Last year, when ASU took on Utah, redshirt sophomore tackle Tyler Sulka started in that game.
This season, he has not started a game. He made a push, but redshirt senior Brice Schwab ultimately won the job.
The right tackle position is still not set in stone.
Sulka caught up with The State Press to talk about his time at ASU, challenging for the spot this season and next season.
The State Press: Talk about your three years so far at ASU.
TS: I’ve always been right on the fringe and I train hard every day so that I could always be prepared for that backup position. But also at the same time, I’m trying to compete with Brice to take over that position to start for the rest of the season. I’ll do whatever coach (Todd Graham) asks. If Coach wants me just to play behind Brice right now and back him up, I’ll do that, but otherwise still in the back of my head I am still competing.
SP: What is your mentally in practice?
TS: I’m always trying to help out the tackles and help them out with their technique. Especially in the games, I’m trying to help them out with blitzes and see how the d-ends play them. Also I’m trying to correct myself and make sure that I do their mistakes better, so that I could be one step ahead of them in case anything ever happens. I’m also trying to do my best every day so that I can eventually just move forward in the position groups.
SP: What’s it like playing for coach Bob Connelly?
TS: He works us hard, he always emphasizes us to stay after practice, work out, run, get in shape and keep the tempo going. Discipline-wise he is always on us harping on technique, harping us on fundamentals and knowing our blitzes. He likes to push us. He likes to have us have fun out there, compete. I go in for Brice sometimes just to get each other pumped and see who does better. It’s all about who wants it more.
SP: When you get that opportunity, what’s your attitude to make the best of it?
TS: I get few chances to go in for Brice and when I do, (I) try to do it better than him and also just get better myself and try and do better.
SP: What’s your relationship with Schwab when he knows that you are competing for his job?
TS: We’re a family. He knows that I’m breathing down his neck on plays, and he is always tying to one up me and trying to do better than me. That’s just how it works. You encourage each other, but then again you’re also trying to compete for the position of starting. It’s a big thing but at the end of the day you got support each other.
SP: How do you get through the grind on practice when you don’t play on Saturdays?
TS: It’s motivation for me. I don’t really like it, but it is something that I have to work for every day. When I’m playing behind him, it makes me work harder. I’ve been in a position where I’ve been No. 1 and I have worked hard. It’s a different feeling when you know that you’re not going to play on Saturday and you’re one step behind. You really got to prepare yourself for anything that happens on Saturday. I’m self-motivated and I’m just ready to compete every day and possibly earn that position.
SP: What do you say to yourself if one of the starting tackles goes down?
TS: I hoping that I’m the No. 1 off the bench so if anyone goes down I’ll be prepared for (redshirt junior offensive lineman Evan Finkenberg) or Brice, obviously I’m more comfortable at right. But left (tackle) is just everything backwards and just same fundamentally it’s all the stuff. Mentally, I prepare myself both ways every time. In practice, I’m looking and taking mental reps in my head every play. So I’ll be prepared for anything.
SP: Is there anything you need to improve on to get the position?
TS: I need to gain a little weight. I started last year a little lighter than I am now. Obviously I’d like to be 295, 300, but at the same time, I work physically. In the weight room, just try to get better and more flexible and just be one step ahead of everyone.
SP: Are you giving next season any thought?
TS: Yeah, I do next season coming up where I’d be the No. 1 tackle in line, but at the same this season is now and obviously I want to play as much as I can while I’m here, and obviously try to beat out Brice if I could. If not I’m also here to back him up. My main objective is to start as many games as I can here at ASU. Next season is a different story.
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