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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Aztecs line centered by a freshman

SAN DIEGO -- Once the helmet comes off, center Trask Iosefa is one of the most noticeable guys on the San Diego State football team. His stout frame easily gains an extra 5 inches on top when the bushy mane he hasn't trimmed in nearly 20 months is set free.

Otherwise, head coach Chuck Long has barely noticed Iosefa's presence -- and that's a good thing.

"He's learning pretty quick," Long said. "You always look at linemen and when you don't notice anything that means they're doing their job. He's just been really aggressive and really sharp the entire camp learning his role."

Iosefa may be the most unknown commodity on an offensive line that many see as the Aztecs' biggest question mark.

Center, a position often dubbed the quarterback of the line, will now be in the hands of a freshman who hasn't played a game in more than two years after using his grayshirt and redshirt seasons. The graduate of Punahou High in Hawaii will be responsible for barking out blocking assignments to a starting front that figures to feature four upperclassmen.

Heady stuff, indeed. But Iosefa says that with the help he has received from his linemates, he does not feel intimidated.

"With (senior tackles) Mike Kravetz and Will Robinson and (senior guard Brandyn) Dombrowski, they're helping me a lot in terms of trying to get used to making calls and identifying fronts," Iosefa said. "I'm just pushing myself more to be up there with all those seniors. I kind of look up to them as father figures, because from last fall they were always in my ear telling me, 'Do this, do that,' and working on my technique."

Long said the staff has had to account for Iosefa's inexperience by simplifying some schemes up front, but he has been encouraged by the small learning curve thus far.

"There will be mistakes made, but he's bouncing back quicker from each mistake he makes, and that's a good sign," Long said. "He's not making the same mistake twice."

Despite tipping the scales at 300 pounds, Iosefa does not possess imposing size. He measures just 6 feet tall -- when you don't factor in the hair.

"You always like guys taller, but he makes up for it with strength and excellent feet," Long said. "That's the big issue, in my opinion."

Despite the height, Iosefa's leverage and footwork were enough for him to play center and forward for his high school basketball team.

"That was my first love," Iosefa said. "I just grew up playing basketball, and it gave me my footwork and my athleticism."

Now it's helping him get on the same page with quarterback Kevin O'Connell.

The two have gone out of their way to build a bond recently, shooting hoops together on campus and occasionally hanging out at O'Connell's house.

"The whole summer in the 7-on-7 voluntary workouts we were together," Iosefa said. "I'd come in the evenings and snap him the ball 20-25 times just to get our rhythm going. I feel like we're meshing."

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