Injuries challenge ASU football team going into the 2019 season

Zendejas and West fill in important roles as the team deals with mounting injuries

As the Sun Devil football team (1-0) prepares for its Friday matchup with Sacramento State (1-0), they are also facing another opponent: injuries.

A few key players have found themselves injured before the season has even kicked off. Redshirt senior center Cade Cote broke his foot in late August in practice, which leaves him out for at least another four weeks. Junior kicker Brandon Ruiz has been dealing with a knee injury, leaving him as a questionable candidate for Friday’s game.

Cote's injury left the coaching staff on the lookout for a replacement center, days before their opening game against Kent State. ASU's head coach, Herm Edwards, started freshman left tackle Dohnovan West at center.

The offensive line's inexperienced showed, surrendering five sacks to the Golden Flashes. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens spoke at length at a press conference about the offensive line's struggles after the team's win against Kent State.

“Our starting center went down and then, you know, we’re starting two freshmen up there, up front like right there and (freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels) right behind them, it was kind of a tough deal," Likens said. 

Considering the circumstances, Likens said he is impressed with how West handled the responsibility of starting at center.  

“I watched the film and I thought for a freshman, for his situation and what he did, we couldn’t have asked for anything better than what he did,” Likens said. “That was absolutely amazing. I now have so much faith in that kid.”

Offensive line coach Dave Christensen noted that West was prepared to play the position because he took all the second-team reps at center during training camp.

“He’s played well at center. He’s a really intelligent kid,” Christensen said when addressing media after Monday’s practice. “(He) understands our calls, our schemes. He made a few calls today. I was trying to simplify the scheme and then turned around and said, ‘Well, I don’t have to simplify it.’”

Edwards said he doesn't plan on moving West back to his natural position of left tackle in order to build consistency with the offensive line.

“It will be interesting this week because these guys play a little bit of that bear front, and so that’ll be interesting how we handle that,” Edwards said. “... We do know this, the center is the center now.”

Another significant blow was to Ruiz, forcing redshirt sophomore kicker Cristian Zendejas to fill in. He stepped up for the Devils, scoring three field goals in three tries with the longest from 40 yards. He was also perfect on all three of his extra-point attempts.

With the high-powered offense of Sacramento State that scored 77 points in its matchup versus Southern Oregon, the team will need all the points they can get from Zendejas.

Multiple receivers have been dealing with injuries as well, Redshirt senior Ryan Newsome missed the season opener due to a foot injury, junior Curtis Hodges missed the game due to a shoulder injury and redshirt freshman Geordon Porter suffers a hamstring injury. Their statuses are questionable for ASU’s game vs. Sacramento State.

The Sun Devils made up for the injuries with Daniels completing a pass to seven different receivers in the opening game.

ASU will have little chance to recover, the bye week is still five weeks away. The Sun Devils will have to press on with who they have and hope they shrug the injury bug off their backs.

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