Q&A with Coach Brent Myers

A potent offense such as Arizona State's, not only has top tier skill players, but also a solid front five which paves the way for ball carriers and gives the quarterback time to pick apart defenses. However, 2005 was a serious test of character for the offensive line, who had a plethora of injuries, and counted often on several backups to carry the load. Devils Digest talked to Coach Myers about his group's play last season and its prospects for 2006.

DD: There was only one offensive lineman signed in the 2006 recruiting class, but he was one of the top in his position in the state of Texas. What can you tell us about Saia Falahola?

Brent Myers: "We really came across Saia when we recruited his teammate Dimitri Nance. We really liked how physical he is and how he runs for a 6-2 310 player. He's very strong and a good run blocker. He has a classic guard type of body and is well put together. He also played center. He comes from a well coached team and a school that has produced a lot of good football players. We're really excited about him."

DD: When you look at your group during the 2005 season, suffice to say that no unit on the team was riddled by injuries as much as yours was. In light of that, how would you assess their performance?

BM: "Once we were done with recruiting, we started as a staff to go through our cut ups and plays from last year, and evaluate how we played. One thing that I think is very evident is that with the injuries, we have a really good group of players that have played a lot. With that we have a lot of experience and versatility. Robert Gustavis played all three inside positions, and even started a couple of games. Mike Pollak came in for Grayling Love and played really well the later part of the year, and took a leadership role which is something that I require my centers to do. He's having a good off-season and is up to 300 pounds right now."

"Stephen Berg has gotten healthy again. Andrew Carnahan is doing better, but still has some soreness in his foot. He played great despite a sore thumb. Both of them will be pro prospects, and have so much ability. I'm very happy with their commitment to being great players and going into their senior year they are really fired up to play."

"Some other kids I'm really excited about are Paul Fanaika and the two true freshmen Richard Tuitu'u and Shawn Lauvao. The steady player of the whole group was Brandon Rodd who played at left tackle, and when we had injuries I put him inside as a guard. He came off an ACL injury which takes one year to rehab and he's the only payer that stayed healthy and stayed consistent."

DD: In all honesty, did you feel that when the payers initially started to go down with injuries one by one, that the transition was bumpy due to the natural learning curve of the backups?

BM: "I've always known that you have to teach kids two or three positions, based on their mental ability. Some guys can't, some guys can. That philosophy really came into play this year. This is the first time I had multiple injuries. I didn't like when it occurred, but in the long run it will help us. Our deal is that when someone goes down you have to be ready. The thing that I feel strongly about my guys is that there are very committed. I require them to know how to play in our system. So we had inner changeable guys and it really paid off. I really feel good about the experience of our guys and because our system hasn't changed it makes it easy for kids to adapt and learn."

DD: How would you assess the group in terms of run blocking and pass blocking?

BM: "One thing that I always believed in is that we're a real good run blocking team, but we didn't have a big time tailback. Don't get me wrong, I love Rudy Burgess and he's a great tailback. But Burgess and Keegan Herring aren't really big. So we did a nice job running the football for our situation. We went from 110 yards a game to 140 last year. They set up the play action very well. Running the ball is still an area that we need to get better at, but I believe that we have a chance to be really good with the running backs we have coming in. If you have a great tailback, you can really be a good run blocking team. Sometimes you can't block them all, and a great tailback will make those that aren't blocked miss."

"From a protection standpoint, we did a nice job with the amount of times we threw the ball and protected the quarterback. In looking at our cut ups, when we had our top five guys play we were really good. Once we got past the USC game and we started getting some injuries, we had a drop-off but all of a sudden guys started getting cohesive and with the amount of guys we had down we protected the quarterback really well. You obviously always want to be better than what you are, but a part of protection is also tight ends blocking, running backs blocking, wide receivers running good routes…so the with the multiplicity of things that we do, protection is much more than just the offensive line. The guys that stepped in did a good job for being inexperienced, but I would like to play the same five guys all year, like USC did. We did well in both run blocking and pass protection, and it could have been a lot worse with the injuries we had."

DD: Did the change in the quarterback present a big challenge to the offensive line, which already had its own challenges to deal with, or was it a seamless transition?

BM: "I thought it was really a seamless transition and I give credit to Rudy Carpenter. He's really a special kid, very positive and very intelligent. He gives us escape ability which makes it nice for the offensive line because he can move and still throw the ball. He has feel for the rush, just like Sam Keller does, and that made it easy for us with our injury situation."

DD: Spring practice will start next month, and like you said this group is coming back with a wealth of experience. What goals are you looking to accomplish during those 15 sessions?

BM: "My whole thing is improvement of technique and that's what I tell those guys everyday. Footwork, punches, movement…if we can take spring ball and really improve on the technique, we'll be a really good group. I have real young guys that need to learn the system. Most of the players know the system pretty good. I just want them to improve technically."

DD: With everything you mentioned about the offensive line, suffice to say that this unit will be the most talented and competitive since you've been here…

BM: "I would agree with that statement. The more depth and experience you have, the stronger the competition is for the jobs you have. The more competition you have, the more you try harder in games and practice because you know that your backup can come and beat you out. That will make you a better player."

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