Bigger isn't always better.
That's a hard lesson learned by Arizona State senior tackle Brice Schwab during his Sun Devil career thus far.
After a successful stop at Palomar Community College, Schwab was among the most hotly recruited junior college prospects in the nation in 2009, earning a four-star ranking and a spot as the ninth overall prospect in the nation, according to Rivals.
In a fortunate turn, the departure of Pete Carroll at USC helped Arizona State land the coveted Schwab. Coming in at 6'7" and 345 pounds, he had the mammoth frame to immediately step in and lock down a spot on the Sun Devil offensive line.
Or so the coaching staff thought.
Although he had great size, Schwab's technique and conditioning were not up to par, and he was demoted from the starting lineup after the first four games in 2010.
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. 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.
Schwab dropped 50 pounds over that span and is now listed at 295, with his overall condition having gone from this to this. His new slimmed down and cut physique has added power, retained quickness and has brought that wealth of potential back to the surface.
During spring ball, Schwab was a great force at right tackle for the Sun Devils, and heading into fall camp in a few weeks, he is currently listed as the team's starter.
The Sun Devils will need Schwab to continue that momentum into the season and deliver on his potential. A new offensive system featuring a first-time starting quarterback (again) and a very unproven wide receiving corps will place a lot of pressure on the offensive line to become a stabilizing strength of the team to guide them through the inevitable growing pains.
One aspect in their favor is the move from an offensive system that threw 527 times in 2011 to one that will rely heavily on the run. Being able to surge ahead in run blocking rather than fall back in pass protection a majority of the time should help ease the learning curve a bit and help the unit gel quicker.
However, key losses along the line will complicate matters. The unit lost three starters from last season, with just left tackle Evan Finkenberg and guard Andrew Sampson returning. The expectation is that Finkenberg will continue to develop into a quality tackle, but the team will rely on Schwab to complement him in forming reliable bookends.
If he does, the offensive should see some nice development over the course of the year. If he does not, the quarterback may be running for his life and a talented backfield may not be able to get on track.
Given the progress he has made since rededicating himself to his craft, the odds favor the former at the moment.
Previous Most Important Player Countdown Entries:
9) K Alex Garoutte
10) LB Steffon Martin
11) NT Mike Pennel
12) DT Will Sutton
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