The score on Friday night won’t be the most important thing against Sacramento State. Arizona State will most likely walk away with a win, and if they lose, well, there’s bigger problems.
If and when Arizona State moves on to 2-0, they’ll need to see improvement from its offensive line. The unit expected to start the season shuffled because of the absence of projected starting left tackle Zach Robertson. After the musical chairs act most of fall camp, redshirt senior Cade Cote earned the first-team center spot only to break his foot the Sunday before the season opener.
Quarterback Jayden Daniels saw an immense amount of pressure in his debut. Although, for a group that had less than a week together with two freshmen and Cohl Cabral not in his best position, it’s hard to set a high bar for success.
Especially for Dohnovan West, who filled Cote’s role at center. He impressed offensive coordinator Rob Likens enough to call him a future All Pac-12 honoree.
“The things that I liked when I watched the film was Dohnovan West,” Likens said. “Sometimes you don’t get the proper picture, you think something is going on that’s really not. During the game I thought that he was getting beat in some certain things and he wasn’t. I watched the film and I thought for a freshman, for his situation and what he did, we couldn’t have asked for anything better than what he did.
“That was absolutely amazing. I now have so much faith in that kid. I don’t look at him as a liability or anything like that at all. I look at him as a plus and I look at him as a future all-conference center honestly. I really do. That was amazing. His understanding of leverage, his understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish on that play and his body position shows you how smart the kid is. He’s going to be a tremendous player. He’s doing a great job right now so we’re very, very, very excited.”
West, the only non-quarterback to join the Sun Devils in the spring from the 2019 recruiting class, received the label of the ‘future’ of the position from head coach Herm Edwards. The Bishop Alemany High School product ranked as 24/7 Sports ninth best center prospect handled his first time well.
Likens also mentioned that the pair senior tackles — Cabral and Steven Miller — would want a do-over of their the Kent State performances. In his eyes, Likens thought the left tackle position surprised Cabral a bit. This isn’t the first time at the spot for Cabral, but he’s better suited inside.
The biggest thing for the group in Edwards’ opinion can only grow with time.
“We’re still trying to improve,” he said. “You know, when you get that many moving pieces, you lose your center two days before (the game) and now the rookie center has to play, a freshman. That’s kind of like, ‘uh-oh, now what are we going to do here,’ and we’re trying to get the guard situation established and got to move someone that was playing center and you have to move him to guard and all of that is part of it.
“It will be interesting this week because these guys play a little bit of that bare front and so that’ll be interesting how we handle that. So, I think the more we see of things and the more we play together, we do know this, the center is the center now. Unless he gets hurt he’s the center, he’s going to be the guy playing. So, I think all the positions are set for the most part and now we need to continue to build on that.”
Unlike the season opener, Arizona State listed redshirt freshman Jarrett Bell as the lone starter at right guard above Roy Hemsley. Unless injuries spark or Robertson unexpectedly returns, the five on the line are finally solidified in thought.
Their performance will have less impact against Sacramento State than it will in the Sun Devils’ final non-conference matchup in a week. Last season, Michigan State contained Eno Benjamin and seemingly won the battle in the trenches against the Arizona State offensive line.
The performance in East Lansing will benefit by the growth the unit will be able to establish on Friday, and the battles won or lost against the Hornets may change the results versus the Spartans.