(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
It’s well known that the defense for Arizona State will have arguably as tough of a test as it will have all season going up against Patrick Mahomes and the air raid offense of Texas Tech. However, the offensive line will have a tall task of their own in trying to build upon its up-and-down performance in the season opener against Northern Arizona.
Growing pains were to be expected from a unit that returns only Evan Goodman as a starter from last year, but in ASU’s first FBS game of the season, protecting quarterback Manny Wilkins will be a huge emphasis.
“We have to just keep on doing what we are doing and finish plays,” Goodman said.
What the offensive line has going for it is that Texas Tech allowed the second most rushing yards per game of any team in the country, making it the prime opportunity for the offensive line to show what it is made of.
Problems still exist though, with the main one being the status of redshirt freshman right tackle Zach Robertson, who hobbled during Wednesday’s practice and was not practicing in Thursday’s 11-on-11 session.
In turn, Quinn Bailey moved to right tackle, while the center for the opening game, Stephon McCray, was practicing at right guard. This meant that City College of San Francisco transfer A.J. McCollum was getting reps with the first team at center.
The No. 1 JUCO recruit in the country last year, McCollum didn’t receive much playing time against NAU but says it would be a dream come true to make his first Division I start.
“I’ve sacrificed a lot and my family has sacrificed a lot,” he said. “It would probably be one of the best feelings of my life. I can’t wait, I’m excited.”
If he does indeed play on Saturday, it will be important for him to get into a rhythm with Wilkins, something he has worked hard on.
“We had skills in the summer so I have already been getting that communication down with him,” McCollum said. “I have been playing center for a long time so just plug a quarterback in and it works.”
Meanwhile, with the young line going through the changes early on in the season, the leadership of the senior Goodman will only become more and more important.
“I just have to lead by example,” he said. “Words can only go so far. When they see doing the right things consistently, they will get the motivation to do it too.”
-Manny Wilkins completed a pair of passes to Jalen Harvey during 11-on-11.
-Christian Sam wore cleats and no tape on his right ankle, but head coach Todd Graham said that he is doubtful for Saturday.
-Laiu Moeakiola was practicing at SPUR while Chad Adams was manning bandit safety.