Cohl Cabral takes his job much more seriously than as if he’s only one of 11 starters on offense and one-fifth of the offensive line.
He has been the first-team left tackle throughout Arizona State’s spring football slate. A left tackle’s largest task is protecting a right-handed quarterback’s blindside. As it stands, all the quarterbacks competing for ASU’s starting quarterback job are right-handed.
Solid left tackle play surely helps an offense drive down the field and score. But Cabral views his job with deeper perspective than stats or scores.
“There’s so much relying on you,” he said. “Someone’s life really is in your hands. Having that to kind of sit on and weigh on is what kind of motivates me to make sure I’m getting myself in the right spots. Because if not, there’s someone that could really get hurt. That’s not something you want to have on your shoulders.”
During his freshman season, Cabral saw his most action as a long snapper in the absence of Mitchell Fraboni. He was also used as an extra blocker in ASU’s Sparky package, which became well-known after it helped running back Kalen Ballage tie the FBS record for touchdowns in a game with eight.
He said there were good and bad takeaways, but the experience of playing as a freshman was beneficial.
“What I learned from it was unreal,” Cabral said. “There’s nothing like being able to just get thrown into the fire and really getting to learn what to do.”
ASU has experienced an enormous amount of turnover on its coaching staff during the past couple years. For example, the team has its third new offensive coordinator in as many seasons. The same can be said for the tight ends and defensive line coaches.
Chris Thomsen coached the team’s offensive line last year, but was hired by TCU in the offseason. ASU hired Josh Henson in January to fill the void, but he left less than a month after.
Enter Rob Sale. ASU hired Sale from the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Cabral said Sale has helped him learn more about the reads he needs to make as a left tackle.
However, he said Sale and Thomsen are complete opposites.
“Coach Thomsen will get after you a little bit, but at the same time he’ll be your best friend kind of,” Cabral said. “Coach Sale is going to do the same thing, but he’s going to push you a little bit more than Coach Thomsen did. He’s a little louder, which is kind of nice, it’s kind of a change. Having him be a little bit louder gets you fired up.”
The offensive line was somewhat of a weak link for ASU last year, but perhaps not by its own fault. The entire team was hit hard by an injury plague, including the offensive line. Multiple starters missed games with injuries, and center A.J McCollum missed time for personal reasons.
Understandably, those circumstances affected the group’s chemistry.
“No one was all together on one page like how it was a couple years before,” Cabral said.
However, Cabral is optimistic about this year’s offensive line because it is comprised of multiple new parts looking to make this season better than last. From left to right, the first-team offensive line during spring practice tempo sessions has been as follows: Cabral, redshirt junior Sam Jones, McCollum, redshirt sophomore Steven Miller and redshirt junior Quinn Bailey.
ASU head coach Todd Graham praised the offensive linemen for having a “hard edge.” However, he singled out Cabral and said he has high expectations for him as the line’s anchor.
“He’s got that drive and toughness, he’s got that mentality,” said Graham.
Once April hits, fall camp will be four months away. The season opener will be a bit less than a month after that. There is still plenty of time for the offensive line to sort itself out.
But one thing is for sure: It won’t be like last year.
“I’d say it’s a very large chip (on our shoulder),” Cabral said of the unit. “Everyone’s coming out here this year trying to prove everybody wrong.”