If there's a topic that is more prevalent around Tempe than the quarterback quandary or the temperature of the chair upon which Coach Erickson is seated, it's the ever popular debate topic of the Sun Devil offensive line.
Even back in 2007, when ASU split the conference crown with USC, the Sun Devil line was one of the most transparent in college football. Though matters have improved, the unit has yet to prove to be a reliable strength.
The 2010 offensive line has many new faces, and time will tell if that's a good or bad thing. Gone from last year is star guard/tackle Shawn Lauvao, as well as Thomas Altieri, Brent Good, and Tom Njunge, all of whom saw action in the starting lineup in 2009.
In the spring, ASU took a big shot in the foot—or knee, when senior Jon Hargis suffered a season-ending ACL injury. More recently, one day before fall camp kicks off, it was announced that possible starting guard Zach Schlink would be a terminal injury casualty and would have to hang up his cleats permanently.
What's left is a group that has some depth and talent, but most of it is either disorganized, unproven, or both.
The leader of the pack figures to be center Garth Gerhart (6'1", 305) (pictured, No. 52), brother of Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart. The younger, larger Gerhart has started at guard and center for the Devils and will need to take on a steady role for the line to succeed this year.
Returning letterwinner Matt Hustad (6'5", 292) moves from right tackle to left guard in place of Hargis, though Hustad has had severe injury issues of his own, having played in only five games through his first two seasons at ASU.
Redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg (6'6", 290) showed promise this spring but has the tall task of taking on the left tackle position.
Meanwhile, massive Brice Schwab (6'7", 345), a player with scholarship offers from coast to coast and a one-time USC commit, was a little more chocolate chip than blue chip when he arrived on campus in January from Palomar Junior College, showing inferior athleticism and quickness for a player expected to stand out at left tackle. At the end of spring drills, Schwab relocated to right tackle, and as fall camp approaches, there is some buzz that he may be again repositioned to right guard.
If Schwab moves to guard, former tight end Dan Knapp (6'5", 258)—former, as in he was a tight end up until merely three months ago—may step in at right tackle, while junior Adam Tello (6'3", 290), who hasn't seen game action since Sept. 20, 2008, may fill in at guard if Schwab remains at tackle.
Junior Mike Marcisz (6'5", 304) played in two of the first three games last year before missing the final nine, as well as spring drills, due to injury, while boom-or-bust junior college transfer Aderious Simmons (6'7", 310) may provide intriguing depth at either tackle spot if he can meet academic eligibility requirements—which are still up in the air with fall camp starting Wednesday.
Reserves Chris De Armas (6'4", 292), Kyle Johnson (6'7", 292), Kody Koebensky (6'4", 303), and Andrew Sampson (6'3", 300) are all scholarship linemen but aren't likely to create much of an impact this year, while the three true freshmen that signed in February each will likely redshirt.
What does this mean?
Trouble, of course.
Well not necessarily. There may very well be a talented five that can surface among this group, a quintet that could help the Sun Devil offense evolve past a crawling pace. However, ASU fans have come to expect that the five that begin the season likely won't be the five that end the season, so keeping the hogs healthy is paramount to the Sun Devils' overall success.
ASU has the skill position players to improve, but as any football purist will tell you, games are won and lost in the trenches, so the big hog-mollies likely will pave the way—literally and figuratively—to the outcome of the 2010 season, good or bad.