“Like any decision in life some of them have a bitter sweetness to them,” Mazzone stated following Sunday’s practice. “The kids, the town here have all been awesome. Out of all the coaching stops I've had this has to be one of my favorites. I will always hold a special part in my heart for this town and for this program.
“It is going to be sad to move on, but I’m excited about that opportunity and also excited to finish the season with these kids and excited about the football game on Thursday.”
Aside from turning around a stagnant Arizona State offense since arriving in Tempe in 2010, Mazzone’s biggest achievement is undoubtedly molding junior Brock Osweiler into one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12.
“Out of all the kids I have been around and I had a chance to work with a few of them,” Mazzone said, “this guy has come very far in a short amount of time more than anyone else. From where he came from last year’s spring ball to this year’s is amazing I don’t mean just the physical part and his fundamentals, but just being a leader, understanding the offense and just how hard it has worked at it.
“He really embraced being the leader of this football team.”
Osweiler had no problems admitting that the outgoing offensive coordinator has had a significant impact on his development.
“Coach Mazzone is the coach who got me to where I am today,” Osweiler confessed. “Obviously you wouldn’t want anybody in that position to leave you, but that is part of the business. But I do know that coach Mazzone and myself will work together in the future again once I’m done at Arizona State.
“I’m just fortunate that he was here for the two years that he was and I was able to learn everything I did.”
The Sun Devil signal caller was also very complimentary of ASU’s current head coach, Dennis Erickson, who will lead the maroon and gold for the last time ever on Thursday, in a contest that may well be the last game in his long coaching career.
“Coach Erickson has been everything,” Osweiler stated. “He’s the man that has brought me to Arizona State. Obviously I want to send him on a winning note. He deserves that, he has earned that. He’s been a head coach, a father figure and I owe it to him to send him out in a positive way.”
Mazzone acknowledged that the entire group of Sun Devil signal callers are the best quarterbacks unit he has ever had in his 29 years of coaching.
“You never know about those guys until they win a game for you,” Mazzone explained, “but I think Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici have come a long way and really understand the system. We are really excited about Michael Eubank (who redshirted) because he brings a different flavor and style to the position, because of his athletic ability. They will be a fun group to coach.”
Preparing for challenging bowl game amid a coaching change is certainly a less than ideal situation to be in, but judging by the team’s players and coaches’ comments the focus on the task at hand has definitely been there. Osweiler said that he hasn’t been tempted to look ahead to 2012 and see how he will fit in new head coach Todd Graham’s offense.
“Once we get back (from the bowl game), yes I will grab some of their film and see what they did last year,” Osweiler said. “But our game plan for Boise is the most important part right now.”
“There are some distractions,” Mazzone confessed. “But I am really proud on how well the kids have been focused on what they are doing. It’s a great opportunity for all of us. A chance for us to play the no. 7 team in the country in a bowl game. I think the kids and the staff have stayed very focused.
“The bowl game is out number one priority and the other stuff – whatever happens, happens. Nobody can worry about that stuff, just how we prepare for this game.”
ASU faces a formidable challenge to say the least, against a team that more than likely is feeling slighted being ranked 7th in the country playing a .500 team in the Las Vegas Bowl.
“They have the right to be mad,” running back Cameron Marshall said. “They are playing a 6-6 team and they went 11-1. And they were last year in the Las Vegas bowl too. I know they had their hopes set on a higher bowl game. But the fact is that they are playing us and it is a huge game for us.
“We are really looking forward to it and I know Boise State won’t take us lightly. They will come in here ready to go, just like we will.”
Marshall commented that the Broncos’ defense does remind him of the California unit on that side of the ball, switching back and forth from a three down alignment to a four down alignment.
“They like to try and stop the run game and not give up too many big plays,” Marshall explained. “So we will obviously try and disrupt their defensive plan, establish a strong run game and a strong pass game like we always do.”
“They are a good defense,” Mazzone stated. “They have 11 seniors and that front six or front seven is probably as good as we have played against all year. They have a good secondary…when I turn the game film on you can see why they are 11-1 and ranked seventh.
“They are well coached, run to the football and there isn’t any indecision. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us.”