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ASU Football: De'Marieya Nelson prepared for wherever the Sun Devils need him

How will Nelson fit into the Sun Devils' system?

Perhaps the greatest mystery of camp so far has been where De'Marieya Nelson will end up playing in 2014. The answer isn't known yet, but No. 12 might see special teams, offense and defense in an increased role in 2014.

Last season, he played some offense at tight end and running back, then a few downs as a rush end on defense, but wasn't used as much as he could have been. This year, it's fair to say that the Sun Devils still aren't sure of their own game plan for Nelson yet either.

Case and point-

Saturday: "I've never done what we're fixin to try to do with De'Marieya Nelson … Ever," head coach Todd Graham said at media day. He added that Nelson would get 25 snaps on offense and maybe 40 on defense.

Monday: Nelson practices with the offense and after practice, Graham said that Nelson may only get a look at defense on third down.

Tuesday: Nelson wears a maroon offensive jersey at practice and plays first team tight end.

Graham has mentioned on more than one occasion that the balance for Nelson is a delicate one. The team wants to use him to his full potential on both sides of the ball. The tough part is making sure he keeps up with the new schemes  and doesn't fall behind in one area, whether it's offense, defense or special teams. He wants to make sure Nelson stays sharp on every front and his skills don't deteriorate because he's focused too much on one aspect.

It's actually a challenge Graham is enjoying so far.

"I like that, how do we figure out how to do that? Because if we can figure out how to do that, it's going to help our team win football games," Graham said.

In camp, Nelson has played first team Devilbacker splitting time with redshirt junior Antonio Longino, and lined up on the offensive side of the ball at tight end. Nelson had 16 tackles on defense last season with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, so he is no stranger to the defensive side of the ball.

Even though he had some success at defensive end last year, Nelson said that Graham first approached him about playing Devilbacker as a primary position in the summer. He added that he has really enjoyed his time there.

"I like the physical part about it," Nelson said. "I just have to get into the film room more."

Help from another source

"Bash Brothers" is a term normally equated with Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and their time with the Oakland A's in the late 1980s. But according to both Longino and Nelson, it's also how they view their own relationship trying to learn the Devilbacker position together.

"We're like the bash brother types, we like being physical we like the contact and we like hitting," Nelson said. "Me and Antonio, we're together every day talking about the plays. We meet in extra time with coach (Paul) Randolph to get everything down. And on the practice field we watch each other to make sure we're doing everything we're supposed to be doing."

Longino confirmed it.

"We just got to get up the field and be aggressive and make plays and that's what we've been doing," he said.

Nelson is pulling double duty learning both the offensive and defensive play books at the same time, but he's no stranger to doing so. At Chavez Senior High School in Stockton, California, he played fullback and linebacker, so he doesn't look at the extra time he has to put in as a burden.

"It's truly a blessing to have the ability to play on both sides of the ball, and just really contribute to the team," Nelson said. "It's never about me it's about my brothers on the team and however I can help them."

Offensive potential

If Longino begins to take over at Devil, and Graham continues to praise his abilities there on a daily basis (he got all the first team reps there on Tuesday), Nelson could be better served on the offensive side of the ball at tight end. It's a position where the Sun Devils need to replace the production and blocking abilities of Chris Coyle, which Nelson certainly has the potential to provide.

Nelson had seven receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns on offense last season at Arizona State, and he was originally recruited as a tight end out of San Joaquin Delta College. While Kody Kohl and Grant Martinez have seen most of the looks their in the early going, neither has the imposing physical presence and athletic ability of Nelson.

To make things even more complicated, Nelson was named to the 2014 preseason Mackey Award watch list, given to the best tight end in the country each year.  The first thing Graham did with him in camp is try out the redshirt senior on defense. The movement of the chess pieces, so to speak, is something Graham said is probably frustrating his staff a lot, citing offensive coordinator Mike Norvell as the primary example.

Norvell added that he still plans on including Nelson on the offense.

"De'Marieya is going to be an explosive playmaker for us," Norvell said. "He's going to be a guy who is going to be able to continue to stretch the field for us vertically."

Nelson's abilities on the ground are also notable with 15 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns last season. He very well could get those all important carries on third down or fourth down and inches where the Sun Devils just need that little extra push.

As for the snap counts, Norvell said it will fluctuate, citing that need to make sure his defensive and offensive capabilities stay on the same level.

"That's something where we're going to go into each game with a plan, we're going to make sure we're going into each game with him healthy and fresh," Norvell said. "He's going to have an extensive package on offense every week."