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ASU head coach Todd Graham: Offensive tackle Evan Finkenberg instrumental in team’s success

TEMPE, Ariz. — Evan Finkenberg has started 44 career games in maroon and gold, but none bigger than Saturday night’s showdown under the lights at the Rose Bowl against the UCLA Bruins.

With a win, Arizona State will make its first ever Pac-12 Championship Game appearance — one that, according to head coach Todd Graham, wouldn’t be possible without the 6-foot-4 Finkenberg.

While Graham wasn’t responsible for recruiting the offensive lineman out of Cota De Gaza, Calif. back in 2009, he noted Monday that Finkenberg has been absolutely instrumental in what the Sun Devils have been able to accomplish offensively in 2013.

“He’s a really talented player and our best offensive lineman,” Graham said. “A guy that has that experience and that comes with it. When you look at our players and when they vote for captain and who they respect the most, you’re going to see a Taylor Kelly, you’re going to see Finkenberg second and then Marion Grice right there with him. That’s how our players and coaches feel about him, he’s a big-time team leader for us.”

With Finkenberg anchoring the line, ASU’s offense currently ranks second in the Pac-12 and 10th in the nation in points per game (42.3).

While Graham wasn’t attempting to attribute the entire offensive line’s success to Finkenberg, he does believe the senior’s body of work in Tempe has more than earned him the right to play on Sundays.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our offensive line and just the character of our guys, and Fink is definitely a leader on our team,” said Graham. “He doesn’t say much, doesn’t get much credit and doesn’t want any. He just wants us to win games.

“He’s very, very talented player. A guy that will probably be a guard at the next level, and I think will play for quite awhile.”

Finkenberg will have every opportunity to prove as much Saturday when he goes up against two of the conference’s top pass rushers in UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Keenan Graham.