Q&A with Coach Gregg Smith

There's no question that the Sun Devils' most experienced group is the offensive line. Yet is there enough depth on this unit? How are they shaping up for the season opener? Are there still some unsettled position battles? Devils Digest sat down with Coach Gregg Smith to answer those questions and more in this exclusive DevilsDigest.com interview.

DevilsDigest: Coach Smith, with the San Jose State game just six days away how are you feeling about the offensive line's performance going into that contest?

Gregg Smith: "Right now we have to go ahead and play a football game. We're kind of tired beating up on one another, and I think everyone is excited for this week's game and know what they need to do. So now we just have to go out and play."

DD: Run-Blocking vs. Pass-Blocking, which area do you feel this unit is doing better at?

GS:"It's hard to say. We have had our times in the running game where we have been pretty decent, and they were times at the passing game where we have been pretty decent. We're gonna be a 50-50 team, and I don't know that one is really in front of the other or not. We're blessed with really good running backs, and if we can get the ball in their hands and give them a crack we should have some success."

DD: Having such a veteran line, and one that has been in tact since spring ball, how much has it helped trying to establish the style of play you'd like to instill in this group?

GS:"It's been good, because they've really responded well. All of then have a lot of game experience, and the bottom line now is that it's a new era, a new team. Let's not even think about what happened before and let's get this thing going."

DD: The center position on the offensive line is almost always the leader of the front five. Can you talk about the leadership you've seen from Mike Pollak?

GS: "He's done an excellent job. I've been extremely proud of Mike and the way he has responded. I've put a lot of pressure on him to take care of the front and make the right calls and everything I've seen from him so far - he has done all that. I know he's excited for the season."

DD: You've been flip-flopping Zach Krula and Julius Orieukwu through out fall camp, and finally settled on Krula as you're right tackle. How hard was it making that decision?

GS:"It went down to the wire and Zach has really kind of fallen into place a little bit. I think he's getting more and more confidence. The bottom line for him is that he never played tackle in a game and he has to crank it up for Saturday. We'll see where we're at, and if it looks like he's struggling we'll make a move. That's what's nice about our position is that we got decent depth."

DD: On the same note it looked like a close battle between Paul Fanaika and Shaun Lauvao before you chose Fanaika…

GS: "It's not for sure…I just talked to Shaun right now, and he still wants to be the starter and I haven't really settled in on that yet. I think it will be Paul to start out with and both are gonna play a bunch...it just depends who practices better during the week, responds better to the different looks we're gonna have. That's all gonna be a big key. The nice thing is that we have two guys that are battling like crazy, and I don't think we can go wrong with either guy."

DD: I know you kind of alluded to this before, but it seems that you're content with the depth at offensive line…

GS: "I really am. Losing Thomas (Altieri) hurt us a little bit, and we had to keep Garth (Gerhart) up, and we had to take Robert (Gustavis) and play him at center. So hopefully we'll be OK that way, and get Thomas back in a week or so."

DD: As far as Gerhart goes, the intention is to still redshirt him, but how well has he played with the increased reps?

GS:"He's now forced into learning a lot of things really fast. Before he was just doing freshman stuff and now he's doing veteran stuff. I've seen the difference in him the last two or three practices, where he has really picked up his play and really has responded to everything that has gone on."

DD: Can you talk about the other freshmen, Adam Tello and Mike Marcisz and how they have looked?

GS: "I think they're both gonna be excellent football players. They still do some freshmen things right now and making mistakes. But I really think they'll be good football players, and whether they stay at the positions they are right now – who knows? They have the talent to be good players."

DD: What are you trying to achieve when it comes to the offensive line between now and Saturday?

GS: "Obviously we're gonna work extremely hard on or running game. That's gonna be a big push for us, and trying to get into the best situations for us running the football. We're gonna to throw too obviously and when those situations arise we have to respond to it too. Again, we want to go into the game extremely balanced and move the chains – that's the bottom line."

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