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ASU Football: Chris Coyle Breaks Down the New 3-Back Position

Chris Coyle is poised for a big year in 2012 (Photo: ASU)
Chris Coyle is poised for a big year in 2012 (Photo: ASU)

The combined production from Arizona State tight ends over the past two seasons reads more like a good half for most players: eight receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown (all by Trevor Kohl).

Suffice it to say, former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone loved to throw the ball, just not to the tight ends. For a school with a great legacy at the position—from Ken Dyer to Todd Heap and Zach Miller—the disappearance of the position caused some consternation among the fanbase.

That figures to be a thing of the past, as the new offense brought in Todd Graham and new offensive coordinator Mike Norvell features a large role for the tight ends. It also includes a new role that has exciting potential in the form of the 3-back, Norvell's version of an H-back. This new offensive approach excites junior Chris Coyle, the team's current starter at the 3-back.

"I love this new offense. It's what I've been waiting for for the past three years," Coyle told me at Media Day. "Now that it's finally happening, I've made sure to get myself physically and mentally prepared for this offense and we're going to be running no huddle. We're going to surprise a lot of defenses, especially since we use the tight end again. Defenses in the Pac-12 aren't going to be used to seeing us with a tight end. I will help us out and give us a leg up on our competition."

Graham and Norvell's offense is much more than just a promise, as they have the history to back up their claims for an expanded role. During their previous stops, most notably at Tulsa, their 3-back position was very productive. In particular, Charles Clay was a standout. During his career, he ran for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns and hauled in 189 passes for 2,544 yards and another 28 touchdowns under Graham and Norvell from 2007 to 2010.

With such a great example to learn from. Coyle has been hard at work studying.

"We've been watching film on Tulsa and how they used their tight ends. I've been studying these guys that have been successful. How they execute blocks, execute routes, and then using that in practice to make me a better player."

That mental work was all that Coyle could do as he recovered from injury that caused him to miss spring practice. Now, Coyle is feeling great and is intent on making up for lost time, and thus far, has had an impressive start to fall camp.

"I feel great right now. I just got fully cleared about a week and a half ago," said Coyle. "I've been working my butt off, more than I ever have in my entire life just so I could be in a position for the season where I can help the team out. I'm ready to perform to my full potential."

So what exactly should people expect from the 3-back this fall? Coyle now take us an in-depth look.

Where will the 3-Back line up?

"With this position, a lot is play specific. Depending on what the play is, I may be out at slot receiver, coming in motion to a position sort of like a fullback. I could be up on a line at a tight position, and I could be in the backfield as an actual fullback. I've a perfect fit for what I have learned over the years."

In the Passing Game

"Over the years, with me playing slot receiver last year, it's helped me get my speed up. This year, it's going to be fun, coming from a tight end position against these linebackers and safeties that haven't seen a tight end at ASU for a while. I know that I'll be able to get up on their toes and burn them deep a few times. They'll be able to find me open in those mid-range routes. I'll be sure to bring everything in that comes my way."

In the Running Game

"It's going to be awesome. We definitely have a physical offense this year, and we're going to be running a lot of power. The 3-back is essential to that because we're going to be kicking out the defensive ends a lot, coming from the backfield hard on the linebackers, and opening up holes. I know that once they get through the hole, they're going to be going for a long time."

The 6'3", 230 pound Coyle certainly has the skills to flourish in this role, and one of ASU's contenders for the starting quarterback job emphatically agrees.

"Chris Coyle at our 3-back position is going to be a real threat this year," Mike Bercovici told me. "I played around with him in high school. I know him very well, and know his capabilities on offense, and I feel like he's going to be a stud this year."

Yet regardless of who wins the job, Coyle is ready.

"No matter who is at quarterback, I'm ready to catch some touchdowns and anything that comes my way. I've never been more focused in my life to be successful and get the job done. Every single play, every single down, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and doing a good job."

Ultimately, all this preparation, hard work, and schematic versatility means nothing if the Coyle can't produce on the field. As a result, he has set appropriate goals for 2012.

"I set high standards for myself. I want to make sure I catch everything thrown my way and nothing hits the ground. I want to make sure I focus on my blocking—especially in this new offense—so I can really open holes for these running backs.

Should he achieve his last goal, Sun Devil fans everywhere will surely have great memories come back.

"I also plan on getting into the endzone as many times as possible for the Sun Devils."

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