Early Lessons Pay Dividends for Pollak

The impact felt by an injured player, is usually contingent on the performance of his backup. For the last couple of seasons, center Mike Pollak has been adept at successfully stepping in and ensuring a smooth transition, when a starter was sidelined. These days, the junior is a first teamer on his merit, and credits his thrusting into the starting lineup early in his career, as a vital building block in his development.

Not only did the 6-4 300 Mike Pollak do a solid job stepping up when needed, but he did replace in each of the last two years two of the most accomplished players that played for the Sun Devils in recent years. "I've got the knowledge of two great centers in Drew Hodgdon and Grayling Love," he said. "I really took everything they taught me to heart and it has really paid off for me. Playing as a freshman has helped me play well last year and it's gonna help me even more in the next two seasons." Pollak started the first four games of 2004 in place of Hodgdon, and six games in 2005 replacing Love.

The injuries on the offensive line, were on of the biggest story lines in the 2005 season. Pollak isn't only proud of his performance but also of the other backups who shined when it matter most. "The amount of injuries we had was ridiculous," he commented, "but it was nice to see that when guys were called upon they came in and battled. It was nice to see that players that didn't play much got the job done when they were in there."

After a handful of spring practices, the junior was pleased with his own play, as well as of the play of his group. He's also been impressed with the front four he's been facing on the practice field. "The defensive line has a bigger front this year and that will help us improve," Pollak explained. "We really didn't have that last year, and it will help us when we face guys as big as the ones we'll see in games."

The center position is often viewed as the proverbial quarterback of the offensive line. Even though he can play guard, there's no doubt what position Pollak prefers more than the other. "I like playing the center the best," he admitted. "You have to know what everyone is doing, you make the calls…I just love doing that." Being a leader is something that is more often than not expected from the center position, and Pollak is fully aware of that. "A lot of the guys are starting to look up to me, so I have to take that leadership role. I'm gonna be one of the starters and that means being a leader on the team."

While he's confident in his position on the depth chart, his roles and responsibilities, not to talk about a bevy of young talented players, won't let him rest on his laurels. "I still have to come out and compete everyday, and I'm not a complacent guy anyway," stated Pollak. "I push myself everyday to get better, and look forward everyday to correct the mistakes from the day before. I'm the leader on the line, and I have to pick guys up if they're dropping off, fix their mistakes and lead by example."

It has been a rough year for ASU's hogs, but under the circumstances they came through as well as one could expect. The aforementioned injuries toke their toll on the front five, so when asked what his outlook for the unit is, Pollak pragmatically replied: "As long as we can stay healthy, and we had so many injuries last year, our unit is gonna gel and we'll do real fine." The law of averages would suggest that the Sun Devils' offensive line is due for some good luck, which will ultimately translate into good fortune for an already potent offensive squad.

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