Huskies Insider Blog

Burfict 'butt? Huskies well aware of ASU linebacker's antics

Vontaze Burfict still has crazy anger issues.

He shows horrible judgment – enough where it often hurts his Arizona State football team.

And he's blessed with an inordinate amount of talent at linebacker.

It's a mystery when Burfict will take the field Saturday when the Sun Devils play the Huskies a visit for Pacific-10 Conference action.

After intentionally head-butting Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz after a play had ended in the second half of the game Saturday afternoon in Corvallis – and dismissing sideline counsel from assistant coaches afterward – ASU coach Dennis Erickson announced Tuesday that Burfict will not start against the UW.

"What (Burfict) did was ridiculous," said Trent Bray, the Sun Devils linebackers coach.

UW coach Steve Sarkisian is convinced Burfict will see more action on the field than sitting on the sideline.

"He's going to play," said Sarkisian, chuckling out-loud as an obvious sign that the ASU defense needs his play-making prowess out there. "Seriously, he's going to play."

The UW is cognizant of Burfict's rough-and-tumble antics. In last year's matchup in Tempe, Ariz., Burfict was whistled for three personal-foul penalties, got into a nose-to-nose encounter with Huskies left tackle Senio Kelemete and appeared to deliver a cheap-shot forearm to the head of UW receiver James Johnson after Chris Polk's 23-yard touchdown scamper in the second half.

That is why Sarkisian laughed when asked if he was going to warn his own quarterbacks about the possibility of getting head-butted, too.

"We took a head-butt last year from him, so we don't need to warn them," the second-year coach said. "(Jake Locker) already knows. We've got 15 (yards) for head-butt last year from the guy."

And the topic of Burfict came up early this week around Montlake.

"I don't think you can ignore him. If you get caught up playing his game, that's what he wants," Sarkisian said. "You get back in the huddle and go make your plays.

"I just think, for the integrity of the game, let's play the game. The stuff between whistles – 'C'mon, get back in the huddle and play.'"

Other stuff Wednesday:

• The flu bug is slowly going around the team. Starting left guard Erik Kohler has it, and was not at practice Wednesday (Gregory Christine took most of the No. 1 snaps). His status for Saturday is up-in-the-air.

"We got to assess it here. It's Wednesday," Sarkisian said. "We've got quite a bit of time until kickoff. We'll see."

• Fullback Zach Fogerson hurt his arm after a collision in the early stages of live action. He came to the sideline, immediately has his left hand wrapped and was taken off the field for X-rays, which came back negative for any broken bones.

• Tight end Michael Hartivgson (left shoulder) was unable to do any contact stuff Wednesday – a day after dinging up his shoulder. Sarkisian said it's become so inflamed, the true freshman cannot stand any pressure on it.

• Again, running back Johri Fogerson (upper leg) was a spectator Wednesday. He is doubtful to even be in uniform, and unlikely to play against ASU.

• Once again, the topic of receiver James Johnson came up. Johnson got in for eight offensive snaps Saturday at USC. Sarkisian said for the time being, best-case scenario, the sophomore will play anywhere between 15 to 25 plays in a game.

"It's hard to beat out the other two guys; they're playing at a high level. I don't want to just completely demote Cody Bruns and D'Andre Goodwin; they're playing well, too," Sarkisian said. "We're fortunate that we've got five receivers that can play a lot. It's unfortunate for us, too, we haven't been able to get Jordan Polk on the field the way I'd like to. It's challenging when you that many good receivers."

Asked if he trusts Goodwin and Bruns more right now that Johnson, Sarkisian responded, "I would say so, just because of the live bullets this year, and them playing and doing the things they're doing – not that I don't trust James."

• Another trend unlikely to change in the near future is the tight ends' presence in the passing game. Starter Chris Izbick, and reserves Marlion Barnett and Hartvigson have combined for five receptions, 41 yards and a touchdown in four games this season.

"We're fortunate right now that we've got a really deep receiving corps, and we've got two running backs that can catch the ball extremely well," Sarkisian said. "The pecking order of it all, they're not as high on the list as maybe they've been at other times in our system."

• Dan Cozzetto has been an offensive line coach under Erickson at four different stops, including ASU in 2008.

Last season, the Sun Devils ranked 90th in the country in total offense – bad enough that Erickson sought a makeover, and hired Noel Mazzone from the New York Jets to up the tempo. ASU now almost exclusively uses a no-huddle attack out of the shotgun.

"I'm sure it was (tough to change), but the game has changed a little bit," Cozzetto said. "When he became a head coach, he brought the three-step passing game that he acquired from Jack Elway that was acquired from a high school coach back in the 80s and late 70s when San Jose was putting up the numbers.

"He's open to change and looking for new ideas and football changes and he's trying to stay up with it."

• At his Monday press conference, Sarkisian admitted that many, including guys on his offensive coaching staff, were stunned that the coach called a shotgun pass play for backup quarterback Keith Price on third-and-goal early in the fourth quarter Saturday against USC.

Price connected with Izbicki on a 1-yard touchdown pass.

When UW offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was asked if he was on board with the call, his eyes got big. He curled his lip.

"Beautiful, man," Nussmeier said.

Didn't try and talk the boss into something more conservative?

"No, it was good," Nussmeier said. "That's awesome."

Awesome in hindsight?

"That’s right. It’s awesome when it works," Nussmeier said.

Translation: Not the play Nussmeier would have called.