Thursday night primer

A breakdown of what scouts will be looking for in tonight’s Arizona-Arizona State matchup.

What to watch for…

He’s got to create havoc inside
We know the Arizona offense has the ability to be dynamic at times in the pass game and if you give QB Nick Foles time to set his feet, he has the skill set to make just about any throw with ease. Therefore, the play of junior defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is key up front. Guy possesses a strong, long frame with the first step, flexibility and power to free himself inside, fend off blocks and make his way up the field. He has made some big plays this season, especially down near the goal line when he knows what’s coming, but with only 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks he still needs to do a better job reading his run/pass keys and finding the football at a more consistent rate. The talent is there, but being able to take his game to the next level depends 100 percent on his ability to become a more instinctive player up front, which is the main aspect of his game I will be watching in this one.

FolesICONFoles has displayed a lot of grit playing through pain in recent weeks.

Getting his mojo back, but still not ready for the NFL
Speaking of Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, he’s thrown for over 1,000 yards during his past three games and has tossed seven touchdowns compared to only two interceptions during that span as well. Simply put, the guy can spin the football. And when he has time to set his feet, his combination of arm strength, accuracy and anticipation allows him to make just about any throw on the field. However, he still is really only comfortable scanning one side of the field and rarely is able to work his full progressions. Now, I love the kid’s toughness, as he’s playing through pain after dislocating his kneecap back in October and he seems like the kind of guy his teammates really seem to rally around. However, in the best interest of him, I think he would be smart to come back to school for another year, further develop mentally in the offense and then make a run at a lofty pick in the 2012 NFL draft as one of the nation’s top senior quarterbacks.

Can they make him move his feet?
With the fact that Foles is not the most fleet-footed of quarterbacks to begin with and that he is still nursing a sore kneecap, do the Sun Devils have the ability to create pressure off the edge if Guy is getting a good push inside? Arizona possesses a massive offensive line, led by senior left tackle Adam Grant, who is a big, strong kid with some power in his upper body when he can lock onto defenders at the point of attack. However, he struggles to keep his base down through contact, doesn’t gain much leverage in the run game and has a tough time reaching speed off the edge. Therefore, can the Sun Devils’ undersized pass rushing specialist freshman Junior Onyeali add to his 5.5 sacks on the year and give Grant some trouble off the edge? At only 5-11 and 235 pounds, he lacks the size to hold up at the point of attack, but is the one guy who has the ability to create consistent pressure around the corner and force Foles to either get rid of the ball early or step up into the pocket where Arizona State is hoping he meets up with Guy inside.

ElmoreICONElmore knows how to make his way into the backfield.

No shortage of pass rushers on the other side of the ball
Arizona, on the other hand, features one of the better tandems of defensive end prospects in the nation with Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. Reed is the more explosive of the two as he displays the ability to consistently fire off the football low, threaten the edge off the snap and plays with a motor that runs nonstop. However, he’s a bit of a linear guy, doesn’t showcase the ability to cleanly redirect and isn’t real comfortable when asked to use his arms/hands to shed blocks cleanly. Elmore, on the other hand, is the much more coordinated pass rusher of the two. He showcases the ability to use his length to fend off blocks, has the ability to keep his pad level down and generate some leverage for himself on contact, and his combination of power, length and suddenness makes him tough to block through the play. However, unlike Reed, Elmore doesn’t have the same kind of initial burst to consistently reach the edge and threaten tackles around the corner. But the two seem to complement each other very well and with both prospects possessing high running motors, staying out of third and long situations is key, because these two love to pin their ears back, get after the quarterback and they both do it very well.

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