"Tight End U" is back, baby.
During the previous two seasons under former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Arizona State tight ends collectively produced eight receptions for 76 yards and a single touchdown. The days of Todd Heap and Zach Miller were long dead.
But then came resurrection at the hands of new offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's system and a very talented player put in an ideal position.
Chris Coyle exploded in his first season as a starter, becoming the passing game's go-to target from the new 3-back spot. He set the school's single-season tight end reception record with 57, and should enter 2013 on the Mackey Award watch list and make a run for All-Pac-12 honors.
Beyond Coyle, there is not much in terms of returning production, and the most exciting new additions in terms of playmaking ability are not coming until this fall. That leaves Coyle and some question marks on the practice field this spring.
- Chris Coyle: 57 receptions, 696 yards, 5 touchdowns
- Darwin Rogers: 3 receptions, 31 yards 1 touchdown
- Kody Kohl
- Marcus Washington
- Alex Bykovskiy
- De'Marieya Nelson: Junior college transfer, coming this fall
- Grant Martinez: Incoming freshman, coming this fall
Keep an Eye On: Kody Kohl
Kohl continues a small legacy in Tempe, as his older brother Trevor was the ASU tight end responsible for all of the position's production in 2010 and 2011.
The younger Kohl came to ASU in the 2012 class and redshirted last year. He has a good frame for the position at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and has some nice speed, running in the 4.6 range. That athleticism should help him fit what Norvell's system seeks in its players. Kohl also brings some good toughness to the position as well.
With Coyle the unquestion starter, and Nelson and Martinez joining the group this fall, this is a prime time for Kohl to make a name for himself, or he could risk being caught in a numbers game on the depth chart.
Biggest Strength: A true "go to" target
One must wonder how much bigger Coyle's breakout year could have been had the team had any kind of consistent threat at wide receiver to help alleviate the coverage attention from opposing defenses.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Coyle proved to be a perfect fit as the team's 3-back. He was sure-handed, ran nice routes, had good enough speed to make plays downfield, and was a willing blocker. In other words, he was the complete package.
Now with a year of experience in the offense and in the team's conditioning program, Coyle is poised to become an even greater threat. The Taylor Kelly-to-Coyle combination should be among the most deadly in the Pac-12 this fall.
Biggest Concern: Anyone not named Coyle
While the top of the depth chart is looking mighty fine, the names below bring about nothing but question marks.
Darwin Rogers acquitted himself well as a blocking option last season. The 6-foot-4, 243 pounder has good strength and hands, and has just enough speed to make some plays in the short and intermediate areas, but is not ever going to be a major factor in the passing game. Converted running back Marcus Washington earned a two-deep spot as a reserve behind Rogers, but at an even 6-foot and 220 pounds, lacks the size needed to play along the line, although he has some ball skills.
Max Smith's injury woes put an end to his career prematurely, leaving the untested Kohl and Alex Bykovskiy as the only other rostered options in spring.
What It All Means
Much like running back, the ASU tight end position appears to be very top heavy entering spring practice.
Coyle should be among the best in the nation, but after that, it gets tricky. Two very offensively intriguing players in Nelson and Martinez come this fall, but spring ball should be a chance to see who can make a statement.
Rogers' blocking prowess has earned him playing time, and Kohl now has an opportunity after redshirting. The rest of the group doesn't project to challenge much to time, but the team will need someone outside of Coyle to show some potential as a reliable source on the two-deep.
2013 Spring Football Primer Series