From a defensive standpoint, Oregon could be the most vulnerable unit Arizona State will play all season.
In terms of the Ducks’ rushing defense and passing defense, they rank 120th and 118th respectively in yards allowed and are allowing more total yards per game than any other team in the FBS.
For ASU, this is the type of defense that could play a vital role in helping a sputtering offense find its footing.
For starters, the Sun Devils biggest asset on offense is the strength of their rushing attack. Yet as of late, it’s been a struggle at best to find any sort of production on the ground. With starting quarterback Manny Wilkins officially ruled out for Saturday’s game against Oregon, the responsibility of commanding the offense will again fall on the shoulders of freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole.
In the eyes of his teammates, Sterling-Cole has the talent to help add another dynamic to the rushing attack given his ability to run.
Sophomore offensive lineman Zach Robertson reflected on some of the plays Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. was able to make on the ground against Oregon’s defense in the Huskers’ 35-32 victory over the Ducks on September 17.
Robertson feels as though Sterling-Cole could replicate some of Armstrong’s success, specifically on a certain QB draw that he took 34 yards for the eventually game winning touchdown over the Ducks.
“Draws are very good plays because they kind of spread the defense out and makes them think it’s pass,” Robertson said. “When you have a guy that can run or be physical and can get right down field, make a couple of cuts and make good plays or even get a touchdown like Armstrong. That one [the QB draw] is more of a scheme deal.
“I know he’s [Sterling-Cole] athletic, he’s got some speed. I would like to see him run around a little bit more and use his feet. I think that would definitely help our team just like Manny did.”
Now speaking of what Nebraska was able to do with its running backs, Robertson was shown Bryan Reimers finding some space behind his line in the third quarter. He described the play as a wide zone and the success of the play depending widely on the running back.
“[Wide zone] is just basically hats-on-hats,” Robertson said. “Getting people to the second level, getting the guys on the front line blocked. The wide zone is not really a play that we [the offensive line] make, it’s all about the running back. Our running backs have really good vision and are able to run full speed to the edge, stop on a dime and you know, cut up field.
“I think their [Oregon] guys on the front are, you know, they get off the ball, they’re physical, but they don’t shed blocks well all too well. I think that kind of holds them back from shedding a block and getting a tackle.”
Through the air, redshirt sophomore Jalen Harvey saw a lot to be excited about in the tape from Oregon’s 52-49 loss to Cal last weekend in northern California.
After watching Davis Webb’s first touchdown pass to Demetris Robertson in the first quarter, Harvey left with one impression – one-on-one match-ups might be the key to finding success against Oregon’s secondary.
“Coach [Chip] Lindsey has a good game plan throughout every week,” Harvey said. “But sometimes, you know, the players try and tell him what we see out there because we could get them on fades, any team on fade balls, especially in the red zone, because we’ve got players that can go up and get it. Sometimes, you know, they use their hands, but they mainly get called for P.I. [pass interference] down there. [I can] draw penalties, go up and grab it, all of that, all of that good stuff.”
After watching all of the touchdowns Oregon gave up through the air in that game, Harvey had an even better idea of the team’s tendency to make mistakes and how he can take advantage of that on Saturday.
“What I’m watching right now is a lot of busted coverages,” Harvey said.
Not only busted coverages that he can take advantage of, but also busted coverages that will make Sterling-Cole’s life just a little bit easier come Saturday.
In Harvey’s eyes, the freshman quarterback is prepared.
“I feel like he’s going to react well,” Harvey said. “Just letting the play progress, not be so much in a rush.”
The opportunities will be in front of the Sun Devils on Saturday, and they appear to know what it’s going to take to capitalize on them.
“I feel like everybody’s just got to be on the same page,” Harvey said. “[If we are], we’re going to get the same results as other teams have.”