Coming into the season, the Arizona State offensive line was supposed to be rock solid. Instead, the unit has been inconsistent. From game to game, the performances vary drastically.
Sometimes the offensive line is among the key reasons for winning. And at other points, the offensive line is among the key reasons for losing.
For Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice to be at their best, the five blockers up front need to provide more stability. Chris Thomsen kindly stopped by to tell us some inside information about the offensive line.
Hos: The offensive line play has been inconsistent, what do you attribute that to?
Chris Thomsen: "Really the two games that I would say that were a struggle we got behind in. And having to come back and probably losing our offensive balance a little bit. For us offensively, we need to be able to have some balance, run and pass. We're not a team that can drop back every snap and throw the ball. So I think the two losses where you'd say inconsistent. It'd basically be Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. It's a matter of not getting in situations where we have to throw the ball too much. That's on us, we got to establish the run earlier, where we can stay in that run game rhythm. If we can stay balanced offensively, we got a chance to perform pretty well. We get in games where we have to be one dimensional, that's hard. We got to a better job when we get in those situations. We got to do a better job of keeping ourselves out of that."
HoS: Your unit has gone against some tough defensive lines, how will that help going into conference play?
CT: "I told them the other day, I think that early schedule if we approach everything the right way each week. Trying to improve fundamentally, because that's what it's at this point. Guys know what they doing from an assignment stand point. So fundamentally there are things that have to improve in the run and pass game. But if they took those things really serious, which they are, and they continue to work and get better. That should really, really help us progress through this thing. We're still going to see really good defensive lines. Pac-12, playing Colorado this week, they got guys that can beat you if your technique isn't sound. But that early schedule is definitely, definitely tough defensive lines and it should help us to get better."
HoS: Are there any particular players that need to step up?
CT: "I think [Tyler] Sulka. Sulka is the one guy that was a brand new starter, really hadn't started. Vi was kind of new but he had started some games last year. And I think coming through that tough five games stretch now, [Sulka] has been a little inconsistent. Some up and downs. So it's time for him to develop that consistency to step up and be more consitent with his technique, with his approach and to play with confidence. There's a difference playing to win and playing to not get beat sometimes. Every guy goes into that mode sometimes. He is a guy we got to emerge. He has done a good job. But he has got to step up and emerge even more as we go through the Pac-12."
HoS: Has Evan Finkenberg lived up to your expectations?
CT: "Yes. [Evan Finkenberg] competed extremely hard saturday night against Notre Dame. I was really proud of him. He is showing great leadership for our group. Comes out and practices hard."
HoS: What are some of the specific areas you have the unit working on during practice this week?
CT: "Just fundamentals. Technique. Colorado they have got a good group of kids on the front seven that are playing hard. Fundamentally we got just keep cleaning up. There's little things that you see each week, especially when you go against the teams we've gone against. Any little technique flaw will get exposed against good players. That's the great thing about playing great competition. So you can see that stuff on film and fix some of that stuff. For example, a pass set that's not just right, a good pass rusher will expose that. So you can see that on the tape. So those little fundamental corrections that get exposed against good people. That's what we need to do.
HoS: What challenges does the Colorado defensive line and pass rush present?
CT: "I think what they do is they line up and they set everything well. They don't try to trick you with a bunch of movement or a bunch of different type of pre-snap shifts. They get settled, they get lined up and fit well. When I say they fit well, their linebackers fit with their d-line and their secondary fits in behind that. So they know where to fit. So you just got to create space, you got come off the football and be fundamentally sound. That's what we have been stressing."