Since Rudy Carpenter graduated after the 2008 season, the starting quarterback position at ASU has been a proverbial clown car -- many have tried to step into the spot, but few have succeeded.
Danny Sullivan led the team to a 4-8 record in 2009. A combination of Brock Osweiler and Samson Szakacsy was employed at several junctures during that miserable season, forcing the freshman out of Kalispell, Montana into duty before he was ready, wasting his redshirt in the process.
2010 brought the arrival of Steven Threet, but his impressive campaign was brought to an untimely end due to a severe concussion incurred against UCLA in late November.
The constant turmoil under center has been a large part of the Sun Devils' downward spiral since their 10-3 record in 2007. Fall camps rife with quarterback competitions failed to inspire the confidence of ASU fans, and it showed at the turnstiles over the past few years.
You can't blame it all on the quarterbacks, of course. The offensive style was vanilla, the offensive line was injury-prone and thin to begin with, and the lack of talent at the skill positions became more evident throughout the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Last year brought Deantre Lewis, Kyle Middlebrooks and Aaron Pflugrad, among others. The O-line developed chemistry and improved steadily. Noel Mazzone was hired as the offensive coordinator and has brandished flair since his arrival. All of these things amounted to incremental gains, but a 6-6 record has hidden the team's bigger success -- the confidence and swagger of the team.
In 2011, a clearer picture has emerged. Osweiler, now a junior, is confident, composed and mature. He handles the media well and has set high expectations for himself and the players around him.
Coach Erickson speaks highly of Osweiler's leadership qualities, and his teammates agree: Eddie Elder called him a "big time leader" at ASU media day, adding that "his actions speak louder than his words, and it shows on the field."
At 6'8", Osweiler has a huge frame and is an imposing figure to tackle when he scrambles out of the pocket. Despite the weight on his shoulders, he is willing to accept the challenge ahead -- make the Sun Devils into a Pac-12 championship contender. With just six days until the season kicks off, we're about to find out if it was worth the wait.