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August 12, 2013

Tight ends enjoying expanded offensive role



In the Arizona State offense, two tight ends are better than one.

But both have to be tough.

Since offensive coordinator Mike Norvell took over, the tight end and 3-back positions have been utilized a lot more. After a year of getting acclimated, the tight ends have found a new attitude and are getting more opportunities in the scheme.

With addition of junior college transfer junior De'Marieya Nelson along with the return of seniors Chris Coyle and Darwin Rogers, the Sun Devils are deeper at the tight end position.

Their roles have changed compared to last season. Because of the depth and different styles of play each tight end brings to the team, they are lining up in a lot more spots this season.

Norvell has taken advantage of the leaner and quicker Nelson in the slot position. Coyle has taken a lot of reps inside the tackles at the flex spot. Rogers has become much more consistent running routes off the line with his hand down.

Tight ends coach Chip Long said the team can use his tight ends in certain situations.

"[We'll] use that advantage to help us win a game late in the fourth quarter when we have to run the ball and go fast with a bigger personnel out there," Long said. "And then you got those big guys in space. Teams usually match that personnel. We can start out wide and we can come back in there and run the ball so it's exciting."

The tight ends will be moving all over the field this season. Long said it will nice to motion them inside to help with power run plays.

But Coyle said when a big bodied tight end is in the slot it also helps the run game.

"It gives us just a little bit more of a blocking threat on the perimeter if we need to come inside and block a linebacker," Coyle said. "We mix it up, just keep the defense on their toes and they'll never know what's coming at them."

Especially during practice Sunday the tight ends were focused on improving their blocking skills. In just the first week of practice the group has improved their techniques.

During the team inside run drill Coyle had block where he completely sealed off senior linebacker Steffon Martin and the running back ran right off Coyle's hip.

Then during the last team 11-on-11 drill Rogers had two good blocks on freshman linebacker Chans Cox, pushing him five yards down the line.

In the same drill Nelson showed great improvement in lead blocking from the 3-back position.

The junior college transfer said blocking at the next level is something he had to adapt to.

"It's most definitely a different level," Nelson said. "They come a lot harder than junior college. I never had to block or do things attached to the line as much as I do here. So that's most definitely a new thing for me. I'm trying to get that down."

Long admitted after the coaching change they had to start from the ground up with the tight ends. A big focus was run blocking.

Coyle said there are fundamentals that they work on everyday but the main thing the coaches wanted to change was the attitude that goes along with the tight end position.

Long does not want the tight ends at ASU to be known as finesse players who run quick routes and catch balls. He wants them to know for as grinders who put their hand in the dirt and get the job done when it comes to blocking.

According to Coyle, the attitude change has trickled down to the players.

"Before we had guys with the potential to be very tough and we had some great players," Coyle said. "But now with this coaching staff, since they're constantly telling us, 'You got to be tough. You got to be tough. You got to play through these bumps and bruises,' you're starting to see out on the field more. Guys are starting to push through situations. They might be a little dinged up. They might have hit somebody hard the last play. They might be a little dizzy but you go back in and you get that play done."

The biggest difference with the tight ends so far in camp is that there are more of them on the field. The offense has run a lot more two tight end sets.

One might be on the line of scrimmage and the other flexed out in the slot. Sometimes both will be in the slot.

Having more on the field gives the ASU offense a ton of options. They can have two bigger targets to throw to in the middle of the field. They can also have one tight end stay in to pass block and give junior quarterback Taylor Kelly more protection for a long route to develop.

The offense has even used three tight ends for short yardage situations.

To say the least, Long is excited to have more than one of his guys on the field more frequently.

"I tell them, 'With the opportunity we better make plays so we don't just throw it out,'" Long said. "They've done a nice job with that. They've got to keep going and those formations will keep rolling as they come along. So it's extremely exciting to see."

Latu back in action

Sophomore defensive lineman Mo Latu got on the field for the first time in camp Sunday.

He came in to play the nose in short yardage situations. Before one play coach Todd Graham told him to literally go vertically straight up the field.

Latu did exactly that, took on a center and a guard and completely plugged the "A" gap to stop the running back from getting the first down.

Latu had microscopic surgery on his knee about three weeks ago. He said it was one reason he was behind conditioning wise, as he could not really accomplish much because of the knee.

Right now Latu is listed at 380 pounds. He said he is at 372 and has kept it there all week. His goal is to weigh 330 pounds.

Notes

  • Junior college transfer junior wide receiver Joseph Morris (foot), freshman wide receiver Cameron Smith (hamstring) and senior wide receiver Kevin Ozier (leg muscle) all were wearing green no contact jerseys today. Ozier did not leave the conditioning area known as "Muscle Beach" during practice.

  • Redshirt freshman linebacker Carlos Mendoza took first team reps at the spur linebacker position after missing time earlier in the week to have his knee drained.

  • Junior college transfer sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong immediately got first team reps Sunday in his first padded practice. Senior wide receiver Alonzo Agwuenu was moved down to the second team.

  • Redshirt freshman Laiu Moeakiola took the first team reps Sunday at free safety. Freshman Marcus Ball did get a good amount of reps but not as many with the first team like he has had in the last couple practices.

  • Freshman wide receiver Ronald Lewis moved up and took some second team reps today at receiver.

  • For the second day in a row sophomore wide receiver Richard Smith beat coverage and took a pass all the way for a touchdown. Normally steady senior cornerback Osahon Irabor has given up three long completions in two days.

  • Junior college transfer sophomore cornerback Solomon Means took some second team reps at the boundary position in favor of redshirt sophomore Rashad Wadood.

  • Sophomore tackle Evan Goodman had the block of the day. Because of a nice seal block he was able to spring junior running back Deantre Lewis for a touchdown run.


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