As most know, this time last year Sun Devil football had a different sculpture than it does now. Herm Edwards enters the fray as head coach for Todd Graham. Running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard’s exits open the door for Eno Benjamin, Trelon Smith and a plethora of young ball carriers. And the team has to replace offensive linemen Sam Jones and A.J. McCollum to protect quarterback Manny Wilkins.
However, when guard Steven Miller and tackle Quinn Bailey look to their left and right they still see each other. The starting right guard and right tackle return for another year in Tempe. With everything having a ‘new’ label attached to it, it’s refreshing for them to know not everything has changed.
“It’s good, we’re used to the communication. We’ve played next to each other for the past three years now. So, it helps a lot,” Bailey said as he look toward his right side brethren to continue the conversation.
“Three years, terminology changes. We’re still on the same wave length when it comes to what is going on and what we’re doing,” Miller said. “It hasn’t been too much of a switch up, it’s been pretty good. The other guys have done a good job of adjusting, getting used to it, catching up and learning the system.”
Of course, all the returners to the Sun Devil offense are making the transition to offensive coordinator Rob Likens’ first year in charge. The cycling of a new coordinator is nothing new for Bailey and Miller. Bailey, a redshirt senior had Mike Norvell his first two seasons before all the switches at the coordinator position begun. Meanwhile, Miller, a year younger as a redshirt junior, has had a new OC each season during his time in Tempe. Miller brushes that off though.
“It’s the same mentality ever year. Go out there do the best you can. You try to win football games. It doesn’t really matter who’s our offensive coordinator, no disrespect to any of the coaches that were here before,” he said. “But we’re rolling with coach Likens. We’re going to keep rolling. We’re going to keep doing the same thing we’ve done before. People are doubting us, but it is what it is.”
The chemistry between the two also comes from their connection of being from Gilbert, Arizona. Miller calling it their ‘fun little rivalry,’ as Miller graduated from Gilbert High. While Bailey is from Higley High School. They talk about stuff from home, such as the people they played in school across different sports. Bailey adding how they played fellow offensive lineman Cade Cote in basketball during their time before college.
Despite being the returners, few eyes turn to Miller and Bailey. Instead they turn to graduate transfers Casey Tucker (Stanford) and Roy Hemsley (USC). Tucker, who will be the starting left tackle for the Sun Devils unless a drastic change happens, should help the unit as a whole. And the right side duo are using their new teammates as assets.
“You want to pick everybody’s brain. Get the best things you like from their game and try to add it to yours, that’s what I’ve done,” Miller said. “Always asking questions, always seeing what they like, as far as the offense goes. Feed off of them to get an idea how they play, and what they like to do.”
Bailey and Miller are also doing their best to welcome the newcomers, but to be honest they seem to being doing just fine.
“They’re doing pretty good. They fit right in. There’s not much of a transfer type mentality, it’s like everyone is one group. No one is an outsider,” Bailey said.
Miller talked about how being older has helped the new teammates fit in.
“They’re transfers, but they’re grad transfers. They kind of already know what to expect when they came in and they got the right mentality,” he said. “They’re coming in with the right attitude, they want to learn. They want to pick our brains, trade information. We’re just trying to get enough knowledge as you can and be the best offensive line we can.”
The transfers aren’t the only new face, that Miller and Bailey are attempting to learn from. For this upcoming year, Arizona State welcomed in former eight-time NFL All-Pro offensive linemen Kevin Mawae as an offensive analyst. Mawae can only help the team so much as he can’t necessarily coach the guys. But as Bailey explains it makes a difference.
“He watches film with the coaches, then he can relay information to give to us during their meetings to help us out. Just having his presence, it’s a big help,” he said.
For the Sun Devils to shock people, winning the war of the trenches on offensive will be one major step in the process. With the help of new transfers, coaches and styles added to foundation of the old, partly created by Miller and Bailey will be part of that building block for what ASU fans hope to be a surprising season for the maroon and gold.