Evan Finkenberg (right) hopes to protect Cameron Marshall on many touchdown runs this upcoming season. (Photo by Christian Petersen, Getty Images)
The new coaching staff at Arizona State has put their foot down: no one will be overweight and everyone will be in great shape, both from a cardiovascular perspective and in the weight room. This is a departure from Dennis Erickson's staff, which did not seem to push their players to their physical peak.
One of the biggest losses for the Devils in 2012 is the departure of Garth Gerhart, who was picked up by the Cleveland Browns. He was a longtime starter at center and is a difficult player to replace.
2012 ASU Season Preview
With all that said, the Sun Devils have a lot of depth on the offensive line. We will now break down this new and improved group of players, beginning with the starting five.
Evan Finkenberg, LT
Finkenberg is a significant cog for the offensive line going into Todd Graham's first season. A redshirt junior, 2012 will mark his third season as a starting tackle for the Sun Devils. As one of the most experienced players on the line, he has been a leader for the younger linemen. Jamil Douglas mentioned Finkenberg as a player who has been very helpful in the trenches during practice.
Without a doubt, Finkenberg has been working hard this offseason. He provides continuity to a position group that lost seven seniors from last season.
Jamil Douglas, LG
In 2011, the left guard position was handled mainly by Mike Marcisz and Adam Tello, both departing seniors. Douglas appears to have filled the vacancy with a strong offseason. Last year, Douglas played a key role on special teams as he was on the line in punt formations.
"The quarterbacks all [helped me get better]. Michael Eubank is young but he really pushes me to work hard," Douglas said at media day. "They have taught me that I have to continue to work hard, I have to get better at certain things, not to be content if I do one good thing not to take the next play off, just continuing to work."
That work ethic is going to come in handy as the Sun Devils adjust to a completely new offensive scheme with a new quarterback under center.
Koebensky is the heir apparent at center after the departure of Garth Gerhart to the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Last month, Kody spoke with Brad Denny about the upcoming season, and had this to say about the biggest changes on the offensive line from the Erickson era to 2012.
"This year is just getting used to some of the different schemes. Last year we were all zone concept. This year we have zone, gap scheme, man, power. There's a bunch of different schemes to run the ball that we can throw at defense. Just getting used to that. [Offensive-line] Coach [Bob] Connelly has me calling out fronts, and that's also new."
Replacing an NFL-caliber center can be a very difficult task, but Koebensky has the work ethic to do the job. In an interview with the Arizona Republic, coach Connelly said that Koebensky is "a guy that's very dependable. He's accountable. He's a high-character guy. He's a great academic guy. He's a team guy." Connelly also noted that Koebensky needs to spend more time in the weight room.
Andrew Sampson, RG
This is Sampson's final season in Tempe. Having played in 37 games (and starting 22 of them), Sampson has the most experience of anyone on the line. As right guard, Sampson will join forces with Brice Schwab to protect ASU's starting quarterback's passing lanes.
While we've talked a lot about leadership in this article, Sampson has taken the lead on setting the right example for his teammates. Coach Connelly had nothing but good things to say about Sampson when he talked to the Republic.
Brice Schwab, RT
Hotly-recruited junior college transfer Brice Schwab joined the Sun Devils in time for the 2010 season. A four-star recruit, Schwab was expected to be a rock at right tackle to protect Steven Threet.
Unfortunately, Schwab didn't put in the work necessary to succeed, losing the starting tackle job after gaining weight and looking sluggish on the field.
"Just a year after earning a Hard Hat award for diligent work in the weight room, Schwab had let himself coast on the hype and accolades," Brad wrote earlier this summer. "As a result, Schwab used his redshirt last season to dedicate himself to conditioning and development, and to anyone who watched the team during spring practices this April, the improvements made were stark."
Now, Schwab is under 300 pounds and has been impressing the coaches with his tenacity and technical skills. Schwab is the definition of a 'player with potential,' one that will set an important tone for the ASU offensive line in 2012.
Now, we look some key members further down the depth chart.
Sil Ajawara, G
Ajawara is going to see a lot of action in 2012. As a redshirt freshman last season, Ajawara saw action against UC Davis and Missouri. A highly-recruited lineman in the class of 2010, Ajawara is Jamil Douglas' backup and may slide onto the first team if either Schwab or Finkenberg falter due to injury (Douglas would move to tackle in that scenario).
Mo Latu, C
Latu nearly won the starting center job over Koebensky in spring ball, and he is a very solid backup who will eye the starting position over the next few seasons. Just a redshirt freshman, Latu has plenty of upside and will play a crucial role on future Sun Devil teams. In fact, he may push Koebensky all season long.
Vi Teofilo, G
Teofilo is a redshirt freshman who will back up Andrew Sampson at right guard. He is strong but has to spend more time learning the intricacies of his position before he will be ready to replace Sampson in 2013. For now, following in his footsteps and putting in the work necessary to succeed are Teofilo's main points of interest in Graham's first season in Tempe.
Tyler Sulka, T
Sulka doesn't have a weight problem, per se. But he's light. Unlike most offensive linemen, Sulka needs to gain weight to be effective in the Pac-12. A redshirt sophomore, Sulka started last season's game against Utah due to injuries, and ended up playing in eight total games. He can fill in all over the line and should see serious time during special teams and when a starter needs a breather.