Arizona State's Sullivan ready to prove his doubters wrong

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Danny Sullivan read it. Danny Sullivan heard it. No, he couldn't -- and didn't try to -- hide from the criticism.

Sullivan, the senior quarterback who completed spring practices atop Arizona State's depth chart, knew many in the media doubted him. And he knew many Sun Devils fans were slapping their foreheads at the thought of him running the offense after four years of Rudy Carpenter.

"I'm a guy who likes to read the sports page every day -- I've been doing it since I was a little kid," Sullivan said. "Some of the stuff that was said in papers was kind of painful. But I took it in stride and tried to let people know where I am, what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to be good out here. I'm not trying to just be an average quarterback."

While the injury-riddled Sun Devils offense rarely had success this spring against a rapidly improving defense, Sullivan didn't hesitate to take charge. His passes came with authority and were mostly on target. He took control in the huddle.

He acted like the starting quarterback, no matter what the chatter outside -- and sometimes inside -- the program was. And guess what?

When the final whistle blew to end the spring game last Saturday, he was clearly ahead of Samson Szakacsy and true freshman Brock Osweiler.

"As coach [Dennis] Erickson said, I've really improved over this past offseason," Sullivan said. "Spring ball went well for me. I've been more accurate. The receivers are telling me I'm doing a good job, so that's reassuring also. I just need to keep making strides to get better every day."

Sullivan studied film and threw a lot before spring drills began, but he also hit the weight room hard and worked on his conditioning. As a result, his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame is leaner.

"I've lost a lot of baby fat," he said. "I think that's helping me get quicker, get faster."

That speaks to one chief criticism of him: That he lacks mobility, and with a patchwork offensive line, the Sun Devils' quarterback probably won't get much time to stand tall in the pocket while going through his receiver progressions.

So when Sullivan broke away for a 10-yard scramble during a scrimmage, more than few eyebrows were raised. Some of the bewildered defensive players started calling him "Vanilla Vick."

Of course, it was tongue-in-cheek. Sullivan won't remind anyone of Jake Locker or Jeremiah Masoli anytime soon, but he showed that his feet aren't made of granite.

"I am a pocket guy, but as coach Erickson said, if I need to get out of the pocket to do something, I can get out of the pocket and do it," he said.

Another knock on Sullivan is his previous work in games, which is scant in sample size considering Carpenter started 43 consecutive times. The highlight was his effort in the 2007 Holiday Bowl vs. Texas: 7-of-14 for 118 yards and a touchdown.

The lowlight probably was his 4-of-17 for 28 yards with two interceptions performance last year vs. USC.

Sullivan doesn't believe these bits of mop-up duty show the type of quarterback he is.

He doesn't want to engage his critics, but when asked what he might post in his defense on a message board, Sullivan said: "If I happened to end up on a message board, I would quickly shut the computer off. I don't listen to that stuff. But if they had to hear something from me, I'd tell them my heart is for Arizona State. I've been here for four years. I've been patient. I want this opportunity. I bleed maroon and gold."

After four frustrating years of waiting, Sullivan can almost taste his first start. He knows that the best way to win over doubters is to become the quarterback they don't think he is.

"I think I've been pretty patient -- a one-year wonder, I know I can do it," he said.