If his Facebook page is to be believed, Vontaze Burfict's tenure at Arizona State has come to an end. The junior linebacker made his intention to enter next April's NFL Draft, thus putting an end to his oft-troubled and ultimately disappointing collegiate career. The Arizona Republic's Doug Haller writes that an official announcement could come as early as Tuesday.
Burfict came to Tempe in 2009 as the highest ranked recruit in ASU history, and the hype surrounding the heavy hitter was amplified when he laid out an amazing and brutal hit in the season opener against Idaho State. He registered 69 tackles, including seven for loss and a pair of sacks as he was named the Pac-10's Defensive Freshman of the Year.
However, he began to display a lack of discipline that manifested itself in dumb personal foul penalties, a problem that would come to personify the player.
As a sophomore, he led the team in tackles with 90, including 8.5 for loss and drew comparisons to Ray Lewis for his devastating hits and ability to pursue ball carriers from sideline-to-sideline with ferocity. However, for all of his terrific plays, he seemed to negate it with a stupid play that was the result of his inability to play with disciplined.
This past season, the expectations were astronomical for Burfict. He was named to nearly every preseason All-American team and was named as the Defensive Player of the Year by several outlets. Yet the season that followed was an example of how being supremely talented is not enough on its own.
He started fast in the opener, registering three sacks against UC Davis, but that delicate balancing act he displayed between his playmaking and dumb plays began to become very one-sided towards the negative. His attempt to play with a "controlled rage" was a failure, and when he went back to his former style, the penalty flags followed. For the majority of the season, the presumptive national defender of the year was only the third best linebacker on his own team.
In fact, the singular highlight of his season was a photo of him menacingly pointing to USC quarterback Matt Barkley after Barkley had engaged in some trash talking during the week. Burfict often appeared disinterested and was benched during the regular season finale against Cal and did not start in the bowl game against Boise State.
In the process of going from a consensus preseason All-American and "the meanest man in college football" to a backup on a sub-.500 team, Burfict earned himself the ire of the Sun Devil fanbase, who were teased by his immense talented only to be let down. Given the problems of the program as a whole, it only seems appropriate.
For new head coach Todd Graham, Burfict's departure must be seen as a positive in his attempt to turn this underachieving program around.
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