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ASU Football: Don't fret, Chris Coyle will produce at an elite level

Chris Coyle isn't getting enough touches, but expect that to change ASAP.

Christian Petersen

If only the Sun Devils had someone reliable to catch the football? Someone that boasts trustworthy hands? Someone proven? Someone with excellent rapport to quarterback Taylor Kelly?

The answer to the majority of ASU's offensive issues: Chris Coyle.

Coyle doesn't have any officially nickname, but Mr. Dependable would fit perfectly. The Sun Devils wide receivers are currently dropping routine catches and it's preventing them from sustaining long touchdown drives. Coyle rarely makes those mistakes.

Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has been disappointed with the infectious case of the butter fingers. Norvell knows his high-octane attack won't be at full strength without Coyle's assistance.

"Obviously we are going to take what the defense gives us, but try to probably create some more opportunities to get Chris the ball," Norvell said. "He obviously did a good job late in the game. We did target him on a couple different times, but we just got to do a better job executing."

After the first three games in 2012, Chris Coyle accumulated 19 catches. After the first three game in 2013, Chris Coyle has accumulated six catches.

"The biggest difference is we have a lot of athletes out there on the field. We have got a lot more options," Coyle comparing 2012 to 2013. "Last year in the offense, the teams we played didn't know what to expect since it was a new offense. This year they know I'm a big target out there."

It'll take time for Coyle to get adjusted to the extra attention. Learning how to beat double-coverage or overcoming top-notch pass coverage doesn't happen over night. The process has caused the normally cool, calm and collective Coyle to get irritated.

"Ya they are paying more attention and I mean it's frustrating but it wasn't unexpected. They started doing it at the end of the season last year and they are continuing to do it this year," Coyle said. "They are always going to have one or two guys matched up at me all times. What that has shown so far is that it's opening up Jaelen. Eventually I figure if I just have my patience and keep running my routes hard, Jaelen will open things up for me on the inside. We will go back-and-forth and just work off each other."

Jaelen Strong's emergence as the clear number one target does help Coyle. Defenses cannot afford to bank on Kelly going to Coyle over the middle. Instead, the biggest obstacle will be how to corral Strong, meaning Coyle should be granted more room to operate. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Strong grabs the ball at its highest point and displays unusual 4.4 speed for someone that tall.

Looking ahead, Coyle plans on staying course and the results should follow. Coyle doesn't believe he needs to make any drastic adjustments.

"Just continue to run my routes, I've been getting open. Sometimes the plays when I'm open they have broken down a little bit. TK (Taylor Kelly) might be running the other way," Coyle said. "So I just got to continue to run good routes. Expect the ball to come to me and just catch it any time he throws it to me."

Apparently there have been some slight misunderstandings and confusion between Kelly and Coyle. One year ago, it almost seemed like the combination shared the same brain. "TK and I are going to get our connection back." Coyle said.

The issues haven't transferred over to the red zone, as Coyle possesses two touchdowns. Tight ends thrive in the goal-to-go situations and Coyle exemplifies how tricky the matchup can be against linebackers or corners.

"Red zone, you literally go to catch anything thrown to you. Whether it's close to you or far away, I got to bring it in," Coyle said. "I don't want to leave it in anybody else's hand except for my own. I'm going to try to do anything possible to get to the end zone."

In the offseason the coaches asked Coyle to improve his run-blocking skills. The 6-foot-3 tight end weighs a mere 222 pounds, so shedding off bigger defenders can present dilemmas. Coyle feels his training during spring and fall camp are helping him become more than a pass catcher.

"I'm not sure if it's me being asked to do that (run block) more. But when I do, do it, I feel like I am being more effective. The biggest thing is continuing to work on my technique," Coyle said. "Every guy I have been up against so far has been bigger than me. But I use my technique and quickness to get to the block point faster."

In the Pac-12 standings, Saturday's game against USC is crucial. The matchup carries extra significance for Coyle, who was born and raised in Westlake, Calif., approximately one hour away from the Trojans' campus. Last season his family and friends sat in the Coliseum (USC's stadium) and witnessed him go off for five catches, 85 yards and one touchdown.

"The SC game and the Arizona games are probably the two biggest games on our schedule. We have so many guys from Southern California and a lot of guys even got recruited by SC but just came here," Coyle said. "It's always fun playing them. We have a lot of friends on the other team and a little rivalry against them. It's a big pivotal point in the season, we got to win this game if we want to have a chance to continue onward. And eventually end up in that Pac-12 championship."

As the stakes increase, so will Coyle's statistics. Regardless of the first three games, Coyle should be considered amongst ASU's biggest playmakers and Mike Norvell knows that.

"No question, he's a dynamic playmaker for us and does a great job for us," Norvell said.