Q&A with Chris Thomsen

With preseason practices winding down and the beginning of the 2013 season quickly approaching for Arizona State, Devils Digest's Becca Winn caught up with Offensive Line Coach Chris Thomsen to discuss the unit's overall development, and a group that Todd Graham has repeatedly praised throughout the pre-season.

DevilsDigest: Todd Graham has given high marks to the offensive line throughout fall camp. I would assume that you have to be pleased as well with the way your group has preformed the last few weeks?

Chris Thomsen: "I think so, the first group has been pretty consistent. We've kind of settled in on the first group, they've been consistent. That's what we're really looking for, is that consistency. The second group we need a few of those guys to step up and be ready to play. A couple of those guys are, but there are some other guys who need to come along real fast in the next week or so to get them to a level that we feel comfortable putting them in the game."

DevilsDigest: Going into camp, what were your objectives for your group and how close has your unit come to achieving them?

Chris Thomsen: "Main objectives when you get that group together are to know your assignment and who you're blocking. That can get confusing depending on what defensive coaches are doing and the technique aspect, how do you approach each block, proper form, proper body technique, and playing with greater effort.

"Assignment wise we're pretty good, we're still working on technique, we're still perfecting that, we will be working on that as the year goes on. They're playing with good effort, good intensity and good focus. So I think we've achieved those objectives of getting them to play at a higher effort. Now we have a couple more practices then we have to go play in a game."

DevilsDigest: This offense is obviously predicated on establishing the run, so when it comes to run blocking do you feel your group has progressed in that area?

Chris Thomsen: "I think so, one of the things that is helpful to us is that we go against a really good group of D-line men every day. If you don't bring it every day, you're going to lose. I think they've done a good job of competing with those guys and elevating their game. The run game, there are some different components to that, you've got to be physical but you also have to understand what defenses are doing to you and get on the right people. I think they're making progress and doing that, it's going to be a process as the season goes."

DevilsDigest: When you look at the blocking schemes on last year's film will they look any different in 2013?

Chris Thomsen: "Not really, Coach Norvell was here and implemented the offense and schematically it's pretty much the same. A little bit different pass protection, but not much. We want to keep it the same for the players and for their continuity. Guys who got used to doing a certain thing last year, we want to keep that as much the same as possible, changed a few things but not a whole lot."

DevilsDigest: Does the fact that the passing game calls for quick passes and not seven step drops, for example, make pass block schemes easier or harder on an offensive line?

Chris Thomsen: "It makes it a lot easier, when that balls getting out, you don't have to protect as long. There are always certain times in the game when the quarterback is going to have to hold the ball a little longer, but whenever anytime your passing game is based on rhythm and getting that ball out it takes a lot of pressure of your guys up front."

DevilsDigest: On that note, are you pleased with the level of the group's pass blocking?

Chris Thomsen: "Yeah, that's a work in progress from a technique stand point, but they've done a good job of identifying who they've got, especially in blitz pick up. Coach Graham throws a bunch of different stuff at you from a blitz stand point, so that's helped us a lot in terms of being able to indentify different looks and understanding what the defense is going to do."

DevilsDigest: The line is anchored by two seniors, left tackle Evan Finkenberg and center Kody Kobensky. How do you feel these two have preformed not only executing their assignments but also with overall leadership?

Chris Thomsen: Their leadership has been outstanding. My definition of leadership is ‘Do you bring it every day?' do you bring great focus, and great mental and physical effort every day? And those two have done a great job with that. From a performance stand point they've performed at a high level. Again our defensive line challenges us every day and they've really had to step up. They've done a great job in both areas."

DevilsDigest: Left guard Jamil Douglas may be the most versatile lineman in the group, how would you sum up his fall camp?

Chris Thomsen: "He's had a pretty good camp. He started at right tackle and then had to bump back into guard, he's getting used to getting some of the timing there. Good thing there is he's gone against Will (Sutton) almost every day. Those two go at it pretty good, and it's made both of them better. Both are big strong guys who can move their feet and I'm excited about the season I think he can have."

DevilsDigest: Can you talk about the right side of the line with guard Vi Teofilo and tackle Tyler Sulka and their progression over the last few weeks?

Chris Thomsen: "I think they've developed some chemistry there, with the communication aspect, knowing what each other are going to do. They have to work together a lot and we're still working on that with all of them. Those two have done a good job and have been really consistent with their preparation and have worked really hard. We have a chance to have a really good right side, obviously replacing those guys from last year that's big."

DevilsDigest: Evan Goodman came in last year as one of the most heralded players in his recruiting class but hasn't been able to make as much of impact. Do you see him developing at the rate you would expect for such a young player?

Chris Thomsen: "I want him to come along a little faster, I think he's still got to learn some things assignment wise that slow him down a bit. He's made some progress in some areas that we've seen. If he wants to press his way up into that starting lineup he's got to be way more consistent, and he knows that. He's shown some things and we're excited about him."

DevilsDigest: Backup center was one position that had to be established this season. Have you been pleased with the play of JC transfer Nick Kelly?

Chris Thomsen: "Nick has done a good job. One thing he's had to learn is the discipline aspect of what we do, in terms of penalties. We coach not having penalties really hard and coming from the junior college level that probably wasn't stressed quite as much where he was at. I think overall he's done a really good job and we feel very confident in him right now."

DevilsDigest: What in your opinion are some of the key factors that will ensure this offensive line to be successful in 2013?

Chris Thomsen: "Just consistency, that's the main thing. If they're consistent in their approach, if they don't have a bunch of ups and downs and come with a great focus every day. We have enough talent up there, and the guys surrounding them in the skill positions, there's some talent there. So the main thing is consistency and keeping focused on the process and they will be fine."

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