Devils D-Linemen Work Through Injuries

In the UCLA game, ASU defensive linemen Michael Marquardt and Jon Hargis both suffered injuries. Marquardt had to leave the game early in the first quarter, but will play against USC after missing several practices. Hargis had to be taken out too that day, but his resolve didn't have him on the sidelines for too long. Playing less than 100% isn't an option, but a mere necessity for a 9-1 team.

Michael Marquardt, and even fellow defensive lineman David Smith, both suffered ankle sprains about ten days ago in the win at the Rose Bowl. It seems to be a very popular injury amongst the maroon and gold, which adds levity to a serious situation.

"It's like a sprain ankle grenade went off and hit everyone on the team," said Marquardt with a smile. "That's just a tough place to play down there in the trenches. David, Jon and I have taken a lot of blows. It's just the territory where we play."

Marquardt already missed two games earlier this year, and is thankful for bye week between the UCLA and USC contests, that did speed up his recovery and will allow him to play. He feels that having this injury again, just a couple of months or so from his earlier injury, does help him with a challenging rehab.

"The most difficult part I think is just the mental aspect," he commented. "Having to go through the injury once again and go through all this rehab again. The frustration not knowing when I'll get back on the field. But I'm pleased with the progress that has been made. The trainers and doctors did a great job."

Speaking of injuries, USC has had a plethora of them this year, especially on the offensive line. Now that all the original starters are back together, does Marquardt feel that their offense is even stronger than it was earlier this season?

"I'm not sure that there's entirely a huge difference," Marquardt replied. "The productivity was obviously higher, but as a core USC is a very good team and certainly worth respecting and not taking lightly. That loss to Stanford, things like that happen sometimes. They're a great team regardless of what happened."

In their last game, a 24-17 road win at Cal, Chauncey Washington ran for 220 yards and a TD in that game. That contest was played in pouring rain, which could be one reason why the Trojans elected to run more than pass that night. Nonetheless, even with much better weather elements expected in Tempe on Thanksgiving night, the senior anticipates the visitors to grind it out.

"We expect USC to be a powerhouse, especially in the running game," Marquardt noted. "Chauncey Washington is a great threat for them. We're gonna target on him and focus on that."

Marquardt transferred to ASU from BYU, having two years of eligibility left. He hasn't been part of ASU's senior class who faced USC three times without coming away with a victory, and one that yearns for their fourth try to materialize to that elusive win over the Trojans before the curtain goes down on their ASU careers. The defensive tackle commented that the hunger of that group for the Thursday game is quite evident.

"A lot of guys that have been here longer than I have passed down that feeling that USC has always been a hump for us that we've never been able to get over," Marquardt stated. "To beat them would be a tremendous achievement for our team, especially for the seniors who have never beaten USC."

As an athlete playing through injury these days, we asked Marquardt if he was impressed with fellow defensive tackle Jon Hargis. Against UCLA, the redshirt freshman dislocated his shoulder, but didn't miss many snaps as he got it popped back in by trainers before he returned to finish the game.

It was an impressive feat to Sun Devil observers, but you didn't really expect a senior to compliment a freshman publicly, did you?

"Jon Hargis is young and he'll get to the point where he pops his own shoulder back in," quipped Marquardt. "The doctors won't even know about it."

Ironically, Hargis(pictured)kind of downplays the whole episode as well. "My shoulder is OK," he said after practice on Monday. "It happened to me before during my freshman year at high school. Been there - done that. No injuries kept me out of a game. You just learn how to play with pain. Every football season will have its nicks and cuts, and you just have to fight through it."

Against UCLA, Marquardt went down with his sprained ankle about five plays before Hargis dislocated his shoulder. Thus, Hargis was undoubtedly feeling a sense of urgency to get back in the game, especially in a close contest as the one versus the Bruins. "I guess the situation we were in and the games that keep on getting bigger you want to play and help your team," he said.

Hargis already started in two games earlier this year, when Marquardt was forced to miss some time with his first go-around with an ankle sprain. He said that redshirting his first year helped him get stronger and acclimated to the college level. "I'm very happy with where I'm at right now," he remarked. "I still have a lot of improvement to do, and that's why I'm gonna work hard in the off-season."

The defensive tackle, who prepped locally at Mesa Red Mountain High School, still doesn't if he will start Thursday in the absence of Marquardt (who is expected to see a limited number of snaps). Regardless of how that situation will unfold, a Thanksgiving game against USC is more than enough to put an extra bounce in ant Sun Devil's step this week.

"When we were younger we always played at the park on Thanksgiving and now we're playing on T.V.," said Hargis. "So we're really looking towards that and a shot at the Pac-10 championship. But we have to take care of USC first."

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