ASU football midseason position evaluations: Offensive line
The Arizona State Sun Devils are 2-4 halfway through the 2022 college football season and aren’t far off most preseason predictions.
That being said, the way ASU reached the midway point in the schedule — both on and off the field — feels like a full season’s worth of ups and downs.
Arizona State is coming off its biggest win of the year in a 45-38 upset over then-No. 21 Washington for interim head coach Shaun Aguano’s first victory at the helm. With the bye week giving the Sun Devils two weeks off before their next game at Stanford on Oct. 22, let’s evaluate each position group through six games.
First up, Arizona State’s offensive line hasn’t necessarily been a bright spot for the team this year, but when it has played well, the offense has competed with two of the best teams in the country, Oklahoma State and Washington.
In the run game, the blocking has been consistently good enough to allow Sun Devil ball carriers to garner 933 net yards (excluding QB sacks) on 200 carries. That’s 4.7 yards per carry.
Those metrics are good enough for an average of 155.5 yards per game on 33.3 attempts per game.
The only two games ASU failed to reach the 140 net yards mark were in the two losses to Utah (six) and USC (137).
As a pass-blocking unit, the offensive line has given up a total of 14 sacks this season, with 13 of those coming in the team’s four losses. Conversely, that means ASU’s only allowed sack in its two wins this season came in the 40-3 Week 1 win over NAU on a strip-sack fumble at the end of the first half that set up the Lumberjacks’ only points.
The remaining sacks given up were in the losses to Oklahoma State (three), Utah (five) and USC (five). However, the timing of when those sacks took place is indicative of how Arizona State let the respective game slip away.
Against Oklahoma State, ASU had a 3-0 lead at the end of first quarter and allowed one first-half sack en route to a 17-3 deficit at halftime. But in the second half after the Sun Devils cut the deficit to 20-17, two sacks derailed the team’s comeback hopes in the 34-17 loss.
The 34-13 loss to Utah didn’t have the same second-half woes, but that was mostly due to the four first-half sacks — three of which came in the first quarter — that led to the Utes’ 24-6 halftime advantage.
And against USC, Arizona State had two opportunities in the third quarter to take the lead while trailing, 21-17. But the Trojans garnered all five of their sacks in the second half on their way to a 42-25 win.
So if ASU can protect its quarterback, especially in key situations and drives, the Sun Devils have proven they can keep up with some of the better offenses in the nation.
Heading into the season, former head coach Herm Edwards said the team was going to use seven to eight offensive linemen to keep guys fresh. And due to some injuries across the first six weeks, that number has already been surpassed.
Left guard LaDarius Henderson, center Ben Scott and right guard Chris Martinez have been the anchors of the offensive line this year. Tackles Isaiah Glass and Emitt Bohle have shared playing time at left tackle, with Bohle starting at right tackle against Washington in place of injured starting RT Des Holmes.
Swiss army knife OL Joey Ramos started in place of Holmes in Week 1 but suffered a season-ending ankle injury against NAU. Henderson also sustained an apparent left hand/wrist injury in the second half against Washington and was replaced by Ben Bray.
Despite the team’s 2-4 record, ASU still has an opportunity to be eligible for bowl season if it can go 4-2 or better in the second half of the season. But in order for Arizona State to do so, the offensive line is going to have perform like it did against Washington and in the first half against USC.
Obviously, nobody expects the Sun Devils to not allow a sack the rest of the way — of course they will, that’s football. But with the gauntlet part of the schedule now behind ASU following four straight ranked opponents, similar performances against Stanford, Colorado, UCLA, Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona could see Arizona State pull off four more wins.
The productivity in the run game will have to continue in order for the Sun Devils to have any shot at finishing with bowl eligibility.