Hargis Struggles, Improves, at Offensive Line

If you click on Jon Hargis on the Arizona State University football web site it will tell you that he is a defensive lineman. If you look at coach Dennis Erickson's personnel sheet it will tell you different.

Listed as the third best player in Arizona as a high school senior, Jon Hargis is making a change from defensive line to offensive line for the 2008 season in light of some recent graduations. There is no question that ASU is in a rebuilding stage after loosing its main players on the offensive line from last year. Hargis, in turn, was moved into the left tackle position, replacing Brandon Rodd, and given the job of protecting Rudy Carpenter's blind side.

After practice on Wednesday Hargis was sweating profusely and was looking all but beaten except for his smile.

"Better one today," he said through sporadic pants. "Improving each day."

The 6-4 310 Hargis is realizing that playing on the other side of the line is going to present some difficult, but achievable, challenges. "I am feeling pretty comfortable," he said. "The footwork is sill getting there but I am feeling a little more comfortable with the plays, technique wise. Mostly I need to start working on my footwork and the way the coaches want it to be, but it's gonna take some time," he laughed.

Hargis is accustomed to running into people, not being the person getting ran into, so to speak. "Mostly I need to work on my footwork and kick-step," he said. "Staying low and keeping my heels on the ground and not getting up so much on my toes." Or else he will get knocked down. Hard.

He does have a good sense of what is coming his way though.

"How the defensive line lines up and how they position with their feet, when they lean I know," he mentioned about his previous experience. "The games they play too, where they are going to end up and how they kind of come off (the line). I kind of know how they are trying to shoot inside and I need to get my hands inside so it helps."

The other guys on the line are being courteous though Hargis said, and encouraging him to learn. "They are teaching me and they know it is going to take me time to progress in the offense and they want to see me do my best," he said. "So they are telling me not to get frustrated and stay positive."

"That is the hardest thing, not getting frustrated because I have the coaches on me and they see bad stuff when you're screwing up. But it's only my second week so I need to stay positive and stay focused on what I need to do and not get down on myself. If I start doubting myself I loose my focus."

The pressure on the offensive line is no secret this season, and Erickson has been riding them hard on the practice field. "Everyone knows that we need to get better," Hargis admitted. "They don't need to stress it on us a lot because we know where we need to be. They keep stressing it so we keep trying to push forward. I think we are starting to make strides and starting to understand."

"They throw a lot at you the first week and you try to process it in your head. There are also a lot of new guys at positions, who haven't played really, that are now asked to step up," Hargis concluded.

I asked him if he liked avoiding the wrath of coach Bray now that he is on the other side of the game. "I get razzed everywhere," he said. "if it's not Bray it's (Coach) Smith or Erickson or other coaches," he chuckled.

Despite a tough road ahead of him Hargis is not backing down or looking at his feet this pre-season. "I think we should be better than we were last year because everyone has been in the system now," he explained. "The real question is going to be how the offense is going to be, especially at the offensive line because we lost a majority of the guys."

"That is the big question going into the season, is how the offensive line is going to stand up. I think we are going to step up better than a lot of people think we were going to. And we are going to be a lot more progressed, especially defensively," he added. "They are already one year into the program, this is their second year. There are also a couple new spots. We lost Michael Marquardt, a great defensive tackle. Linebacker core is the same and defensive backs really are the same."

Confidence has never been questioned at ASU or work ethic and Hargis is no exception to that. "Yeah it is a little pressure just because you know you are going to go against the best defensive line on the other team. And a lot of the times you are out on the open by yourself, and that's where a lot of technique comes into play. Also I practice against Dexter Davis every day so that helps me out." Hargis let out a belly laugh and walked off the field, all smiles.

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