All of the talk throughout the offseason revolved around a "dominating defense" heading into the season. So far, through one game, the Arizona State defense has lived up to the billing. The other question, and a big one at that, was how would the ASU offense produce with an offensive line that has not performed up to standards in the past?
Well, heading into the second game of the season against Louisiana Monroe, Dennis Erickson and offensive line coach Gregg Smith will try to get the best five guys on the field while healing some key injuries before the meat of their schedule.
On opening night against Idaho State, Erickson anchored his offensive line with Seniors Shawn Lauvao at tackle and Thomas Altieri at center. Both of those lineman have had some quality experience under their belts throughout their respective careers, combining for 33 starts between them.
The rest of the big uglies up front were far less experienced. Redshirt Freshman Andrew Sampson made his first career start against the ISU Bengals, but has since been switched to center, to back up Altieri in Garth Gerhart's absence due to a turf toe injury.
However, a highlight against Idaho State was the impressive play of Matt Hustad, also making his first career start for the maroon and gold. Hustad has looked good enough, and the coaching staff has confidence in him to move the Montana native inside to play right guard this upcoming week.
Now you might say, "why the change if Hustad looked impressive?" Well, Senior tackle Tom N'Junge has returned from an elbow injury that sidelined him from the Idaho State contest. The Pasadena City College transfer was slated to be the right tackle all throughout camp until the final week when he sustained the injury.
Now that N'Junge is healthy and back in form, the Senior will get the start Saturday night against the ULM Warhawks.
John Hargis, the left guard for the Sun Devils has quietly had a very productive camp and opening game performance. The Junior, who played left tackle last season, will be at his left guard spot for 2009, between the two Seniors Lauvao and Altieri.
Although, right now the best five offensive linemen are going to be playing on the field Saturday night, but waiting in the wings recovering from injuries are two quality "hog mollies" chomping at the bit to get their chance to perform.
Sophomore center Garth Gerhart was penciled in as the starting center during camp, until he injured his foot during the Sun Devils first preseason scrimmage. Gerhart did play in the season opener, and did well, however, he aggravated his injury more so. As of right now Dennis Erickson listed Gerhart as "pretty questionable" for the Louisian Monroe game.
Zach Schlink, who might be the Sun Devils best young offensive linemen, has been sidelined for much of camp and the early stages of the season due to a nagging knee injury. Schlink has one career start to his name, coming against the Washington Huskies last season, but during that contest was when the Peoria, AZ product injured his knee.
Erickson said that Schlink most likely would not participate in the Sun Devils next two games against ULM and Georgia on the road, but would be "optimistic" to see Schlink play in the Pacific Ten conference opener against the Oregon State Beavers.
Keep in mind the offensive line against Idaho State paved the way for 199 yards on the ground and 208 yards through the air. Not a bad stat column when the best is yet to come.
And if you though that the Arizona State defense looked impressive in their 50-3 win over Idaho State, think again. ASU was without their top defensive tackle, Lawrence Guy.
The Freshman All-American in 2008 was nursing a biceps injury and is close to 100 percent, and will start against Louisiana Monroe. Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray, was also without linebacker Shelly Lyons and Safety Clint Floyd, both of whom will have key roles to the maroon and gold's success Saturday night under the lights.
The Sun Devils, by no means will be the same team that played against Idaho State, and fans might not see the full and complete body of work until the Oregon State Beavers come to Tempe on Oct. 3. With a 50-3 score to their name already, this might be a very scary thought for opponents on the Sun Devils schedule in the coming weeks.