ASU football to depend on depth, experience for new-look offensive line
TEMPE — Depth and experience will be the two main ingredients for a new-look Arizona State Sun Devils offensive line in 2022.
ASU only has two returning starters in senior left guard LaDarius Henderson and redshirt junior center Ben Scott, who was the team’s right tackle last season.
That’s due to the departures of former Sun Devil center Dohnovan West and left tackle Kellen Diesch, who signed as undrafted free agents with the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, respectively.
Highly touted four-star recruit Ezra Dotson-Oyetade also transferred to TCU during an offseason that saw an exodus of players leave the Arizona State football program.
But head coach Herm Edwards and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh brought in a plethora of new offensive linemen who could see the Sun Devils go seven or eight deep at the position group.
“Well, I think it’s going to be eight guys to be quite honest — the offensive line. We’re going to rotate guys because we have some talented guys. Just have to find the best fits for all those guys,” Edwards said on Aug. 8. “But there’s going to be more than five guys. You got to have at least a solid seven to eight guys playing. And we’ve done that here in the past, we don’t just play five guys. We play sometimes seven, we might play eight this year depending who they are.
“But what’s great about them, a lot of them can play dual positions. Some of them can play center, guard. We got some guys who can play guard, tackle. That helps us because you always want to feel like you have multiple positions of offensive lineman, so we’re fortunate that way with those guys.”
Notable additions with playing experience include San Diego State transfer Chris Martinez, Northern State transfer Emmit Bohle, Iowa State transfer Joey Ramos and Penn State transfer Des Holmes. Returning sophomore Isaia Glass has also been impressive this fall camp.
With the left guard and center spots pretty much locked in, the battle now comes down to who will be playing at the remaining three positions: left tackle, right guard and right tackle.
“You’re hoping somebody separates themselves [at left tackle] and the same thing goes on the right side,” Cavanaugh said after practice on Tuesday. “Eventually you hope two of those guys would pull away. They’re all good enough to play. I’ve never done that, but I’m kind of excited about it — to have the ability to keep some fresh bodies in there. They’re smart guys, they’re tough, they’re athletic. So there’s those seven guys — I think they can all play.”
Perhaps the Swiss army knife of the offensive line will be Ramos — a Deer Valley High School alumnus — who Cavanaugh says is best at center but can also play both tackle positions.
“He’s got a savvy about him, just that experience,” the OL coach said. “I love his background, former wrestler … jujitsu guy, boxer. He’s a tough son-of-a-(expletive).”
And with the offensive focal point of every Edwards-coached team starting with the run game, the likes of Wyoming transfer running back Xazavian Valladay and returning redshirt sophomore Daniyel Ngata will depend on the big brawlers up front if they hope to feast on the ground.
“X is unbelievable. He loves the zone scheme. He likes the gap scheme stuff. He’s got great vision, he’s physical,” Cavanaugh said. “What I like about him is he’s a leader. He sets the tone and if he doesn’t like something, he says it and that’s fricken awesome to me.
“And then Daniyel has had a great camp too. (Sports performance head coach) Joe Connolly and those guys have done a great job with him. He’s bigger, stronger, probably faster, better conditioned, so we got a pretty good one-two punch right there.”