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September 24, 2010

Kohl plays huge role in ASU run game

Trevor Kohl spent his fair share of time in line at the salad bar this summer.

OK, so it wasn't an all fruits and vegetables diet for the junior tight end, but with offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's air-it-out offense coming to town, Kohl made it a mission to slim down in order to make himself a valuable pass-catching commodity.

Well, the Valley native and lifelong Sun Devil fan hasn't exactly become a cog in ASU's aerial attack, but he has found another way to become one of the offense's most key component. His task: Open up holes in the run game.

Sophomore running back Cameron Marshall's monster performance in the season opener against Portland State (4 carries, 104 yards, 3 TDs) garnered headlines, but it was Kohl who did the majority of the dirty work on the scoring plays, opening up huge gaps for Marshall to stroll through.

"He does a lot for us," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "He can handle a defensive end when we get into short yardage in the run game or in the two tight-end aspect. He's one of the better tight end blockers I've been around in a long time."

Kohl was a big factor once again against Wisconsin last Saturday, aiding a rushing attack that totaled 169 yards against a notoriously tough Big Ten run defense.

Kohl said he is embracing the role he has been given in the run game, even if he is having visions of all the hamburgers and chicken wings he could have been scarfing down in the offseason.

"I could have been eating more," Kohl mused. "But hey, you've got do what you've got to do."

With the stout-in-the-shoulders frame of a wrestler, Kohl has relied on speed and leverage to blow defenders off the ball.

"I like to think of myself as a physical guy, so when they ask me to open up holes, that's what I'm going to do," Kohl said.

Plagued by a hamstring injury that limited him during much of fall camp, Kohl missed ASU's game against NAU, perhaps not coincidentally a contest in which the Sun Devils rushed for only 56 yards on 29 carries. "When he didn't play (against NAU) it really hurt us," Erickson said.

Now, though, the tight end said he is finally healthy after a rehab process for a strained hamstring that wore on his patience.

"We did a lot of pool work," Kohl said, "and it's truly the most frustrating thing I've ever gone through. The beginning of camp I couldn't do much because it's a muscle, and I just kept hurting it over and over again."

But Kohl has no complaints now. He grew up watching games in Sun Devil Stadium, and now he is eager to help the team he loves in any way he can, whether it be catching a 50-yard touchdown pass, or the more likely scenario of blowing up a hole to pave the way for a long scoring run.

"I kind of just live every day like it's the best day ever," Kohl said. "You hear people who are always complaining and stuff, but I feel like I have nothing to complain about."

That appreciation for his spot in the program is just one more factor that has endeared the hometown kid to the coaching staff.

"He's a great story," Erickson said. "He walked on here out of junior college and made it on his own. (Now) he is a big part of what we do."

Special changes

This week, senior Gerald Munns and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenburg were placed on the right side of the field goal unit, replacing James Morrison and Max Smith.

The ASU defense worked extensively with its 30-front in preparation for Oregon. Junior Eddie Elder lined up as an extra defensive back in the formation.

The offensive line will have the same lineup as it did against Wisconsin. Junior Aderious Simmons got reps with the first team this week, primarily, Erickson said, for the coaching staff to give increased reps to a player who missed almost all of fall camp.

"The thing with Aderious: It's about learning," Erickson said. "It's not about ability. It's about him understanding the offense, knowing what do when a call is made - things he missed all through camp. We just have to keep being patient with him and he'll get better and better all the time."


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