Nick Kelly relishing in starting role

The Sun Devils will have a new leader on the offensive line this season, and that well could be 6-2 296-pound center Nick Kelly. The Sacramento American River Junior College transfer is projected to be the starting center for Arizona State, and under the tutelage of outgoing senior Kody Koebensky he was able to prepare for all that the 2014 season will entail.

"I learned you need to be disciplined, know what you're doing every day, the less mistakes you have the more chance you have to be playing," said Kelly about learning from Kody Koebensky. "You just want to get to the blocks, the key to your blocks on plays and just be a technician at what you do. He really helped me be a leader, he's shown me how to help people and bring them up with you, by not just helping yourself but helping the whole team."

Kelly's athleticism is a new element for Arizona State's center role, but more importantly the junior will be judged by his ability to make key calls for the front five during games which naturally lends itself to becoming a vocal leader.

"I feel that as a center you need to be verbal," Kelly explained. "You can't be afraid to talk, you can't be afraid of what people think about you, you just have to do your thing out there because you have to come to the line and make all the calls, make the audible.

"I feel like the team we have now it's very easy to become a leader because people just respect everybody on this team. There's a lot of respect, everybody is not thinking higher of themselves. They all want the team to work as one in order for us to succeed."

The Sun Devils only lost two starting players from their offensive line, yet Kelly and left tackle Evan Goodman bring an added element of athleticism for their respective positions. That aspect has been on display quite a bit through the first couple weeks of spring, and does allow the group to showcase a different tempo and one that is conducive to the overall rapidity of the ASU offense.

"I feel like we're playing at a more athletic pace," said Kelly about the offensive line. "We have a lot more athletic guys and can do more outside zone stretch plays but I'm not saying that Kody or Fink (Evan Finkenberg) were not athletic because they really were, I'm just saying we have lighter bodies in there that can really move and help win.

"I think we've got to be faster, definitely faster. We're going to communicate a lot so I think we're going to be more structured up front. It's going to be hard from last year because they were pretty disciplined but we're going to be a really disciplined offense this year.

"10 wins is the minimum but we're going for Pac-12 champions, nothing less."

Kelly is confident in his ability to start and lead the offensive line, but is also cognizant of his own areas of improvement that need to be addressed in spring and later in fall camp.

"In JUCO we didn't really have spring ball so I'd say hitting," Kelly listed. "Hitting would be the big part. I'm just really learning the technique and really getting down the footsteps and pairing that up with power behind it, and getting power off your second step and bringing the hips.

"I feel comfortable being the starter. I feel like I'm doing everything in my power to keep the starting job and successfully keep it doing well in it."

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