Q&A with Coach Gregg Smith

It goes without saying that the Arizona State offense was markedly improved in 2010 and naturally the performance of the offensive line was a significant factor in that trend. In this Devils Digest interview offensive line coach Gregg Smith talks discusses the performance of the Sun Devils' front five and their prospects going into the 2011 season.

Devils Digest: Coach, let's start by discussing the three offensive linemen who were signed in the 2011 class, starting with Devin Goodman

Gregg Smith: "He is a very athletic kid who plays extremely hard. We are projecting him at center even though he was a guard in high school. He possesses the skills that we are looking for someone that position."

DD: Local lineman Vi Teofilo is obviously someone you are very familiar with. What kind of skills does he bring to the table?

GS: "He's a guy that played every position across the offensive line, plus he was also a defensive lineman. He was one of the best offensive linemen in the state of Arizona. Anytime you get a two-way player you know that you are getting someone with great athletic ability and football intelligence. He's another guy that plays with a lot of passion and it was real plus to get him. We are going to play him at guard."

DD: Brent Walker was a fairly late addition to the class, what can you tell us about his skills set?

GS: "An extremely athletic guy that can play at the tackle position and that was obviously something that we were looking for. We were looking at a guy that could fill all three positions and he is a guy that can do that, but we will play him at tackle. He has a tremendous upside. He comes out of a program that runs the ball quite a bit, so the pass protection is something that he will have to get used to. But he has the athleticism to do so."

DD: When you look back at the 2010 season and the offensive line how would you evaluate that unit's performance?

GS: "I thought we were OK. I thought as the year progressed we did get better as we settled into a pretty consistent starting five. We had good depth and when we had to plug a guy in we didn't really miss a beat. That was a real positive for us and I feel we are carrying the same thing into this year.

"Obviously we still have some work to do and still have a lot of improvement to make, but I think we are headed in the right direction."

DD: When you assess run blocking versus pass blocking which aspect do you believe this group preformed at better in 2010?

GS: "Offensively we were actually pretty balanced. We may have run the ball more at times during the year, depending on how the defense was playing us, and ran it pretty well. There were some teams that really focused on taking away the run from us because we running so well and that's when our passing team had to kick in.

"So it was a balanced effort and the offense that we ran last year was very different than anything we ran before, so there was a learning process every week."

DD: It's always beneficial to have an experienced center anchoring the line and you had that in Garth Gerhart. Can you talk about his play last season?

GS: "I thought he played extremely well. He is getting real comfortable with the position, because he had to play guard and center the year before. Playing just at center last year really helped him and he got into a good comfort zone. He is obviously the quarterback of the offensive line who had to set everything up. The more he was out there, the better he saw things and he is a big key to what we do offensively."

DD: No one probably really knew what to expect from left tackle redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg last year. Would you consider him one of the biggest and pleasant surprises on the offensive line?

GS: "I don't know if he was a surprise to me, because I knew what kind of player he was. Naturally, a starting redshirt freshman is something that you don't see a lot of, but he possesses a lot of skills and he is one of those guys that the more he plays and the more he spends time in the weight room, he will only get better and better. A couple of times he did get exposed for his lack of strength, but he had a great winter so far and strength is something that he worked very hard on improving."

DD: For a while you had a revolving door at right tackle with Dan Knapp and Aderious Simmons. Can you talk about their performance last year? ?

GS: "I thought both did OK and they will battle again for a spot this year. Both have different skills because with Dan you have a really powerful run blocker and with Aderious you have someone athletic who can block on the edge. Both those guys will play and we have to figure out who will start and just take it from there."

DD: With Andrew Sampson and Mike Marcisz do you feel that you more established at both starting guard positions than you have ever been since arriving to ASU?

GS: "Without a doubt. You also have Adam Tello, (Brice) Schwab there too, and that gives you a lot of competition and depth going into spring. That is something that will always make your offensive line better"

DD: You had a few talented players who redshirted last year. Can you talk about their progression?

GS: "Sil Ajawara is an inside player who came into the program overweight, and we had to bring him down to under 300 lbs. and now he is working on bringing up his strength and you see him improve. Jamil Douglas is a very athletic player and will play tackle, but could also play guard if needed. Tyler Sulka will strictly be an offensive tackle because he is very athletic.

"All three guys just need to get bigger and stronger and the more they can do that the better of a nucleus we will have at the offensive line." DD: Brice Schwab was a JC transfer who came in with a lot of accolades but was another player who came in overweight and it was something that affected him the rest of the year…

GS: "He has taken his weight from 355 lbs. down to below 310. So he has put himself on a mission. Because of all the hype he came in with, people forget what a big transition it is from junior college to (Division I) college football. He wants to be an inside player and we will play him at guard. He wants to be a starter and he is headed in the right direction."

DD: Would it be fair to say that with all the experience you have at this year at offensive line that your expectations for this group are even higher than they were in 2010?

GS: "Not really, because my expectations are always the same. I don't ever change that and I think my players know that and understand that. Obviously, because all of all that experience coming back the players' expectations of themselves is very high, but my expectations are always for these players to be as good as they can possibly be."

DD: Naturally, all of your focus right now is on spring practice and overall the 2011 season. However, is there concern over the fact is that the flip side of all the experience you have right now is that you will lose seven seniors on the offensive line after this season. ?

GS: "Not really because we have some really good young players in the program. We obviously have to really continue and recruit players. We will probably take five linemen in this next class. I think we finally got ourselves to a point where we really have some quality depth but also a quality group of young players too."

DD: Going into spring practice, what are your goals for the offensive line?

GS: "My goal is for them to really approach spring football like it is the opening game of the season. They need to go out every practice with the goal to improve every practice and win every practice. If they get that done they will establish the goals they themselves want to achieve."

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