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Arizona State lineman Cohl Cabral adjusting to new position

Arizona State lineman Cohl Cabral participates in a spring practice on April 12, 2018. (Photo by Tyler Strachan/Cronkite News)

TEMPE, Ariz — On any given play, the only thing guaranteed to happen is that the ball will travel from between the center’s legs toward whoever is behind him.

That action is something many take for granted, but it truly is the lifeblood of an offense. No matter how good a quarterback or the skill position players around him are, the ball has to get to them.

“It’s the most crucial thing you do,” offensive line coach Dave Christensen said. “Every play starts with a snap. If you can’t get that done, it’s hard to get the offense moving.”

This season, the man charged with that responsibility is junior Cohl Cabral.

Mostly slated at tackle in 2017, Cabral started just one game at center last year. That start came at Texas Tech in ASU’s third game of the season.

His time in the middle did not last long, however, as he was pulled before the end of the first quarter. In three drives, he snapped a few balls outside of Wilkins’ target area, including his last snap of the day, which rolled back and was recovered by Texas Tech, leading to a 21-3 lead for the Red Raiders.

With AJ McCollum graduated, Cabral was moved to the middle by the coaching staff, giving him the role he couldn’t keep.

Throughout the offseason, Cabral and Wilkins would work out together, making sure their communication on snaps is where it needs to be. The two would work out inside the Verde Dickey Dome attached to the practice field in order to improve their snaps.

Communication wasn’t as much of an issue as execution initially due to his time spent elsewhere on the line and the collaboration that had to take place from the edge.

“We’ve always been working together on getting things done the right way,” Cabral said. “Asking each other, even when I was at tackle, ‘What would you do on this’ or if he didn’t think of something, I could see a different angle from it and how I would want to kind of do it.”

That communication helped the line steadily improve over the course of the season, from allowing 19 sacks over the first four weeks to 10 over the final five. The rushing attack improved as well, allowing the offense to gain more of a flow.

Cabral said it took a couple weeks for him to get caught up to speed with his veteran signal caller, but starting on the line last year helped him get used to Wilkins’ cadence.

The Sun Devils are putting a larger emphasis on snapping with Wilkins under center in 2018, something he rarely did under the former coaching staff. Despite the lack of game reps with it, the quarterback is excited for the change.

“I love it,” Wilkins said. “It opens up the game so much more. Play-action is very crucial from under center because the linebackers can’t really see the ball as much and figure things out. I just think it’s so much more effective.”

This has added somewhat of a wrinkle to snapping, but every morning before practice officially starts they have a routine.

“Before practice starts, that’s all that we do,” Wilkins said. “All that we do is under center, shotgun, call out plays and go through the motions of the plays.”

That preparation has shown.

“I think that’s why we don’t have the issues with the snaps now is because they put in some time,” Christensen said. “He’s snapped before, but now when it’s your job to do it every single snap, he’s getting a lot more snaps by doing it every snap of practice.”

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