O-Line Fights Through Adversity

Ask ASU's Offensive Line Coach, Brent Myers, how he feels about his group these days, and you're likely to hear the answer: frustration and pride. Multiple injuries on this unit have become a major annoyance, but some seldom used players are using their playing time in a very efficient way. Devils Digest talked to Coach Myers about the current state of his group.

"We've been dealt a bad lot," said Myers. "Kids got hurt, but that's part of football, and you have to coach the guys we got. I can't imagine how good we would be without the injuries, but that's something I can't have because it's already done."

Preparing backups for extensive periods of play, seems like an exercise in futility. Thus, the gap in talent between starters and back ups is here to stay. "When you practice during the week, you give the majority of your reps to the 1's – those are the guys that will play," Myers explained. "You try and give your 2's as much reps as you possibly can, but you can never give them as much as the 1's."

"In my opinion," Myers continued, "With 85 scholarships there's a big drop-off in the Pac-10 to the WAC to the Big Sky, between the 1's and the 2's, because you don't have the depth that you used to have. There's not a whole lot you can do, but just prepare them as best as you can. When they never played before, like some of our guys have done, except in mop-up duty, you see that it's very different when you play Temple and then you play Oregon or Stanford. There's not much you can do, and they have to get their feet wet sometimes."

Offensively, the Sun Devils were far from consistent on offense during the Washington game. Nevertheless, some bright spots did emerge from that contest. "In the Washington game, Robert Gustavis played very well and he never played a full game before," Myers stated. "He did a great job and I was very proud of him. When Stephen Berg got hurt, Paul Fanaika, a walk-on, came in. He was a little off when he first started, he got a penalty for jumping off sides, and then he actually played extremely well considering the fact that he never played before in a big game. He helped us get through and actually saved us. Mike Pollak and Chaz White helped him with all the calls. He knows them, but he just doesn't have the experience that others do."

Myers doesn't deny how much the team is hurting without center Grayling Love ("He's our coach on the field, and the vocal leader of our group.") , but is also very content with Mike Pollak and what he brings to the table. "Someone has to step up and be the guy, and Mike Pollak is dong a great job," Myers commented. "He did a great job as the leader and the vocal guy, especially in the last two scoring drives of the game. He played with a lot of confidence, and that's what you have to do as a center."

Myers feels that on offense Arizona State will face a solid defense when it plays the Washington State Cougars. "They are very well coached by a good friend of mine Robb Akey, and they always play hard," Myers commented. " They have great defensive ends, and their front seven is very formidable. We will have to play very well, and that's what you have to do anyway to play in this league."

As if the offensive line didn't have its own challenges to deal with, they now had to also contend with a new signal caller under center in Rudy Carpenter. Myers said that the transition in this area was a smooth one. "Rudy has been great," said Myers. "He's smart, he takes a lot of ownership in being a good quarterback. He's very confident, and guys really like him. We as coaches love him. It does carry over because when he does well, everybody gets excited about him because he's just such a great kid. He leads by example, and the players know that he studies, works at it, and is a competitor. He plays sometimes like a redshirt freshman, but he's getting better."

Carpenter's mobility is another dimension that is welcomed by Myers. "It helps that he can tuck it and run when he has to, he can move around the pocket…I love mobile quarterbacks. That's a O-Line's coach dream (smile)."

If the Sun Devils were to qualify for post-season play, it will be thanks in part to its backup offensive linemen. Coach Myers has prepared them mentally and physically, and waits to see if the hogs up front will make their mark in the team's last three regular season games. "I have put that personal challenge on them, telling them it's their time and their chance," Myers explained. "Hopefully they'll respond. They did a good job in the second half last week, and now they have to do it again this week."

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