Devils lose two linemen, gain two back

The Sun Devils returned to practice on Tuesday after securing their second conference victory over the weekend against Oregon State. Once again though, the topic of discussion was ever increasing injury list, as a pair of Sun Devil offensive linemen look as though they'll be out for an undetermined amount of time.

As was reported Saturday night after the game, senior center Garth Gerhart sprained an ankle and is expected to miss some time, although perhaps maybe not as much as originally thought. What did come as a shock is that Evan Finkenberg appears to have suffered a knee injury, and it was revealed Tuesday that he could miss approximately a month.

"After the game on Sunday, nobody even reported the injury.," said head coach Dennis Erickson of Finkenberg's injury after practice Tuesday. "And then they said they thought he bruised his knee. Then all of a sudden they come yesterday afternoon and tell me he's got to have surgery.

"It's a meniscus. According to the doctors he should be back in three to four weeks. Hopefully he'll be back after our bye week. And Garth (Gerhart) didn't practice today so he'll be questionable."

With two starters out for their upcoming bout with new conference foe Utah, the Sun Devils will be forced to mix and match along the offensive line. The good news for the Sun Devils though is that senior Aderious Simmons appears set to return from his own ankle injury that he suffered in the season opener, providing another option for Erickson and his staff.

"Well Aderious can play now," said Erickson. "I don't know if he's one hundred percent. (Tyler) Sulka will play right tackle. We're going to move Knapp to left tackle.

"With the center situation, (Andrew) Sampson will be the backup and (Adam) Tello will move to right guard. We have more options than we've had in a long time. We may end up playing some young guys, that's just how it is.

Simmons, who split time with Sulka in practice today as he eased back into action, sounded confident about his ability to play this weekend when asked after practice.

"That's why I'm out here," he said. "I'm focused, man. I'm ready."I'm trying to push through...trying to be a team player."

"I think Aderious will be alright," added Erickson. "He looked better today. We'll see how he practices."

Before leaving the Kajikawa practice field on Tuesday though, Simmons had the training staff wrap his ankle heavily, as he experienced some discomfort in his ankle during his first action in nearly a month when fellow lineman Andrew Sampson stepped on it during team drills. Despite that though, he insisted it shouldn't be an issue come game time, as the adrenaline would most likely alleviate the pain.

"Oh yeah, that excitement, that feeling, it's truly a blessing to be on that field," he commented. "So many people wish they could, I'm just so grateful that I ignore things like that (pain)."

While the return of Simmons may not surprise many, the sight of senior Adam Tello caught many by surprise, as it was announced just last week that the lineman had retired from football due to repeated back injuries. While his availability may not be known at this point, his presence was welcomed by the Sun Devils and staff Tuesday.

"Well, his back was bothering him and he didn't know if he wanted to play," remarked Erickson on the announced retirement by Tello. "Nobody said he couldn't. He felt like, with the situation that it is, he'd come back and help.

"The thing about Adam Tello is he's all for the team. He'll do whatever he can. It's sort of strange how things can change for us. But he was in a lot of pain, so hopefully he doesn't have to play."

For now the coaches will have to work with what they have available to them. While the injuries continue to roll in, the Sun Devils keep finding ways to roll along. A win Saturday would make the goal of winning the Pac 12 South that much more attainable, and that's all the team is focused on at this point.

"Guys will step up," said a confident Erickson. "That's what they're here for. If we're going to have a good football team and win games, this is what's got to happen. We've done it on defense pretty well so far.

"And this won't be the last time this will happen, so you've just got to play. You can't cancel the schedule."


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