Offensive Line Shuffles Again

The injury bug has bitten guard Zach Schlink's knee again. After the Peoria Centennial chipped his knee cap early in his senior year, Schlink was injured in his first ever ASU start, against Washington last Saturday. The true freshman was ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing micro facture surgery on Tuesday morning.

"It's too bad," said head coach Dennis Erickson. "He finally got a chance to play and did well. The next three games would have been great for his improvement, and obviously for us as a team. It's too bad he got that. It really was kind of a freak thing – but it happened."

"(Team Doctor) Dr. Cummings feels like he will be back for spring football. That's all we can do, look to next year. Now, we have to solve the problem and there's two ways we can go."

In Tuesday's practice, the team addressed the situation by inserting center Garth Gerhart into Schlink's left guard position. Erickson didn't rule out also going to a lineup that was employed prior to the Washington game where Shawn Lauvao resumed his left guard role, and Tom Njunge was inserted at right tackle – a position Lauvao currently occupies.

"It's probably easier now that he (Gerhart) doesn't have to worry about snapping the ball," quipped Erickson. "The thing about moving Garth is he makes all the calls anyways at center so he knows what's going on with the mental aspect of it – so that should be a pretty easy adjustment."

The steps are a little bit different," said Gerhart who only played center in high school, "but I'm pretty comfortable for the first day at guard. I don't have to worry about fumbling snaps, shotgun…just free."

Gerhart added that having the player he backs up, Thomas Altieri, play right next to him on the line has also helped in the transition he's undergoing these days. "He's real smart and knows everything," explained Gerhart. "Him making the calls and I'm already looking for what the call is gonna be it makes it easier."

Gerhart hasn't started yet this year, and is excited over this position move that could ultimately net him his first start in the maroon and gold. "I redshirted last year, so I just want to go out there and play," he said.

According to Erickson, keeping Lauvao, a solid offensive guard in his own right, at right tackle presents less of a challenge than trying to replace him at left guard. "I would say his future down the road here would be at tackle," said Erickson concerning Lauvao. "We thought about making that move a long time ago, but weren't comfortable with the other aspects of that (decision)."

Erickson added that he was pleased with Njunge's performance against Washington, and his development is indicative of the overall improvement the Sun Devil front five has made since the beginning of the season. "They're getting better, but (on) the offensive front it doesn't happen overnight unfortunately," remarked Erickson. "Continuity is a key because everything we do, we have to work as a unit in our running game and pass protection."

"When you are changing here and there the continuity gets (reduced) a little bit. But with Garth we'll be OK."

In other injury news, safety Clint Floyd has resumed running after his lacerated kidneys showed no blood. Nonetheless, once the true freshman exercises his kidneys will have to continue and not bleed before he can be cleared for full contact. ASU's head coach commented that the earliest Floyd could be back playing would be the November 28th game against UCLA.

Defensive tackle David Smith suffered another stinger, this time against Washington, and just like Floyd won't be back at least until the UCLA contest.


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