November 12, 2008

Schlink undergoes season ending knee surgery

Arizona State can't catch a break along its offensive front.

The Sun Devils have shuffled their starting offensive line three times this season and finally seemed to get it right last week, moving Shawn Lauvao to right tackle and inserting Zach Schlink at left guard.

However, Schlink injured his right knee against Washington and had micro fracture surgery Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season.

"It's too bad," coach Dennis Erickson said. "He finally got a chance to play and the next three games would have been great for his improvement."

Erickson added that he visited with Schlink's doctor before Tuesday's practice and the doctor thinks Schlink will be able to return for spring practices.

Schlink had a similar surgery on his left knee a year ago and was unable to practice at full strength for about eight months.

Now, Erickson said, ASU has two options along its offensive front: move Lauvao back to left guard and put Tom Njunge back with the No. 1 offense at right tackle, or keep Lauvao at tackle and use Garth Gerhart at the guard position.

Tuesday, the Sun Devils practiced with the latter.

Since he began playing football in high school, Gerhart has never lined up at any position other than center, but he said the switch to tackle went well on the first day.

Actually, he is even finding his new position a little bit easier than his old one.

"I was pretty comfortable for the first day," Gerhart said. "I used to always have in the back of my head, 'I have to get the snap up, I have to get the snap up,' so now I don't have to worry about that. I don't have to worry about fumbling snaps, or getting yelled at, shotgun, none of that. I'm just free."

As a center, Gerhart was used to making the calls for the offensive front as it came to the line of scrimmage, something that will help him playing guard.

He also has the advantage of lining up next to center Thomas Altieri, who Gerhart said, "knows everything."

"It's nice because I have Thomas next to me and he is real smart at the game," Gerhart said. "With him making the calls, and I'm already coming up to the line looking for what the call is going to be, actually it's way easier."

Part of the reason Erickson decided to move Gerhart to left guard is because he didn't want to move Lauvao from tackle.

The coaches have wanted to move Lauvao outside for a while, but haven't been able to find a replacement at the guard slot.

"[Lauvao's] future down the road here would be at tackle," Erickson said.

Tuesday's offensive line will not necessarily be the front the Sun Devils use in the upcoming game, but Erickson knows how important stability is up front and he wants to find a starting five he can stick with.

"Continuity is the key because everything we do you have to work as a unit," he said. "When you're changing here and there the continuity obviously leaves a little bit."

Smith out

Defensive tackle David Smith will miss his second game of the season due to stingers this weekend.

The senior suffered his fifth stinger of the season against Washington and missed the final three quarters of that game.

Smith did not practice Tuesday and Paul 'Unga took reps in Smith's spot with the No. 1 defense.

Coming back

Safety Clint Floyd was running around at practice Tuesday and could be ready to play when ASU faces UCLA on Nov. 28.

Floyd suffered a lacerated kidney during the USC game and has not played since.

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