Any football coach will tell you that line play drives a football team. At every level; high school, college or NFL. The offensive line, especially, might be the most important unit on any football team. Without a competent offensive line, the offense won’t be able to do anything, running or passing.
Conversely, on the defensive side of the ball, a strong line is important, but there are certain defensive strategies that can help out if the D-Line is weak: you can stack the box with more defenders, blitz a lot and/or get bailed out by a solid secondary.
That’s not the case with the offensive line. Typically, the same five OL’s stay in the game whether it’s a pass or a run play. There are no specialists or “third down guards”. Yes, the offense can add a tight end or a running back (or both) to help block, but all that does is bring more defenders near the point of attack.
A capable offensive line can cause big problems for the defense. If the O line can execute proper zone blocking schemes and slide off double teams to pick up linebackers, they essentially have one-on-one blocks across the line of scrimmage, leaving a quick running back free to make a play. If the defense adjusts by bringing in more people, they become more susceptible to the pass.
If the five offensive linemen can effectively protect the quarterback when he’s dropping back to pass, the defense will be forced to blitz, leaving a man or a zone open.
This is all football 101. For ASU, they have the task of retooling a solid offensive line from last year. There will be new faces. Local product, and Auburn transfer Christian Westerman is predicted to contribute. There may be some shuffling around of personnel, as the coaching staff might move Jamil Douglas from guard to tackle. That will all get worked out eventually.
The biggest position to replace is that of outgoing center, Kody Koebensky. The center is usually the captain of the offensive line, making the calls and changing assignments. Nick Kelly is the front-runner right now. The coaches rave about his ability. But he is untested. His development will be crucial to ASU’s success.
With the acquisition of new skill players and the return of Taylor Kelly, Jaelon Strong and DJ Foster, many fans are no doubt excited about the possibilities for the upcoming season. But it won’t mean much if this offensive line takes a step back from last season.