Sulka enjoying productive preseason

Redshirt junior offensive lineman Tyler Sulka was never really satisfied with his role in 2012 as a plug and play extra lineman who saw limited action on the playing field. Coming into the 2013 season, Sulka used the motivation to work harder in the weight room, and the perseverance has paid off as he claims the starting right tackle role.

Benefitting from Arizona State's strength and conditioning summer program, the tall, lanky lineman is relishing in the fruits of his hard labor and improved his play in fall camp to elevate himself from backup role.

"I really worked and gained weight," Sulka said about the summer. "I gained 20 pounds and really kept my speed. I think I prepared very well and I think we all did."

A toe injury that required surgery towards the end of summer caused a minor setback for Sulka going into fall camp. However, he said that it was something that he could bounce back from quickly and not miss a beat.

After starting fall camp on the second team, the now 6'5'' 289 lbs. Sulka has worked his way onto the first team joining an experienced group up front to protect quarterback Taylor Kelly. While accomplishing his goal and lining up with the top unit, Sulka stated that he's still going to work just as hard as he did before, to hang on to his starter status.

"When I was a ‘two' I prepared like I was going to start, and that is something that is important for any ‘two' or ‘three," Sulka said. "You never know who's going to go in. Going forward, you never know who is going to drop out and whoever is there to back us up is who is going to win us that championship."

In terms of game experience, Sulka is anything but wet behind the ears. In the 2012 campaign he played in all but one game that season, earning a start against Washington State. Yet a good deal of his reps came as an ad hoc tight end in ‘heavy' offensive sets. Even though it wasn't the ideal role for him, Sulka admitted that those game day minutes have made the preparation process for this year that much easier.

"I think with just that game experience, it has helped me this year," Sulka said. "Everything is similar when you're blocking as an offensive lineman or a tight end. It's something that I liked, to get playtime, but it wasn't something that I wanted to do. I want to start."

Sulka attributes much of his success to his position coach, Chirrs Thomsen, the former interim head coach at Texas Tech who joined Todd Graham's staff this offseason. Thomsen has been a major key to Sulka's improvement as a player and push to be a starter, and is somebody he reveres.

"Coach Thomsen is actually one of the best coaches I've ever had," Sulka said. "He really knows when to have fun and when to rip our butts. It's something that he does really well and he has that barrier. But he's really good at coaching us and working on the little things."

While solid coaching and game experience can go a long way, tough competition is something that turns good players into great ones. Sulka definitely faces formidable competition everyday in practice when he lines up across two of the best in the Pac-12 conference in Will Sutton and Carl Bradford.

"I consider Will one of the best tackles in the Pac-12 and maybe in the nation," Sulka noted, "and it's something that if I can work against him and do well then I can do well against everybody in the Pac-12, and that goes for Carl too. They really make me better and that's something that I'm going to need going into the future."

With Sulka now at right tackle, Jamil Douglas has switched back to left guard where he played extensively last year. In the Saturday scrimmage at Camp Tontozona, the offensive line was dominant in the run game, opening up holes for its dynamic running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster.

Coming off that performance, Sulka said that the line as a whole is a confident unit, yet there's still work that needs to be done to achieve their set goals of dominating in the run game and short yardage situations.

"There's always room for improvement," Sulka explained. "Not everyday we come out and bring it, some days we have mistakes with sacks and miscommunications but that's something we try to fix everyday in the meeting rooms and the next day at practice. But as a line I feel pretty confident and I hope they are confident in me."

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