Jared Cooper

Coop’s Corner: Protecting Family


As teams develop throughout a season, players and coaches might be friends off the field, but become a family on it.

The Arizona State Sun Devils have formed a strong brotherhood, unlike many others, and they protect one another, whether it is on or off the field. Not only does being a collaborative unit help in terms of chemistry and an overall good atmosphere amongst the team, but it also has a correlation to help succeed on the field.

If any position group requires the most protection of the their teammates, then you look no further than the big guys up front, the offensive line. Now in his second season as the offensive live coach, Chris Thomsen has developed his group to be one of the best in the Pac-12. Through the first six games of the season, the offensive line has allowed 11 sacks, 1.83 per game, and 35 tackles for a loss, 5.83 per game.

The Sun Devils had an impressive win last week against the reigning Pac-12 Champion the Stanford Cardinal and one of the best defenses in the nation. The ASU offensive line had one one of their best performances against a front seven that is feared by many opponents. “I think our guys focus is really, really good and I think they wanted to perform well against who we consider one of, if not, the best in the country,” said Thomsen when discussing the offensive lines performance against last years’ Pac-12 champs.

New to the offensive line this year is the addition of starting junior, Nick Kelly. The center position is one of the most challenging positions on the line but adding a new face to the starters hasn’t phased anyone. “His ability to stay on his feet and use his hands has really helped him,” said Thomsen. “Plus he’s a very smart guy. He reacts quickly because he’s a sharp thinker.”

Lining up just left of Kelly, is another new starter at left guard in redshirt junior Christian Westerman. Westerman was ineligible to play last season due to NCAA transfer rules after he left Auburn University. He spent all of last year on the Sun Devil practice squad before being promoted to starting on the offensive line. “He’s a beast. He’s a dominant force out on the field,” said Nick Kelly.

One reason that has led to the overwhelming success of the ASU offensive line is with their leader, redshirt senior Jamil Douglas. Not only is Douglas on track for one of his best seasons, but he doesn’t let his personal victories get in the way of his teammates. As the one of the captains of ASU, Douglas may be quiet but his leadership is shown in another way. “He setting the tone,” said Coach Thomsen, “He’s not an extremely vocal guy but he leads by example and I’m proud of what he’s doing.”

Photo by Jared Cooper

Coming off of three straight games against top twenty-five ranked opponents, ASU finds themselves facing other difficult opponent in the University of Washington Huskies. Similar to the Sun Devils previous opponent, the Huskies sport a talented defense, specifically the front seven. To date, Washington is 5-2 with both losses coming from Stanford and Oregon. The Huskies’ defense ranks 55 in the nation with an average of 24.7 points against and is second in the Pac-12 in sacks with a total of 27.

This year’s Washington Huskies are unlike what we have seen before with the addition of a new head coach, Chris Petersen. “Their scheme is different then it was last year…a little more complex with the new coaching staff,” said Thomsen. With the new, dynamic scheme for the defense, it provides the Sun Devils with yet another tough task. “They do a great job of forcing turnovers and a lot of the reason they do that is they have unique ways of getting pressure and they have explosive athletes that are doing so.”

Although the Sun Devils face a difficult challenge, this game will be bitter sweet for redshirt junior Jordan Simone. Simone will be returning to his home state where he says there will be lots of family and friends there to support him. Even more exciting for Simone will be reuniting with his former Skyline High School teammate, Washington senior wide receiver, Kasen Williams. “I haven’t talked to him yet and I don’t know if I will talk to him but he was one of my best friends growing up,” says Simone.

With the Sun Devils now going into the back end of their schedule and facing yet another outstanding defense, a win on the road will help keep ASU on the right path towards a championship. In order to continue their success, the Sun Devils need to stick to their game plan and make sure that they can protect the quarterback with the ferocious Husky front seven. When asked who his favorite player is, redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly said, “My offensive line.”


Interviews at practice this week….

Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen

Safety Jordan Simone 

About Jared Cooper

Jared Cooper

Jared is an Intern this season for ASU Devils Den. He is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications studying Broadcast Journalism with a focus in sports broadcasting. In addition to interning at ASU Devils Den, he works in the Marketing Department for the Phoenix Suns. Jared is a former Sparky the Sun Devil, ASU's mascot, from 2011 to 2013.

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