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March 10, 2010

Triple Threet: Third time could be charm

RELATED: Mazzone asked to breathe life into Sun Devils offense

An Arizona State offense that for two seasons has had difficulty moving may turn to a quarterback for whom moving isn't a problem.

Steven Threet has been a part of three programs, in three conferences. He's finally found a home in Tempe, Ariz., and this spring will vie with Samson Szakacsy and Brock Osweiler in what figures to be one of the country's most intense quarterback competitions.

"I think it's going to be good," Threet said. "We're all good friends and work out together. We all understand it's a competition and everybody wants to play. We're all competitors. I'm excited to get back on the field to practice and have something at stake."

Sun Devils followers will be excited if the offense starts showing signs of life.

Last season, Arizona State averaged 22.3 points per game. Subtract a 50-3 blowout win over FCS member Idaho State and a 38-14 victory over Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Monroe, and the Sun Devils' scoring average fell to 18.0 points per game.

The Sun Devils used three quarterbacks -- Danny Sullivan, who has completed his eligibility, Szakacsy and Osweiler. Neither Szakacsy nor Osweiler played well enough to be entrenched as the starter going into the spring.

With the arrival of new coordinator Noel Mazzone, the strong-armed Threet feels he'll finally be in an offensive system that fits his skills. Mazzone favors a pro-style offense with elements of the spread mixed in.

"I really like Steven Threet," Mazzone said. "He's a big guy who has all of the tools to be successful. But it will be a competition. We have some guys back who have played and are talented."

Pac-10 QB competitions
Arizona State's quarterback battle isn't the only one that bears watching in the Pac-10.
California: Incumbent starter Kevin Riley has struggled and will have to stave off challenges from Beau Sweeney and others.

Oregon State: With Lyle Moevao denied a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Virginia transfer Peter Lalich and sophomore Ryan Katz will battle to lead the Beavers.

Obviously, with three guys competing for one job, nothing is assured. But Threet is confident his skills are suited for Mazzone's system.

"I'm very excited about the offense he's planning on running. It fits me and the other quarterbacks very well. I have a chance to be successful," Threet said. "It plays to the strengths I have as a quarterback. I'm more of a pro-style quarterback. I can throw the ball and do a lot of the things mentally, like reading the defense really well and get the offense in the right play if protection needs to be changed."

Threet knows all about change. His career has changed course a few times since he was a four-star prospect at Adrian (Mich.) High as a high school senior in 2006. He signed with Georgia Tech and enrolled early, in January 2007.

"Coming out of high school, I assumed I'd go to Georgia Tech and spend my college career in Atlanta," Threet said. "Situations changed. I absolutely love it here and couldn't be in a better place."

Soon after Threet enrolled at Georgia Tech, coordinator Patrick Nix left to take the same position at Miami. So, after Tech's 2007 spring practice, Threet opted to transfer to Michigan and sit out a redshirt year while waiting to play for coach Lloyd Carr, whose pro-style offense seemed a good fit.

But Carr retired after the '07 season and was replaced by Rich Rodriguez, whose version of the spread at West Virginia had been one of the most productive in the country. One quarterback that Carr recruited -- Ryan Mallett -- realized he wasn't made for Rodriguez's system and transferred to Arkansas. Threet stayed on to direct the Wolverines' offense in 2008, but it soon became obvious he was a 6-foot-5, 228-pound square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

He passed for 1,105 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight starts as Michigan skidded to a historically inept 3-9 finish. He asked for his release from Michigan in February 2009 and considered Oregon State before deciding to transfer to Arizona State.

Although his brief stay as Michigan was hardly productive, Threet said the experience will help.

"It's still game experience," he said. "I've felt the heat from 100,000 fans on the road. When you've been in situations like that, it's always easier in the future. Playing in hostile environments at Notre Dame, Penn State and places like that sets me up for an opportunity to be successful."

Sound quarterback play is the starting point for a successful offense, but Arizona State's problems extend beyond that position. Still, after a year of watching, Threet says he's seen indicators that Arizona State's offense can make dramatic improvement.

"I think overall as an offensive unit we just need more consistency in our execution," he said. "It usually takes all 11 people for plays to work and to get in the end zone. We need everybody to be consistent and execute on each play.

"We feel we have the players to be very successful on the field. I think it's just about putting in the work in the offseason."

Of course, quarterbacks are always optimistic, especially in February. But maybe Threet will be just what Arizona State needs to get the offense moving.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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