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August 10, 2010Dennis Erickson couldn't have anticipated this.
The Arizona State head coach adamantly said following his team's first camp session that junior college transfer Brice Schwab would remain at right tackle. But then something happened which sent reverberations throughout the entire unit.
Just eight practices into his move from tight end to left tackle, junior Dan Knapp unexpectedly began to look like arguably the team's most talented player at the position.
In an effort to get the best players on the field simultaneously, Erickson and offensive line coach Gregg Smith moved Schwab to right guard, redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg from left tackle to right tackle, and elevated Knapp to first team left tackle.
"We're trying to find out the best fit for our team whether it's [Schwab] at guard or right tackle," Erickson said. "We got to get the best five guys playing. The way its gone the last eight or nine days, Finkenberg has played well and so has Knapp so we don't want to sit one of them so we kind of move it around just kind of see who the best five for us is and the best way to get depth is.
"The thing about Dan that I see is he may have (more of) a future playing football at that position than at tight end. I mean he's 280 (pounds) now; he's awful athletic. I mean he's very impressive for never playing there."
With Matt Hustad out nursing a sore knee for the second day in a row, redshirt freshman Kody Koebensky was elevated to first-team status at left guard, and junior center Garth Gerhart completed the top group. Junior Adam Tello moved down to the second team at right guard.
Having gained 30-plus pounds since the beginning of the year, Knapp's physical transformation is dramatic, and he appeared to be a man possessed through the first week of camp.
"The biggest thing, I knew he was going to be a really strong run blocker because what they we do at tackle and what they do at tight end is pretty similar," Smith said. "So his biggest adjustment had to be the protection stuff and taking sets and all of that. Now he's still kind of spinning a little bit when we're in a full fly and a backer comes outside and he's got to see that adjust but that's just seeing reps and getting turns and the more he sees it the better he'll get."
Knapp said that as practice unfolded over the last week, a number of teammates and even some coaches were telling him it was just a matter of time before he played his way into the top group.
"I never realized the potential until the last few days when I've been going up against our defense, one of the top defenses in the country and I feel like I've done above and beyond what the coaches expected of me," Knapp said. "I feel great. I feel the same as I did at 245 pounds moving around at 277 pounds now. I'm super lean, these last few days of practice I feel like I've been showing everybody that left tackle is my true position.
"The coach reiterated to me all the time, you can stay at tight end with the knee injuries and setbacks and everything or you can move to tackle and be one of the more athletic tackles in the country. I have a lot of work to do with my feet and hands and technique. This is a new position I've never played in my entire life so I have a lot to learn but I seem to be picking it up pretty quickly and I just have to work on my feet mostly."
With the team's focus on inside zone in the rushing attack, Schwab's size and power could work well according to the coaches, and it's the area where Koebensky is perhaps at his strongest at this stage of his development.
"It's night and day," Smith said of Koebensky's evolution as a player since arriving at ASU last summer. "One thing about Kody, he's a tough guy. He's going to go in and compete and scrap and do all that. Now is he doing everything correct with pass protection and all that? That's probably where his biggest struggle is but he's working at it and he's continuing to get better so I like his progress."
Smith said the biggest difference though with the success of the ability to run the ball between the tackles in practice over the last week has been the athletic advancements made at another position group.
"Yeah it's been pretty good," Smith said. "The offensive line is doing a good job but you look at the other part, and we've got some great runners now. Those guys can make some guys miss boy. Good runners runners can make an offensive line look [a lot better].
"This offense is really not a true power offense. You've still go to go and put your hat in a guy's chest and move your feet and be sound with your hands but like I tell these guys, 'If we just do this, if we get our guy through the line of scrimmage, your job is to get him thought he line of scrimmage,' and those guys are going to make plays."
Second-team center sophomore Andrew Sampson has had a difficult time throughout camp consistently delivering the football to the quarterback in shotgun formation. In Tuesday's session, ASU coaches used walk-on center Trent Marsh more frequently in team segments, and also had Koebensky practicing snaps during individual position work.
Kicking it around
Senior Thomas Weber's leg seems to have returned to full strength as evidenced by his performance kicking inside the Dickey Dome Tuesday. Weber connected on all five attempts ranging from 32 to 47 yards and his 47-yarder would have likely been good from 60 yards.
Freshman Alex Garoutte, who was initially expected to greyshirt and delay enrollment until the spring, is inside on scholarship and practicing with the team, moving walk-on Bobby Wenzig down to third-team status. Garoutte missed from 37 yards before connecting from 42 yards Tuesday.