There are five positions along an offensive line. The Arizona State Sun Devils have starters returning at four spots, but have an opening at arguably the most important one—Left tackle.
Enter Cohl Cabral, a talented sophomore being groomed to fill the vacancy.
“It’s been fun,” Cabral said of his spring transition. “A lot of learning, but the guys are helping out a lot.”
Cabral, a former Under Armour All-American and ESPN 300 recruit, saw the field as a true freshman last season because, as ASU head coach Todd Graham says, “he had to.”
The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder’s versatility was a welcomed commodity up front by a unit thin on depth. Cabral served as the team’s long snapper during field-goal attempts, as well as an extra tight end in ASU’s “Sparky” package, appearing in 11 total games in 2016.
“That says a lot about his talent,” Graham said. “Up front is the key for us, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys. Our line was very young last year. Obviously, they’ve gotta develop as well as the running backs, as well as the receivers, but I do got a lot of confidence that we have that talent box checked.”
In the trenches, the name of the game is consistency, something Cabral has demonstrated throughout the offseason.
While spring practices serve as the first time the public is reintroduced to the team, players take part in the team’s winter-conditioning program in February, dubbed its “Tour of Duty” program. During the session, players are given black, maroon, yellow or white jerseys used to indicate the effort they display.
Players in yellow must display greater effort; those in white are displaying adequate effort; maroon signifies “Pac-12 Championship-caliber” effort; and black represents “National Championship-caliber” effort.
Cabral sported black nearly every day, wearing it over the last two weeks of workouts. It’s an example of the “hard-edge tough, hard-core disciplined” attitude Graham says he expects from each of his starting offensive linemen.
“Probably the guy that’s sticking out this spring more than anybody is Cohl Cabral,” Graham said. “I love Cohl. He’s got that drive and toughness, and then he’s got the mentality.”
Cabral said his time at Los Osos High School (Calif.) helped prepare him for much of what ASU’s conditioning program required. Although the showing placed him in good standing with coaches, he is more concerned with being an example for his teammates.
“I’m used to having that extra drive to wanna do the extra little bit, getting out here, and just being able to help motivate the guys,” Cabral said. “If I’m pushing myself, someone else is gonna be pushing themselves. So it’s not just for me, it’s for everybody.”
What Cabral displays in effort is reciprocated by his teammates through surrounding leadership.
“Sam Jones and Quinn (Bailey) are emerging as leaders up front,” Graham said. “I really like their work ethic, and there’s a lot of competition up front. You’re going to be as good as you are up front, on both sides of the ball. That’s why I’ve got a lot of confidence in our guys.”
With Jones—ASU’s returning starting left guard and best lineman—entrenched on Cabral’s side, in tandem with guidance from new offensive line coach Rob Sale, the move to left tackle has come more easily for him.
“Having Sam next to me, playing last year a lot, he’s been able to help me,” Cabral said. “Coach Sale, he’s really been able to sit down and talk to you, coming in later in the day after we’re all done with everything and getting things done right.”
Despite his inexperience with the starting group, Cabral is confident, adding that he’s “young, but you gotta learn at some point” before making an impact.
“I feel like my athletic ability is gonna be able to everyone across the board,” he said, “where if someone else needs help with making a block, that I can help get there, or if a tight end needs help with someone, I can get out to get there, help them with it.”
Graham is trusting of Cabral’s ability to contribute in a big way not only this year, but beyond.
“I’m looking for him to really be a big-time anchor up there at left tackle,” Graham said. “I’m looking for great things from him.”