Connelly, O-Line ‘ready to take next step'

One of the areas of concern for the Sun Devils entering the year was their offensive line. With only two returning starters on this group, many believed that the offensive line would struggle to keep up with the fast pace of the Arizona State offense. Nonetheless, three games into the season, Offensive Line Coach Bob Connelly and his players are developing at a faster pace than anyone expected.

"We are progressing, [and] we are getting better every day," Connelly stated. "The attitude of the offensive line think is really good. We are learning fundamentals and getting better at being more consistent. Scheme wise, I think we have a better understanding of what we want to do. We have eliminated our mental errors and missed assignments, so obviously I am happy with that."

One of the players that Coach Connelly has credited as a key to the offensive lines early success has been right tackle Brice Schwab. After losing his starting job two years ago, Schwab's self-confidence suffered mightily. Now with a new offensive scheme and line coach, Connelly believes Schwab is finally reaching his potential.

"Brice is getting better every day," Connelly commented. "Brice is a guy that gains confidence through reps, and is a guy you should see getting better every time you watch him. He lost a lot of confidence with the last coaching staff. I am really fortunate he red shirted last year and that he is here playing for me. He plays winning football and he just needs to continue to go to work every day and gain confidence."

Even his group has been making great progress, last week's game against Missouri showed Coach Connelly that the front five still has a lot of room for improvement.

"We met our first challenge last week playing in a hostile environment on the road," Connelly stated. "We didn't handle the noise that well. Our silent count wasn't good enough and it cost us a lot of penalties. Obviously we need to correct that. We were also late off the ball because we were switching up the snap count. Those things we need to clean and shore up."

ASU's offensive line coach thought some of the teams struggles last week could be attributed to the team becoming too complacent after their 2-0 start to the season.

"The first two games we had a lot of success and maybe are heads got a little too big," Connelly explained, "and we got overconfident. Last week though we got brought down a notch."

The biggest positive that Connelly took from last Saturday's loss was the team's attitude while they were facing adversity during the game.

"The encouraging thing is that nobody on offense or defense stopped believing that we had a chance to win last week," Connelly recalled. "We had an opportunity to give up, but we fought hard and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game."

The offensive line will need to continue to fight hard if they are going to stop Utah's All Pac-12 defensive lineman, Star Lotulelei, on Saturday. He is a player that is projected to be a high first round draft pick next year and Connelly says that the hype surrounding Lotulelei is well deserved.

"He is a big physical football player," Connelly described. "He commands double teams most of the game and they play off that on defense. He's a very talented football player and deserves all of the accolades that he receives."

With Utah for the first time rotating Lotulelei into different positions on the defensive line last week, Connelly and the rest of the ASU coaching staff will be paying close attention all evening as to where he lines up on the Utes' defensive line.

"It will be interesting to see how they play us," Connelly said. "They played BYU different than any other team in the past. They moved Star to matchup with the center, [and] he was very disruptive in that game plan.

"This week we need to take the next step and show our maturity against a good conference opponent at home. I think we will be up for the challenge and match up well against their defensive front."

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