When Evan Goodman, a consensus four star offensive tackle from Lakeland, Florida, committed to Arizona State in 2012, it was considered one of the cornerstone pieces of Head Coach Todd Graham's first recruiting class in Tempe. Not only did the Sun Devils manage to wrestle Goodman away from nearly every team in the SEC and ACC conferences, they also figured to have their starting left tackle for years to come.
But things began slowly for Goodman at Arizona State. As a true freshman, he played in 11 games for the Sun Devils, mostly as a back-up to Finkenberg. An ankle injury the following spring limited the 6-4, 315 pound lineman throughout the offseason, putting him even further behind the incumbent Finkenberg when the Sun Devils opened up fall camp and eventually forced him to redshirt.
"It was really disappointing," said Goodman recently after practice on having to redshirt. "Coming into my sophomore year, you know, during the offseason I was working real, real hard. I think it was the second day of spring camp I twisted my ankle real bad. I couldn't really go full speed after that and all offseason it was really bothering me.
"Then during fall camp, it didn't really go away so the coaches were like, 'Alright Evan, we're going to put you on heavy package,' and I was like, "You know what, just redshirt me because I want to start. I don't want to be on heavy package."
While the decision to redshirt was mutual for both the player and the coaching staff, the disappointment of having to sit out a year stung for Goodman. But it wasn't a complete loss either.
Not only did redshirting preserve a year of eligibility of Goodman, giving him now three full seasons to start at left tackle, it also allowed him learn from Finkenberg without the pressure of competing for a starting spot while also being able to fine-tune the details of his left tackle position.
"It really benefitted me," he said. "It helped me getting up to the ball and understanding the plays faster because the second team, you know, runs a little slower. Being on the first team, everything is faster, so it was little different, but that year really helped me get up to speed.
"Evan was a great mentor because he'd been playing left tackle ever since his sophomore year and even a little during his freshman year, so it was a really big deal for me to come in and try to emulate everything that he did. He's a great person and a great guy to learn from."
While the Sun Devils are forced to replace, not only Finkenberg, but center Kody Koebensky along the offensive line as well, they've been off to a good start through the first two weeks of spring practice.
Junior Nick Kelly has assumed the starting center role while Goodman has stepped in nicely at left tackle, complementing returning starters Jamil Douglas, Vi Teofilo and Tyler Sulka, while also providing Arizona State with one of its most talented offensive lines in years.
"I feel real comfortable out there now because I've got Jamil right next to me who's about to be a third year starter," added Goodman. "That's pretty good having a guy with that kind of experience lining up next to you. I know Nick Kelly is going to be a real good center too and one of the leaders on our offensive line, so I feel comfortable with it.
"Things are going real good for us. We're gelling a lot faster than I expected and that's probably because being an offensive lineman, it's easier to gel because there's only five of y'all on the field. And because there's so much communication that goes on between us five, you gel faster because you talk more than everyone else."
Last season, Arizona State finished 11th in the nation in scoring (39.7) and 17th in total offense (457.3), and figures to once again be one of the more explosive offensive units in college football in 2014 with senior quarterback Taylor Kelly back at the helm for a third season. One of the challenges for the offensive line in 2014 though will be keeping Kelly upright, an area the team struggled with last year.
Arizona State finished 108th nationally in sacks allowed with 38 on the season, something Goodman says he looks forward to correcting this fall.
"I take great pride in that," he said. "As a left tackle, they trust you to watch their back the whole time. No matter happens, you've got to watch out for that. You've just got to keep your composure the whole time. You can't be the one yelling and getting all wild up because you've always got to keep your composure and keep calm."
"You've also always got to keep your technique at left tackle because you're going against speed rushers and guys like that on the end. I feel like this year we're more athletic as a whole. I feel like, having gone against guys like Anthony Barr and players like that, I feel like we'll do well."
With three weeks remaining in spring camp, the goal for Goodman and the offensive line, he says, is to continue to developing their on-field chemistry and master the offense heading into the fall.
"The goal is just to feel more comfortable with the offense," he said. "You can't be complacent in this offense because we change everyday. I feel like we're doing really well right now. I feel like we've been running the ball really good and throwing the ball too.
"I just want to work on finishing blocks, my technique, and my footwork too."