August 17, 2008

Gerhart pushing for starting role

When fall camp opened two weeks ago, Garth Gerhart knew he had a chance, even if it was slim, to earn the starting center position.

And when Thomas Altieri suffered a concussion less than a week into camp, the window of opportunity opened a little bit wider for the redshirt freshman.

Gerhart said he doesn't want to pass Altieri on the depth chart simply because of an injury, but when practicing with the No. 1 offense Gerhart did everything he could to stay there.

"It's all about taking advantage of your opportunities," Gerhart said. "So I've just been going out there, working hard and doing the best that I can. I know I still have a chance to get this starting spot and I want it real bad so everyday I'm pushing myself trying to get better.

"Hopefully I can keep it up and get that (starting) spot."

Spending just one week with the first team, Gerhart said, really helped him improve.
He said the first unit is much more cohesive, that everyone communicates with each other much more, and that he is learning what it is like to be a part of an offensive line that sees itself as a single unit.

"These guys (on the first team) know what they're doing," he said. "With the ones, everybody is coaching each other up and I'm learning so much more from those guys than I was with the twos because with the twos I'm the one doing most of the communicating."

When Altieri returned in Saturday's scrimmage at Camp Tontozona, Gerhart returned to the second team, but that doesn't mean the position battle is closed.

Lat week Coach Dennis Erickson said he hasn't made the decision yet as to who will have the starting spot, that he still needs to see more out of both guys.

"I think Thomas might be back Saturday," Erickson said late last week. "So we'll use him some then let them battle next week.

"The thing about sitting out, you don't get any better obviously. And Garth is getting better."

One thing that has allowed Gerhart to improve so much is the amount of time he has been spending watching film of Mike Pollak.

Last year's All-Pac-10 center has near perfect technique and Gerhart spent countless hours all summer watching film on him then trying to emulate what he watched in the film room on the field.

"That's one reason I came here so I could learn from one of the best guys, one of the best centers in the nation," Gerhart said. "I see where I'm supposed to put my hands and what to do with my feet and I'm just trying to do what Mike did."

If Gerhart does win the starting spot, replacing Pollak would be a great honor for him.
He knows the tradition at the position and wants to be the next great Sun Devil center.

"ASU has always had great centers and I think, I hope, I can be the next one," Gerhart said. "I'm not putting pressure on myself to do that but I want it."

But Gerhart knows if he wants to earn that starting spot he still has work to do.

He has lost about five pounds since the spring in order to be more agile and flexible.

But the biggest area he still needs to improve is his technique. He wants to get to Pollak's level.

"I have to keep working on everything," Gerhart said. "Nobody's perfect but if I want this starting spot I know I have to get as close to perfect as I can."

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