The message is clear. Arizona State's tight ends are ready to contribute.
With a plethora of two and three tight end formations both last Saturday at the Camp Tontozona scrimmage and during Tuesday's team tempo period, any questions surrounding the readiness of the Arizona State tight ends were visually answered with senior tight end De'Marieya Nelson, redshirt freshman Kody Kohl, and redshirt freshman Grant Martinez all getting significant opportunities to hit the field.
"It just shows that that group is coming along," ASU tight ends coach Chip Long said. "They are pushing it and pushing it and pushing it and they see for themselves. They get out there and make plays, they get more plays."
With Nelson making the move to play both at Devil backer as well as tight end at the beginning of camp, the depth at the tight end spot quickly became an even greater point of interest than it already was due to the departure of first-team all-league tight end Chris Coyle.
It appears Nelson will play a good amount of his snaps on the offensive side of the ball from what the media has observed at practices as of late, but even when he's not on the field the Sun Devils have promise.
Kohl has been one of the most improved players this camp after missing the spring with a shoulder injury. He can play and even potentially start at either the in-line or 3-back tight end position with his impressive physical skills and versatility.
"Kody (Kohl) is a guy that has been very, very steady," ASU head coach Todd Graham said. "Very explosive guy. Runs surprisingly a lot better than you think he does."
Kohl said it was hard to see himself getting weaker and slower after his injury, but after a productive summer he has felt himself getting better and faster since day one of camp.
"Kody had probably one of the best summers I've ever had, been around (for) one of my guys," Long said. "Just the way he's got his body in shape and got his mind right, and just he's grown up these past three years. He was good because he got to see a guy like Chris Coyle for two years, see from him, and so he knows what to do to play at that level every single day and he's done a great job taking the whole group under his wing and just help bring them along."
After catching 29 passes last season for 423 yards and four touchdowns to end his career in third place in school history among tight ends with 92 catches, Coyle not only got the chance impact Kohl for a short amount of time, but Nelson as well. It's something they hope pays dividends as Nelson's seven catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns from a season ago is all the Sun Devils return at the position from a receiving standpoint.
"Chris Coyle taught me a lot on and off the field," Nelson said. "He taught me how to take all this in and the more he taught me, the game just slowed down for me and I was able to focus more on my technique and me coming into a leader now, I feel that I'm not as vocal as he was, but I feel like it's only right for me to pass it on down and lead the ones that's under me."
With a year of BCS football under his belt, Nelson is ready to be a veteran leader and with the evolution of Kohl, ASU has a potent one-two punch at tight end with Martinez being the third player in a group that appears to have more big play making potential than would appear the case based on on statistics.
"I feel a lot more confident in my body, my ability to block defensive ends in the Pac-12," Martinez said. "So with that extra weight and extra strength it really helps me go out there and put everything together so I can execute the plays that needs to be executed."
As a tight ends coach, Long understandably would like to use as much 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two receivers) as much as possible. He likes how it put pressure on the opposing defenses and would consider it ideal if his players are good enough to enable it to be used extensively.
"When you're out there in 12 [personnel] you can get a lot of man/man one high (safety) stuff and if they want to play two high (safeties), now you can run the ball so it really puts teams in the bind and [opponents] can't really go nickel because you go two tight ends out there who run like they're wide outs," Long said.
The goal is to have a physical mindset and capability that ties in to Graham's vision of not needing to trick teams to move the football and put points on the board. Powerful tight end play enhances the ability to run the football inside and salt games away.
"A lot of times we'll have a lead and four minutes left to go in the game and we don't want to give them the ball back so we'll get into our four minute offense and just be able to show them every different look in America," Long said.
Ball nearly ready
Redshirt freshman safety Marcus Ball was not in the green no contact jersey Tuesday for the first time this camp and is getting close to being fully cleared after an undisclosed medical issue.
"I'm in the white jersey out there now, out there active and hitting and everything and everything feels good," Ball said.
"Obviously I'm anxious, but I'm just excited to be out there with my brotherhood."
Ball took second-team reps at Bandit safety alongside junior Jordan Simone at free safety during the period media was able to observe on Tuesday.
"He (Ball) needs to get in shape and he needs to get the rust knocked off of and he's got to compete to play first," Graham said. "He's not just going to walk out and be starting."
Ball gives the Sun Devils a fourth legitimate option at safety along with star senior Damarious Randall, Johnson and Simone. Randall is locked in as a starter but the other spot remains up for grabs with Graham suggesting Ball and Johnson are currently in a tight battle.
Sun Devils break out scout team jerseys
One of the most notable returning players sporting a gold scout team jersey on Tuesday as the Sun Devils eased into game preparation mode was redshirt freshman linebacker Chans Cox.
Cox had spent much of camp at working at or at least blending in at second team Devil backer when Nelson was with the offense.
Other returning players wearing the gold scout team jersey were junior linebacker Eriquel Florence, senior walk-on defensive back Ronnie Sellers, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Jack Powers and junior offensive guard Devin Goodman.
True freshmen likely to redshirt based on scout team designation are freshman safety Dasmond Tautalatasi, freshman linebacker Jamal Scott, freshman offensive lineman Quinn Bailey, freshman wide receiver Jalen Harvey and freshman defensive back DeAndre Scott.
Freshmen getting a look solely for special teams in the two-deep are defensive back Chad Adams on the first team punt unit and freshman wide receiver turned cornerback Tyler Whiley with the second team punt cover.
True freshman offensive lineman Sam Jones was not in a scout team jersey and is currently with the second-team at left guard but will likely redshirt unless needed due to injury to one or more starting offensive linemen.
Freshman running back Kalen Ballage was dressed and looked to be more active at practice but did not participate in media observed segments.
Senior offensive tackle Jamil Douglas was excused again from practice due to personal reasons.