ASU Offensive Line in 2009: The Big Story Up Front

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ASU Offensive Line in 2009: The Big Story Up Front
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The numbers tell the story for Arizona State’s offensive line: 146 sacks in the last four seasons. The good thing is that there could be some new blood, combined with senior leadership up front for the Sun Devils.  

The face of the offensive line in 2009 undoubtedly will be senior Shawn Lauvao. The Honolulu product has played both guard spots in his career, and now has the most skilled and technically sound big man. Dennis Erickson and his staff decided to solidify the left tackle spot.

Danny Sullivan will not need to worry about his blind side with the 6’3”, 310-pound former “Mr.  Teen Hawaii Strong Man” winner, who has continued to put up outstanding weight room numbers. His offseason 6:00 am lineman workouts have produced a 500-pound bench press and 675-pound squat. 

The question is: Will the weight room numbers translate to the gridiron in the fall? During spring workouts, Lauvao was solid at his new position going up against Dexter Davis and company on a daily basis.  

At left guard is junior John Hargis. Hargis, a local product out of Mesa Red Mountain high school, started all 12 games at left tackle in 2008. The blue-collar lineman also appeared in all 13 games for ASU in 2007 as a defensive tackle.

Hargis is a former All-Mayday selection by ESPN’s Mark May—which is labeled as a collection of the toughest of the tough in college football and is selected by ESPN's Mark May—as he injured his shoulder early in a game in Pasadena, but returned shortly after to help ASU defeat the Bruins.

The toughness is there with this group of guys, as Hargis exemplifies. The combination of experience and strength on the left side, is paired with youth and inexperience on the right side, as well as the center position.

The Sun Devils have an interesting battle at center. Sophomore Garth Gerhart finished the 2008 campaign with three straight starts. However, those starts were at the guard position due to injuries.

In his time on the field, Gerhart, the brother of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, impressed offensive line coach Gregg Smith enough that he was the primary starter at center all spring.

Gerhart, the 6’1”, 302-pound Norco, CA product, will continue to battle senior Thomas Altieri during fall camp.

Altieri, the 2008 starter at center, never really met expectations of coaches following the 2007 graduation of current Indianapolis Colts guard, and former Sun Devil, Mike Pollack.  Inconsistency was the word used to describe Altieri’s play in the fall as well as this past spring.  It is going to take a herculean effort for Altieri to unseat Gerhart at center in the fall.

The right guard position will be held by another sophomore—Peoria, Arizona's own Zach Schlink. In 2008, Schlink earned his first career start against Washington. The former No. 1 overall lineman in Arizona seemed to elevate the play of the other four members of the offensive line during the Sun Devils' win at Husky Stadium.

However, the bad news late in that contest was a terrible knee injury suffered by Schlink. Due to rehab and recovery, he not only sat out the rest of the season, but also missed spring workouts. His status for the fall is clear—he will be ready to go when Arizona State opens up camp in early August. 

The final position on the offensive line might be the most worrisome for Sun Devil fans. Currently, junior college-transfer and 2008 four-game-starter, Tom N’Junge is penciled in as the starter entering fall camp. However, injured Adam Tello and Matt Hustad might have something to say about that when fully recovered. 

The key reserves on the offensive line will come from 6’5” 298-pound Mike Marcisz, and redshirt freshmen Patrick Jamison and Andrew Sampson.

Marcisz, who can play both guard and tackle for Dennis Erickson and the Devils, filled in nicely at the right guard spot this spring while Zach Schlink rehabilitated.  

Patrick Jamison, a product of Chandler, AZ worked at the tackle positions and can also slide inside and play guard for Gregg Smith. Jamison is a very technically sound, smart player for the Sun Devils.

Andrew Sampson came to Tempe as a center from Aurora, CO. The 6’4”, 280-pound beast is intimidating, and has a very aggressive mean streak that coaches have admired. His performance in the spring at times outshined John Hargis at guard, but Sampson could not solidify his spot as the No. 1 at left guard.

The Arizona State offensive line will be the reason why the Sun Devils improve on their dismal showing in 2008. Giving up 34 sacks last fall is clearly a number that both Erickson and quarterback Danny Sullivan want to greatly reduce in 2009.

However, it was not only the sacks, but the ground game suffered from inconsistency upfront as well. The Sun Devils rushing attack only averaged 2.9 yards per carry in 2008. That number is as important as any statistic in 2009.

If Dennis Erickson can achieve the same success on the ground as he did in 2007 with Ryan Torrain and a serviceable offensive line, the 2009 season will be a success for Arizona State.

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