Who’s on first? With the season a little more than half over, it’s amazing how little has been decided from a national perspective. The number of national championship contenders and Heisman Trophy candidates has been whittled to some degree, but it’s truly still wide open heading into the final weekend in October. Although No. 1 Ohio State has a lock on a BCS title-game appearance if it keeps winning in the soft Big Ten, it’s hard to imagine Boston College (7-0) and Arizona State surviving their toughest tests without at least one loss apiece. Assuming Boston College falls tonight to No. 8 Virginia Tech (yes, that’s my prediction), there will be at least a dozen teams that can say they’re still in the national championship hunt. Yes, that list includes BCS No. 12 USC and No. 5 Oregon from the Pac-10, as well as No. 3 LSU, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7 West Virginia and No.9 Kansas (7-0). On the Heisman front, Florida’s athletic, left-handed quarterback Tim Tebow is the front-runner and my personal favorite to win it all, but any top-five list is as fragile as a straw house in a hurricane. “My top three seems to change every week,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told The Associated Press this week. “I’ve never seen a race this wide open so late in the year.” In a poll of 23 Heisman voters conducted by AP this week, Tebow received 12 first-place votes and 47 points (based on a 3-2-1 system). Boston College QB Matt Ryan was second (27 points), Kentucky QB Andre Woodson was third (22), Michigan running back Mike Hart was fourth (16) and Oregon QB Dennis Dixon was fifth (14 ). [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Erickson’s 18-year college coaching career started in 1982 at Idaho, and included stints at Washington State (1987-88) and Oregon State (1999-2002) sandwiched around national championship seasons at Miami (1989, ’91). After his second unsuccessful foray into the NFL (Seattle and then San Francisco) he returned to Idaho for one season (2006) before unexpectedly taking the Arizona State job. “I was looking at the press guide before I came in,” Erickson said. “I was reading my biography and it started to look like an obituary.” Funny, but not true. Erickson’s coaching career is far from dead. In fact, at this very moment, it’s never been more alive. The previously unheralded Sun Devils are 7-0 and ranked fourth in the BCS, with a real chance to play for a national championship if they can defy the odds and continue to win. That is highly unlikely, of course, given that the heart of the Sun Devils’ schedule still includes AP’s No. 18 Cal, No. 5 Oregon, UCLA (at the Rose Bowl) and No. 9 USC, but Erickson has done all he can do to this point for his third Pac-10 school. Erickson has been Pac-10 Coach of the Year once at each of his previous two schools – both of which are among the toughest places to win in the conference – so why not a third time? The only surprise, really, will be if it comes this year before Erickson’s ability to recruit has even had an impact in the desert. It was d j vu all over again. The occasion was Pac-10 Media Day, and there was Coach Dennis Erickson striding to the podium. Again. There was Dennis Erickson striding to the podium representing a new Pac-10 school. Again. And again. “I already know two (Pac-10) fight songs,” Erickson said with a smile, “and I’m about to learn a third here.” last_img read more