After a year of sitting on the sidelines watching, followed by a heated quarterback battle that lasted the better part of six months, Steven Threet breathed a sigh of relief this week.
A very small sigh, of course.
Addressing the media for the first time since being named Arizona State's starting quarterback, Threet said Tuesday that he appreciates the payoff for the work he's put in since arriving in Tempe. But the junior, playing at his third school, is clearly aware his work is far from over, especially with a capable backup in sophomore Brock Osweiler still pushing to start.
"I was definitely excited," Threet said of being told he'd won the job. "It was something I've been working hard for, but that's just an announcement. You've got to go out on the field and win football games now."
Coach Dennis Erickson said Monday that Osweiler will play in ASU's season opener Saturday against Portland State -- though the coach didn't specify a duration -- and while disappointed by the outcome of the competition, the Montana native said he will continue to compete as if it is still taking place.
"I'm just going to come out each day and continue to get better," Osweiler said. "I've got a lot of years left here, and we're going to have a good season."
Osweiler said he would be open to the possibility of redshirting at some point, but it is unclear if the coaching staff has such a plan on the horizon.
"If Coach feels [redshirting] is what I need to do this year, then I'm all for it," Osweiler said. "As long as we're winning games, I'm happy."
Threet wasn't always the frontrunner for the position, struggling early on to learn the new system -- the sixth scheme he's had to digest in the past three seasons, the quarterback said -- but he emerged as the favorite in the last two weeks after showing consistency coaches said they had been searching for since the start of camp.
"I think I played well the last two weeks just getting better in practice," Threet said. "Just correcting some of the mistakes I'd made in previous practices and not repeating mistakes. I definitely think I've improved a lot in the last two weeks."
As for his keys to his first start in maroon and gold?
"Just execute the offense, play the way I have in practice," Threet said. "Just do the things the coaches have decided they wanted me out there (to do). Just try to execute and not turn the ball over; just run the offense.
While Threet breathed his small sigh of relief Monday, Erickson and those around the program were exhaling on a grand scale Tuesday.
ASU received word before practice that junior offensive tackle Aderious Simmons has been cleared by the NCAA, making the mammoth lineman eligible for Saturday's opener.
"He's ready to go," Erickson said. "He's cleared and that's the most important thing. Now he can focus on school and getting ready to play, and that's big news."
The coach said Simmons will be used at both tackle positions against Portland State.
With injuries and the academic ineligibility of sopomore William Sutton putting a dent in the Sun Devils' depth at defensive tackle, some different formations have become more promient in practice of late.
It appears likely ASU will play more nickle defense with an extra defensive back, junior Eddie Elder, in the lineup and junior end Jamaar Jarrett moving inside from end to tackle.
"It's not a matter of whether I like it or not, it's what's good for the team right now and that's what's important," Jarrett said. "It gives us a different look and I think we can be pretty good with it."
ASU will also likely play more 3-4 defense with junior Lawrence Guy at nose tackle flanked by Jarrett and junior James Brooks.
There is even a formation with three down linemen and five defensive backs, with freshman Junior Onyeali playing the role of rush end who also drops into coverage at times.
Junior tackle Bo Moos will get extensive playing time and spent some action Tuesday with the first-team in certain formations.