A lot of attention has been paid to the number of key players that Arizona State has lost since last season. While the departure of Brock Osweiler has created the offseason's top storyline with the three-way quarterback battle, the man who snapped him the ball--center Garth Gerhart--also leaves a substantial hole in the lineup.
Junior Kody Koebensky has backed up Gerhart the past two seasons, and after holding off a challenge by Mo Latu during the spring, is now the team's starting center heading into fall camp.
I caught up with Koebensky recently to talk about a number of topics, such as the pressure of ASU's legacy of great centers, the changes the new offense brought, and whether being the starter has changed his approach.
Brad Denny: It seems to be an understatement that saying the change in attitude around the program from last year to now is night and day. What have the last seven months been like for you in that regard?
Kody Koebensky: I think it's been going well. I've really liked a bunch of the ideals that Coach Graham has brought into the program. It's given us a good foundation to build this program. I've really enjoyed all things he's brought in so far.
BD: You've got some big shoes to fill in taking over for new Cleveland Brown Garth Gerhart. What have you learned from him over the last two seasons?
KK: Football is a physical game, but at center, a lot of it's mental. Learning the defenses, learning how the fronts go, if the safety rolls here what it means. He's taught me a lot physically as well and how important the mental part of the game is.
BD: The Sun Devils have a bit of a legacy at the center position, with such guys like Grey Ruegamer, Mike Pollak and Garth, among others. Do you feel any pressure of having to live up to the success the team has had at the position?
KK: There's definitely a lot of pressure. Those guys are all great players and they've all had pretty good NFL careers. I'd like to be at that level one day. I feel that there is a lot of pressure, and I'm just working hard every day to get to the level that they were at.
BD: From a center's perspective, what has been the biggest change from last year's offense to this year, and what work has the group done to reflect that?
KK: I think 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. Coach Connelly has me calling out fronts, and that's also new.
BD: Along with wide receiver and linebacker, the offensive line experienced several key losses from last season. How big of a concern is it that there will be three new starters along the line?
KK: It's a little bit of a concern, but I'm not too worried about it. We've got really good seniors. We've got Brice (Schwab) and Andrew (Sampson). Andrew is very experienced and a great leader on the O-line. Evan (Finkenberg) has had two years on the line and he leads very well too.
BD: How well do you feel the starting five has begun to gel this offseason?
KK: Very well. We hang out a lot outside of our football activities. We're all really good friends, none of us have any issues with each other. We like each other's company.
BD: What has it been like working with offensive line coach Bob Connelly thus far?
KK: It's been great. I like pretty much everything he's done. He's strict. He's not going to let you get away with anything, but I think he's good for us growing up as young men and developing as football player.
BD: In a recent interview with The Arizona Republic, Coach Connelly praised your intangibles, while saying your biggest challenge comes with strength. How does that fall in line with your own assessment of where you are?
KK: I think he's dead on. I've been down in the weight room with Coach Gris (strength and conditioning coach Shawn Griswold) and he's been working our butts off. I've been really trying to work on that aspect of my position.
BD: Has knowing you were coming into the year as the presumptive favorite to be the starting center changed your approach at all?
KK: Yes, definitely. Now that I feel like I have my chance, I've been wanting to work so much harder every day, for myself and to help get this team to a Pac-12 championship.
BD: Being the starting center, I'd be remiss if I didn't get your thoughts on the quarterback competition.
KK: Honestly, we haven't paid attention at all to all three of them. I've just seen Coach Norvell yelling at all three all equally. I like all three as young men. They're pretty awesome guys, all of them. I haven't watched game film on them, per se, so I really can't say who I like more or less.
BD: The overriding theme since Coach Graham's arrival in December has been "Speaking Victory". How do you define that term?
KK: We all need to stay positive and everything we do is at a championship level. If we do everything that we're doing, in the weight room and film room to achieve victory. By speaking it, we're putting it into our minds that that's what we're going to do this season.
BD: What do you feel is the one X-factor-whether it's a player, scheme, mentality-for this team to succeed this fall?
KK: I think this year with Coach Norvell and what he's brought in, and obviously Coach Graham, I really like our offensive scheme and how many things we can throw at a defense, whether it's zone or trap or whatever we want, and I think that will be a lot for defenses to handle this year.
Bonus question: From an offensive linemen's perspective, what are the challenges of blocking for a running quarterback like Michael Eubank differ from a pocket passer like Mike Bercovici?
KK: Coach Connelly touched on that a little bit. It's just holding onto your blocks that same amount of time until that ball gets thrown or we see one of them run our into the flat. Just block until that ball is gone.
Previous interviews in our "12 in '12" series: QB Michael Eubank, K Alex Garoutte, RB James Morrison
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