(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Perhaps no position group on the Sun Devil roster is undergoing more turnover than the offensive line, a group that only returns one starter from last season, left tackle Evan Goodman.
The senior Goodman is an almost default leader of a unit coached by Chris Thomsen, who is in his fourth year with the team. Thomsen has coached some prolific offensive lineman, even as recent as last year, when he had players such as Christian Westerman, Vi Teofilo and Nick Kelly as part of the group that protected his quarterback.
It’s only fitting that now that ASU will start an inexperienced quarterback, they will put a young offensive line in front of him. In the first depth chart released by the Sun Devils on Monday, redshirt sophomore Sam Jones was listed as the starting left guard next to Goodman. Senior Stephon McCray was at center, while underclassmen Quinn Bailey and Zach Robertson will be starting on the right side at guard and tackle respectively.
Thomsen has had the best view for watching how the group has meshed during the month or so of fall camp, and he is pleased with the results.
“We have had a lot of time to get used to communication and working together,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of finishing off these last couple practices this week and getting into a game and going from there.”
Nonetheless, he has absolutely had to make adjustments from last year. With a younger group, most of the players have more to learn than the players on the veteran-laden quintet last season.
For Thomsen, it’s been a matter of keeping it simple with this unit.
“Just the base offense,” he said. “The base run game, base protections. Specifically, you are always working on ‘who do I block,’ your assignment and next you are working on how do I block them and what’s the technique to do that.”
One player who is not among the starting five offensive linemen for week one but should still figure his way into the fold is true freshman Cohl Cabral, who has played everywhere from center to left tackle and now long snapper with the injury to Mitchell Fraboni.
Cabral said that the experience brought by Thomsen as a former offensive lineman and offensive coordinator means everything to this group.
“He knows everything that needs to happen. He has been able to help with everything, such as saying ‘hey you need to do this with your steps’ to staying after practice and just helping us out.”
Looking at a guy like Goodman, as the primary veteran of this line, it seems like a given that he would step up not only on the field but also off of it as a mentor to the younger players.
Goodman’s impact on some of the younger players such as Cabral is more than apparent.
“I would tell him thank you because he is the reason why I am in this spot. Over the summer he would say ‘Do you know this?’ ‘Do you need help on this?’ or staying after everyone had left and just working on the little things with us.”
The first few games for the Sun Devils’ offensive line may be seen as a test to see how they work together, but if fall camp is any indication, the group is in good hands with strong coaching and leadership.
-The position groups worked on individual drills for the length of the practice that was open to the media, so there was not much of a way to tell which quarterback was working with the first team.
-According to offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, the starting quarterback will be announced towards the end of the week.
-Zane Gonzalez, James Johnson and Tyler Whiley were among the notable players on muscle beach.