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October 7, 2009

Sun Devil offensive line still in flux

Despite the buzz surrounding the Arizona State quarterback position this week, it looked like business as usual under center on Tuesday.

Senior Danny Sullivan was still taking all the first-team reps, while freshman Brock Osweiler and sophomore Samson Szakacsy filled in after him.

As for the offensive line, though, its revolving door is still busy spinning.

But one can hardly blame Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson, who has seen six of his top options at the position group miss game action due to injury.

"It's just a bad year," sophomore Garth Gerhart said. "It happens, everyone gets injuries. It's just been real bad on the offensive line."

Tuesday's practice offered up some new combinations at the offensive front.

Gerhart, who hasn't played since the season opener, was with the first team at right guard Tuesday. Senior Brent Good, who started at right guard against Oregon State on Saturday, was getting some looks with the No. 1s at left guard along with junior Jon Hargis.

Erickson said he could do a number of things with the offensive line for Saturday, health permitting.

From his comments, it appears Gerhart and Hargis are the favorites to start at guard, while senior Thomas Altieri will likely start at center. But if Hargis' shoulder is still giving him problems, Good would likely fill in at left guard. Erickson also served up the possibility of having Good and Hargis start at the guard positions while elevating Gerhart to starting center.

But that's not all.

There was a new wrinkle to the situation Tuesday, as redshirt freshman Patrick Jamison split reps with senior Tom Njunge at first-team right tackle.

Sounds like a lot to digest, but it's just another week for the 2009 ASU football team. Just know this: senior Shawn Lauvao is the only one who appears to have a solid grip of his job as starting left tackle.

"It just gives us a little more flexibility with [Gerhart] back," Erickson said. "If we can get [sophomores Matt Hustad and Zach Schlink] back, I wouldn't know what to do."

This season has been a particularly annoying one for Gerhart, as he has incurred turf toe injuries to both of his feet. When asked when he injured his right foot (see: the first one) Gerhart didn't hesitate to answer.

"Aug. 15," he said. "I know these dates."

Gerhart got ready in time to play against Idaho State on Sep. 5, but suffered another setback when he injured his left big toe during the game.

"I was so [upset] when it first happened," Gerhart said of his second injury. "I knew the exact same thing happened because it felt the exact same way as the first one."

Gerhart admitted he's not 100 percent and probably won't be for the rest of the season, but said he has the confidence to move around and hit people like he used to.

While his teammates have given him a hard time for not playing because of a toe injury, he said the setback has been no joke. For a time, Gerhart said it was hard to walk around on the balls of his feet because of the pain.

"I wish [my injury] would have been a shoulder or a hand or a thumb," Gerhart said. "I would play through all that stuff. Anything besides my toe. Even a sore knee."

Scientifically speaking, Gerhart said he hyper extended his big toe, bruising the two sesamoid bones located in the tendons of the ball of his foot. Twice.

So how does one rehabilitate a toe? According to Gerhart, it takes a lot of massaging, icing and curling.

While the second injury is nothing to be grateful for, it has given time for his right foot to heal. Still, Gerhart said he's worried he will push too hard off his toe one play and aggravate the injuries.

At this point, Gerhart said he doesn't care where he plays as long as he can play. A center by trade, Gerhart actually made his first start at left guard against Washington State last year.

While most players probably aren't looking forward to the long commute to Pullman, Wash., there is at least one who will enjoy it. Osweiler said about 40 or 50 of his family and friends will make the 300-mile trek from his hometown of Kalispell, Mont.

Whether he will play or not is an entirely different issue, but the poised freshman was saying all the right things after Tuesday's practice.

"It is a little bit different of a situation," Osweiler said. "At the same time, I'm a true freshman and to even have my name mentioned getting into the game was huge for me. That was one of my goals coming down here and I've put myself in a position to get onto the field."


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