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ASU Football: Vi Teofilo Solidifying Sun Devil Offensive Line

The local product has become a powerful—and promising—inside force on the offensive line

Teofilo blocks a Trojan out of the running lane
Teofilo blocks a Trojan out of the running lane
(Photo: ASU)

An already bad night got even worse.

Arizona State's crushing loss to Oregon is best remembered as the game in which Will Sutton suffered a costly knee injury, but the consensus All-American was not the game's only casualty for the Sun Devils. Senior team captain and right guard Andrew Sampson suffered a ankle injury and would be forced out of the game. After 28 straight starts, Sampson would subsequently be out of the lineup for the next three weeks.

However, there was a 306-pound silver lining. Entering the game in Sampson's place was Vi Teofilo, who was seeing his first significant action on the line.

The Phoenix native played his prep ball at Moon Valley High School, where he also was a state champion wrestler. Teofilo redshirted at ASU in 2011 before Sampson's injury paved the way for his debut last October, and he would start the next three games after the Oregon loss as Sampson recovered. His play earned praise from head coach Todd Graham and gave Teofilo confidence in his game.

"It definitely helps to have a little bit of experience," said Teofilo. "It always feels different to start. You feel like you're more into the gameplan."

That experience has also helped Teofilo in his quest for a full-time starting job in 2013. With Sampson and right tackle Brice Schwab departing, two starting spots on the line were opened, but before he could challenge for a job, there were challenges for Teofilo to overcome. His offseason work was hampered somewhat by his recovery from injury, but he feels that he is now a quicker player than he was last season.

"I was focusing on my conditioning and getting healthy," Teofilo says of his approach. "I got banged up a little bit. Mainly, I just wanted to get healthier. I feel like I definitely got faster. Gris (strength and condition coach Shawn Griswold) is doing a great job with my workouts. Physically, I'm getting better."

Now checking in at 6-foot-3 and 314 pounds, Teofilo combines that size with excellent agility and athleticism, which are essential traits for what the system demands of the guard position.

"You have to be athletic. You need to be able to move for when they want you to pull, as you're involved in a lot of pulling on passing plays."

One unique challenge on those passing plays is the mobility of quarterback Taylor Kelly. While Kelly's running ability makes plenty of plays, it also forces the offensive line to show greater discipline in their blocking.

"You don't always know where he is going to be at," Teofilo said. "You just have to block and take the guy where he wants to go, instead of trying to force him to a certain direction."

The personnel changes of the offensive line are not limited to the players. Over the offseason, last season's line coach, Bob Connelly, was let go and ultimately Chris Thomsen assumed the position. Thomsen has won the early favor of the players and, despite being here just a short time thus far, Teofilo sees a tangible change.

"The first step right out of the pass pro is a big difference," Teofilo noted. "He's (Thomsen) definitely helping out my pass pro a lot. Setting back a little bit definitely helps get my hands up on people. He overemphasized the hips coming through in our run game, and getting some push off the line."

With no additional linemen from the 2013 recruiting class joining the team this fall, all of this season's contributors are already in Tempe. Accordingly, one of the primary goals of the spring has been to establish the starting five, and build upon that lineup and chemistry throughout the summer.

Throughout the spring practices, Teofilo has been playing with the starting offensive line at right guard, forming a potent tandem on the right side with last year's starting left guard Jamil Douglas, who has slide over to tackle. Despite playing on the same side for just a short time, Teofilo has learned a lot from Douglas.

"Jamil is definitely helping me out a lot," said Teofilo. "On the twist games, he's one of the more physical guys on the O-line. He always helps me out banging the defensive tackle when we switch."

With Teofilo and Douglas holding down the right side, ASU has the makings of a very quality offensive line. Thirty-four game starter Evan Finkenberg is among the Pac-12's best left tackles, and center Kody Koebensky had success in his first season as a starter in 2012. That leaves Teofilo and left guard Sil Ajawara to establish themselves along the interior.

With Kelly leading an offensive stable of weapons including Marion Grice, D.J. Foster, Chris Coyle and Rick Smith, the Sun Devils have the firepower to build upon last season's success. Whether they do will depend upon the men up front.

If Teofilo and the line are up to the task, it could be a special year in Tempe.