Hustad rolls with the changes

Hustad rolls with the changes

No one on the Sun Devils' squad waited as long as Matt Hustad to play in his first collegiate game. Not only did the redshirt sophomore see the field versus Idaho State, he started at right tackle. As he practices for his second contest in the maroon and gold, Hustad is now preparing to suit up at right guard. The adjustment to a new role doesn't faze the lineman who is starved for game action.

An injury to center/guard Garth Gerhart, who won't play this week, created a domino effect on the offensive line. The end result is Matt Hustad sliding over to right guard and Thomas Njunge switching from second team left tackle to first team right tackle.

"It would be a lot bigger deal if we didn't have the bye week," Hustad said of the move. "I'm already starting to feel pretty comfortable. I feel that I'm already starting to make big gains at it. Switching from guard to tackle takes a lot longer to get it down. You're out there most of the time on an island without any help.

"At guard you learn to play certain techniques but I comfortable with that. I only played guard in high school. Learning to play guard hasn't been that hard for me because I sat out for two years (first year due to redshirt, second one due to a knee injury). The schemes may be more complex than high school, but at the end of the day it's just about going out there and hitting somebody."

Arizona State head Coach Erickson has been very pleased with Hustad's play this far.

"We have played him at tackle, now at guard," Erickson said, "He's playing as well as anybody right now. The one game he played at tackle he played very well. He is what we thought he was. He's athletic, big and strong. He makes a huge difference for us. You think about the guys we didn't have last year and the additions we have this year…

"They (the offensive line) are playing very well together. I'm excited about it. I have a great deal of confidence in what we're doing and he's a part of it."

Being three seasons in Tempe makes Hustad, the Gatorade player of the year in the state of Montana, feel like a veteran, and some of his teammates certainly contribute to that notion.

"It's kind of funny," Hustad commented. "Some of the players on the team come up to me and say ‘how many years you have left? One or two?' and I tell them that with a medical redshirt I'll have three years after this one."

Hustad admitted that being sidelined for the last couple of years did benefit him in not only having to learn the playbook without the pressure of playing, but also preparing physically for his role.

"I came here at 250," Hustad recalled, "and now I weight 295. If it wasn't for my strength coaches in those years I wouldn't been able to gain all that weight and get stronger. When you don't play your weight doesn't go up and down, so I was in the weight room for two years getting bigger."

Consequently, the sophomore earned the Hard Hat player recognition for his work in ASU's offseason strength and conditioning program.

Aside form his personal adjustment, it seems as if the entire Arizona State offense will have to adapt to playing an unconventional 3-3-5 defense employed by their next opponent the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

"We really studied it last week and this week," Hustad noted. "They really do stuff that nobody else in our conference does. But the coaches tell us not to think about it too much, because it's not that complex once you learn which way they are going to move. It's a different defense, but we'll face different defenses every week."

No matter how small or big the challenge facing Hustad, his attitude always remains pragmatic.

"Before my first game," Hustad commented, "I was nervous thinking everybody I'm going up against will be huge and the best player I ever faced. But once I got in there I was saying ‘this isn't anything different than high school.' It may a different player, it may a different surrounding, but I'm just playing football again."

Other practice notes

-Erickson feels that practicing almost exclusively in the indoor facility since fall camp started is helping the players practice with more energy. "The guys I talked to, felt a huge difference." Erickson said. "I investigated that pretty hard and it's coming to be true." Personally from what I heard, and I believe I mentioned this before fall camp started, is when the coaches went over to the University of Texas to study their schemes, etc., they were told by the Longhorn staff that one season where they seldom used their own indoor facility in fall practice, resulted in a subpar season. Thus, the ASU staff certainly took that to heart.

- Aside from giving praise to Hustad and mentioning that Gerhart will miss this week's contest, Erickson commented that Schlink is a lot healthier at this point than they thought he would be. He mentioned how Jon Hargis is feeling more comfortable at guard, and how his understanding of the game has improved as the years went by (Hargis started his ASU career as a defensive tackle). Erickson feels that Hargis can be moved to offensive tackle, a position he played last year, if needed.

- We talked about how talented the scout team is on both sides of the ball, and Erickson in reply to a question stated that the role of this group in game preparation is often overlooked. "It helps," Erickson said of the value of the scout team, "Because you're competing every day. A tough scout team just makes you better because of the speed that you have to practice at." He added that poor execution in practice naturally diminishes your chances of executing correctly on Saturday, which is another reason why a formidable scout team is invaluable.

- Erickson feels that focus of the team is where it needs to be, despite the early bye week. "We're anxious to go out there and see where we are at," Erickson remarked. "The players are happy about where they are at. They understand that every week is a new challenge for us for where we are at with our program." On that note, I've seen all the wide receivers perform very well this week in practice and I get the feeling that they are definitely ready to redeem themselves from all those drops they had in the season opener.

- Sutton, Burfict, Magee and Greg Smith all took some reps on the first team. No other depth chart changes today aside from that.

- Szakacsy missed practice due to personal reasons.

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