Sunday, August 5, 2007

Football Position Previews Part III: The O-Line

Running Back Preview

Quarterback and Receiving Corps Preview

by Justin Karp, Host of Sun Devil Power Hour on The Fan AM 1060.

The offensive line, despite injuries to longtime starters Andrew Carnahan and Stephen Berg, emerged as one of the nicer surprises in 2006. Younger members of the corps stepped in and played over their heads for the majority of the year, with three members earning All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention honors.

In 2007, four of last years key offensive linemen return along with the return of a 6th-year senior who has missed the better part of the last two seasons. Four of the five 1st stringers on the depth chart have already earned their undergraduate degrees. Four of them also top out at over 300 pounds.

In this edition of the 2007 season preview, we’ll go position by position across the guys making room for Ryan Torain to run and giving Rudy Carpenter more time to find receivers...the group affectionately known as the Hell Hogs…the offensive line.

Left Tackle

Brandon Rodd comes in as the incumbent starter. Rodd has started every game since the 2005 season opener against Temple and has earned All-Pac 10 honors in each of the last two seasons. He’s one of the finest blockers in recent memory for Arizona State, serving time as both a guard and a tackle. Most importantly though, he’s served as the primary blindside lineman for Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter, making sure that opposing linemen and blitzers aren’t able to get ASU quarterbacks from behind.

Rodd’s backup will be Richard Tuitu’u, a sophomore out of Gilbert who showed promise in spot duty last year. Paired alongside Paul Fanaika at Cal, he was a major part of opening holes for Ryan Torain’s stellar performance that day. He also got his first career start against Arizona, a game in which ASU did not allow a sack. Tuitu’u’s greatest asset is his size and ability to gain leverage with his 350 pound frame.

Left Guard

The starter here is grad student Robert Gustavis, the incumbent after starting all 13 games last season. Gustavis is looked upon as one of the leaders of the O-Line and one of the most injury resistant. He is one of the more overlooked players on the line, quietly doing a good job preventing the blitz and providing solid interior work.

Behind Gustavis is Shaun Lauvao, a sophomore from Hawai’i. A 2005 Scout team award recipient, Lauvao is growing into a dominant interior lineman. He will work with the line primarily as a reserve and, barring injury, will take 2007 to learn and grow before most likely slipping into a starting role in 2008.


This position has been one of the most heralded at ASU over the last few years (among past centers are Grey Ruegamer, Tony Aguilar and Drew Hodgdon), and Mike Pollak will attempt to add his name to the list of outstanding snappers. A 2nd-team All-Pac 10 selection last season, Pollak is one of this year’s captains and has started 18 straight games. Pollak uses his foot speed and overpowering strength to anchor the offensive line and will be expected to be the rock and leader of an experienced line.

Thomas Altieri, a little used backup, will see little playing time unless an injury occurs.

Right Guard

One of the most pleasant surprises for Arizona State last year was the emergence of former walk-on Paul Fanaika. A junior from California, Fanaika took over for Stephen Berg early last season and never gave up the job. At 359 pounds, he’s the largest of this group and his greatest asset is using that dominant frame to open holes for Sun Devil running backs. Fanaika’s versatility must also be noted, as his athleticism would allow him to play tackle if need be. Don’t be surprised if Ryan Torain chooses going over right guard for the majority of his carries, as he seems to have grown to trust Fanaika to always open up a lane for him.

Shaun Lauvao also serves as the backup at this position.

Right Tackle

Guess whose back? Remember Zach Krula? He suffered a major injury in early September of 2005 and has missed the past two seasons because of it. Now, after being granted a 6th year of eligibility by the NCAA and shifting from his former starting position at guard, Krula will be expected to be an intimidating force on the right side of Rudy Carpenter’s line. Before his injury, Zach was regarded as one of the top blockers in the Pac-10 and had a good spring, but don’t be surprised if it takes Krula a game or two to get used to the position change in a full-speed game situation. On a side note, Krula appeared at ASU Media Day on August 4 with a nearly 5-inch long goatee.

If Krula slips in any way, opportunities will arise for last year’s part-time starter Julius Orieukwu to step in and earn playing time. Julius used the spring to improve his footwork on the outside of the line and work quicker off the snap.

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