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September 30, 2009
Injuries mounting along offensive front
In all his days and decades as a college football coach, Dennis Erickson has seen plenty. Whether it be a 4-8 season at Idaho or a winning a pair of national titles at Miami, there isn't much he hasn't experienced.
But in all those seasons, he said he's never had an offensive front get this beat up. Ever.
"But as many years as I've been in it, you're going to have a lot of things happen," Erickson said.
On Tuesday Erickson updated the status of his dilapidated offensive line and it wasn't pretty. Chances are, if he's played on ASU's line this year, he's hurt.
Aside from starting tackles Shawn Lauvao and Tom Njunge, virtually the rest of ASU's top o-line options have been injured. Just name a player.
Sophomore Matt Hustad, who's seen time at right tackle and guard this season, is out 2-3 weeks with a medial collateral ligament sprain. Sophomore Zach Schlink is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery to his left knee and is doubtful for Saturday's contest with Oregon State.
Senior center Thomas Altieri sprained his medial collateral ligament against Georgia and is questionable for this weekend. His backup, sophomore Garth Gerhart is still questionable after his ongoing bout with turf toe.
Junior Jon Hargis was limited in practice after dislocating his right shoulder multiple times Saturday. Starting to get the picture?
And all this doesn't even include the other bit of bad news Erickson released Tuesday: Sophomore Mike Marcisz also injured a shoulder against Georgia and will undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday.
"When the chips are down, some guys got to step up," Altieri said. "[Against Georgia] I think we did a great job in understanding who's got to really step up and who's ready."
Aside from learning which backups have what it takes to survive up front, Altieri also saw how his line mates dealt with adversity. Altieri specifically noted the toughness of Hargis, whose shoulder was busy popping in and out of its socket on Saturday.
"He separated his shoulder almost two or three times," Altieri said. "Anybody else, you would just expect them to come out. But it shows just how much dedication, how much guys care and are willing to push their bodies emotionally and physically to the limit. It's an honoring moment when guys are willing to do that."
In wake of the weekend's carnage, several players moved up and around the depth chart. Tuesday's first-team line featured Lauvao at left tackle, Hargis at left guard, Gerhart at center, senior Brent Good at right guard and Njunge at right tackle.
A couple of players, redshirt freshman Kyle Johnson and sophomore Adam Tello, were promoted from the scout team to the backups on Tuesday.
In all, it's been a disastrous situation up front, but Altieri said his unit's performance on Saturday didn't go unnoticed or underappreciated.
"We as a group have a lot more respect as a whole and a lot more respect from our team and our coaches," Altieri said. "And that's huge for us because last year we weren't a confident offensive front."
The offensive line wasn't the only part of the team to experience an injury Saturday. Senior safety Ryan McFoy sprained his foot and wasn't in pads during Tuesday's practice.
Believe it or not, there was some good news to report as well.
Freshman tight end Chris Coyle practiced for the first time all season after being held out due to a foot injury. Sophomore strong side defensive end James Brooks was instantly elevated to first-team status after being suspended for the first three games.
Junior LeQuan Lewis, who is a backup cornerback, switched sides and took reps with the wide receivers all Tuesday.