Throughout Arizona State's first spring practice, media members and casual fans speculated about the significance of junior Steven Threet begin given all the first-team reps at quarterback, with sophomore Brock Osweiler playing the role of back-up exclusively. Turns out there was a rather simple, non-sinister explanation.
Threet won a coin toss.
"That's the fairest way to decide [who gets the nod on Day 1]," Threet said following the session. "I'm more of a heads guy and Brock likes tails and so they flipped it and heads came up."
Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said he isn't particularly concerned with setting any type of timetable for determining a starter.
"We're just going to let them both go," Erickson said. "We flipped a coin this afternoon to see who was going to be with the ones and then we'll switch it tomorrow. That's just kind of how we're doing it until somebody emerges. I just want to see both get better and we'll go from there."
Threet threw the ball more accurately on the day but Osweiler displayed some subtle but noticeable mechanical improvements that should yield improved results over time.
Osweiler is holding the ball higher and getting it back to his release point quicker and more consistently as a result, which has led to improved velocity and a more reliable ball, especially when throwing across his body, which was an issue at times last year.
There were a number of overthrown balls and timing issues observed Tuesday, but anything other than that would be unexpected considering it's the first official workout with a new offensive system in place. And even so, the quarterbacks appear to be very much in the good graces of their receiving corps, including newcomer George Bell, a lanky, athletic junior.
"I love both of those guys, both of those guys are like my brothers," Bell said. "Threet is a real cool guy. I love Brock. It's going to be up for grabs, that's going to be a tough competition. That's going to be hard for the coaches to decide because they both do everything so right. Every pass is on the money, just everything is perfect with those guys. It's going to be tough for the coaches."
Erickson and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will certainly have a large volume of throws on film upon which to eventually make an educated opinion about which player should be named the starter. The tempo of Tuesday's workout was shockingly brisk for an opening spring session, particularly when compared against the pace of a typical practice last season.
All told, there were perhaps twice as many throws made during the session when compared with a similar practice last season, and there were even two segments of practice with officials utilized, something almost unheard of in recent years.
"That's a fast paced practice," Erickson said. "Offensively that's what we're going to do, that's how it's going to be every day. That's the style we want to have. For the first day I thought it went pretty well. A lot of things were new ands the pace of everything, guys will get in shape, I promise you that."
Osweiler said that while it was clear there is much to work on -- there were no fewer than four interceptions in team segments of the practice -- the team started from a good position and there is confidence the system and coaching guidance will pay dividends sooner than later.
"As an offensive team we brought a ton of energy today," Osweiler said. "We played at a very fast tempo and that's what we've got to do. Now we've just need to go look at the film tonight, slow things down a little, complete more passes, read our keys a little big better. But you know what it's day one, we can only get better and you've got to start somewhere."
Mazzone's influence permeated every aspect of the session. From his booming voice to the jogging across fields in between periods, to the targeted, specific corrections made to quarterbacks and receivers alike following repetitions, he was heavily involved at every turn.
"There's some mechanical things even just today in practice," Threet said. "It's tough to do that when you're trying to run the offense and stuff but it gives us something to work on during the individual periods."
While the offense couldn't be described as sharp, Erickson said they are establishing an identify via their rhythm and the expectation is that will eventually contribute to improved results.
"There's a lot of things they did well because it's new," Erickson said. "We've got to become more accurate throwing the football, there is no question about that, make better decisions. But just seeing that stuff for the first time I thought they did some awfully good things and we'll get better and better at it all the time."