Knapp vies for playing time at right tackle

For offensive lineman Dan Knapp, the last year has been one full of surprises and its share of ups and downs. During the 2009 season, Knapp suffered the second torn ACL of his college tenure and wondered if there was a future in football for him. Head coach Dennis Erickson decided to switch Reno, Nev. native from tight end to offensive tackle and new life was breathed into Knapp's playing career.

For offensive lineman Dan Knapp, the last year has been one full of surprises and its share of ups and downs. During the 2009 season, Knapp suffered the second torn ACL of his college tenure and wondered if there was a future in football for him. Head coach Dennis Erickson decided to switch Reno, Nev. native from tight end to offensive tackle and new life was breathed into Knapp's playing career.

Knapp immediately took to left tackle and found success at his new position. Early in summer camp it seemed to be a given that Knapp would open the season as the starter protecting the quarterback's blindside. He sustained his solid play and started the first four games of the season at left tackle until suffering another knee injury early against Oregon.

He returned for one series against the Ducks before sitting the rest of the game out. Luckily for Knapp, the knee injury was only an MCL sprain that would keep him shelved for a week. Once Knapp returned to the lineup, he was greeted with another change. His position had been swapped again, this time to right tackle.

"It's a big change," Knapp admitted. "Going from left to right is hard to get used to but I'm trying my best to get the hang of it."

Asked what was the tougher adjustment, moving from tight end to left tackle or left tackle to right tackle, Knapp didn't hesitate to answer.

"Definitely left tackle to right."

"It's a whole different ballgame moving left to right," Knapp explained. "Everything is different. The sets are different and it's a lot harder to get used to. It's kind of like if you're right handed, learning to write with your left. I'm getting used to it. I just need more reps and practice and I'll be fine."

Head coach Dennis Erickson agreed that there are some differences playing either side of the line and complimented Knapp for his versatility.

"He is doing good," Erickson observed. "There is an adjustment from one side to the other as far as stepping and the things you've got to do but when he played tight end we flopped him all the time so he's used to playing both sides. He's doing pretty well."

The past two weeks in practice Knapp and junior college lineman Aderious Simmons have split time working as the first and second team right tackles. Erickson still hasn't picked a starter and the competition was heating up Wednesday. The offensive line has been dealing with injuries and position swaps all year; don't expect this to faze them.

"The chemistry with the offensive line as a unit is good," Knapp claimed. "We have different guys but we also have the same mentality when we go in there, just beat the guy across from you. We all get along really well and I think we have good chemistry. The rotation and everyone switching positions is a bit of a hassle, but everyone is picking it up and we all have to come together during the game and get a win."

One thing this year's offensive line has down pat is run blocking. The unit is consistently opening up holes for the running backs whether it's Deantre Lewis, Cameron Marshall or Kyle Middlebrooks toting the football. To beat Cal, the Sun Devils are going to need to rack up a healthy amount of rushing yards.

"We're just keeping it simple compared to last year where we had thirty different run plays going into the game," Knapp recalled. "With this new offense we just have two or three run plays and it keeps it more consistent so all of our guys know what's going on. Protection schemes are a lot easier and when that happens guys are more confident and we get our jobs done a lot more efficiently."

Knapp is aware of the level of importance of this Saturday's showdown with the Golden Bears and that they run a rather unconventional defense (3-4 scheme) for a collegiate football team, but his approach to the game hasn't changed. Keep it simple and take care of the assignment at hand.

"They use a lot of linebackers for defensive ends," Knapp said. "That helps out with us as tackles because they'll be a little easier to block. Number 97 (Cameron Jordan) is pretty good and they have some good interior guys. We're just going to go out just like any other game and keep our mind on beating the other guy."


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