You can’t trade players in college football, but that’s kind of what happened for this week’s Arizona-Arizona State game. At least from the ASU side.
You know at least part of the story by now.
Nick Foles has looked good in cardinal and navy/photo courtesy Rick Faust, WildcatSportsReport.com
Nick Foles committed to Dick Koetter during his senior year at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. It was the fall of 2006. ASU fired Koetter after the 2006 season — less than a year after extending his contract — and in came Dennis Erickson.
Foles didn’t do anything drastic at first.
“I was a senior in high school, and I wanted to focus on my team in high school,” he said.
“I stayed with it for a while just because we were in the playoffs and I wanted to focus on that. I didn’t want to worry about the college part of it.”
The story goes that Erickson told the Foles family that he would be bringing in two quarterbacks — Foles and Chase Stangel (who transferred to NAU last summer). Then, near signing day, Erickson received a commitment from a third quarterback.
That would be Samson Szakacsy.
Hence the trade.
Foles’ journey has taken him from being committed to Arizona State to signing with Michigan State to transferring to Arizona to becoming the starting quarterback in the fourth game of the season to developing into one of the bright young passers in the Pac-10.
Szakacsy, who was unavailable early in the season because of an elbow injury, made his first career start for Arizona State last week. He is the likely starter this week, but Erickson wasn’t tipping his hand Tuesday.
Between Foles and Szakacsy, I’m pretty sure I know who I would want right now.
And for the next two seasons.
Foles kind of downplays the “ASU brought in another quarterback to the recruiting class” angle of his de-commit. He says when he discussed the decision with his parents after his high school season that ASU “just felt like it was not the best place for me.”
“It was nothing against him,” Foles added, talking about Erickson.
Erickson said Tuesday: “We tried to pursue him. He had a scholarship offer from us. We ended up with three committed quarterbacks in that class and he decided he didn’t want to come here.”
The Pac-10 is so convoluted, so close, that it’s not a stretch to say that just a slight change in quarterback play can make a huge difference in the record.
ASU’s defense is excellent but its quarterback play has been substandard all season. Its passing efficiency rating is 112.2, ahead of only woeful Washington State in the Pac-10. ASU has thrown 12 interceptions and has a completion percentage of 54.0, also the second-worst marks in the league.
Foles is third in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (a rating of 141.21) and has thrown for an average of 279 yards in seven starts, all against conference competition.
“Awfully, awfully good,” Erickson said about Foles on Monday. “He gets rid of the football as well as, and as quick as, anyone that I’ve seen. Very accurate.
“What they do offensively fits in perfectly. He’s had a heck of a year, obviously. When they made that change, it was a big change for them as far as moving the ball and all that. He’s a good player.”
If ASU had Foles instead of senior Danny Sullivan and true freshman Brock Osweiler and Szakacsy, might the Devils have won down-to-the-wire games at Georgia and against Cal and USC?
Without Foles, would Arizona instead have lost close games against Oregon State and Stanford?
Would the team that is 4-7 entering this week’s game be 7-4 instead?
Would the team that is 6-4 be 4-6?
That’s a lot of hypotheticals, but it all revolves around the axiom that it’s almost impossible to be a great team without a great quarterback.
Arizona has one that is at least pretty good. ASU, not so much.
“The thing about Nick is he is one of the most competitive people I have ever been around,” said Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “And I think that is what makes him good.”
Bring competitive means being in the football offices at 7 a.m. most mornings, beating some of the coaches in, to look at extra game tape.
“There is a thing my mom cut out when I was younger. It was something like, ‘Champions are made when no one is watching, not when people are watching,’” Foles said.
“Because it’s easy to go out there when people are there to see you work out and doing stuff. It’s when people don’t know you’re doing something that you really get good. That is something that I have always taken to heart.”
He’s a keeper. Arizona won’t be trading him back.
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