6:55pm — Update via the Arizona Republic: Dennis Erickson responds to comments about Burfict:
” I’m sure they’re trying to get in his head. I don’t know what they’ve said , but everybody we play does. ”
LOS ANGELES – It’s a pivotal matchup in the new Pac-12 South, not to mention a matchup featuring a ranked team taking on a team that was ranked just last week. But USC’s Saturday trip to Arizona State still hasn’t drawn a lot of attention in the midst of conference realignment madness. Maybe, though, Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley’s comments on Sun Devil linebacker Vontaze Burfict will change that.
Burfict already has a reputation as a player willing to push the boundaries of the rules (and ocassionally fly past them), and asked to comment on that reputation by the Los Angeles Times, Barkley didn’t sugarcoat his opinion (emphasis added):
“He’s a dirty player,” the quarterback said, basing his opinion on what he suggests were efforts by the linebacker to injure him by diving at his knees during a high school game.
“His switch is always on. And it’s not a good switch.”
Lane Kiffin was much more subtle about his reservations regarding Burfict’s play, saying he’s “as dominant as there is in the country” … but not without the qualifier that that only applies “between the whistles.”
As the (highly recommended) Times story illustrates, Burfict comes by his occasional bursts of on-field aggression honestly, enduring a literally death-defying childhood in dangerous neighborhoods and displaying his unusual intensity as soon as he could take a pickup basketball court. Even Barkley would likely agree that to look at his history of personal fouls and simply write Burfict off as an out-of-control villain is to miss the complete picture of one of college football’s most interesting stars.
But judging by his comments to the Times, Barkley would no doubt add that none of Burfict’s story changes what kind of player he is on the football field. And no doubt Burfict has read those comments and knows he’ll have to either live up or down to them Saturday.
So maybe this is a game that hasn’t drawn a lot of attention yet. But we’ll be watching.