Every year, ASU fans begrudgingly indulge in hype talks around the next Sun Devil tight end(s).
You know, ASU hasn’t had a dominant tight end since Zach Miller in 2006...is a numbing talking point that is loaded into every Sun Devil fan’s playbook each August. And as it gets more robotic and methodical every year, it also rings truer than the last.
Curtis Hodges was the latest tight end to leave the program for the NFL, signing an undrafted free agent contract with the Washington Commanders. Hodges (20 receptions, 374 yards, two touchdowns) was one of Jayden Daniels’s favorite targets in 2021 after fighting for snaps in his previous four years as a Sun Devil.
But Daniels and former offensive coordinator Zak Hill never got the offense to kick into higher gear, and the passing game was not deep enough for a pass-catcher to truly “break out.”
This year, all eyes are on Messiah Swinson.
Swinson, a redshirt senior transfer from Missouri, is a massive target at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds. He arrived to Tempe early in the spring and was seen working out with Alabama transfer Paul Tyson before spring workouts, and has largely repped with the first-team offense so far in practice.
New TE Messiah Swinson pic.twitter.com/SBuHw2UjOU— Brad Denny (@BDenny29) March 15, 2022
Swinson committed to Mizzou as a three-star product from New York, and he picked the Tigers over a swath of schools, including ASU. Before his first game in Columbia, Swinson suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the fall of 2018, and he never caught a touchdown or logged more than 50 yards in a season at Mizzou.
Now at ASU, Swinson believes the offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas’s offense should give him more playmaking opportunities than Mizzou did.
“I was talking to my boys about this, this (offense) is the type of stuff you see in Madden,” Swinson said.
Swinson says he grew up watching tight ends like Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez set the standard for the position, so he was excited to find out that Thomas coached Gonzalez in Atlanta with the Falcons.
“(I get) to be in an offense that Tony (Gonzalez) was in every day,” he said. “And I get to watch his film every day and look at the routes that I’m running, and I get to watch him run them.”
As a college coach, Thomas has not necessarily produced that same level of production. In six years as a coordinator at the college level, the best season produced by a tight end in his schemes was Romond Deloatch in 2016 at Temple when he caught 18 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown.
Ohhhh the trickery— Nathalie Jones (@NathalieJonesTV) December 12, 2020
Connor Bazelak to Keke Chism (the former high school quarterback) and a dime to Messiah Swinson pic.twitter.com/q8YgetHjWY
Shortly put, the Sun Devils need a target, and they need him to produce consistently. There are a ton of question marks on the outside, so a dominant tight end would open up options for Thomas and company.
Swinson is joined in the tight end room by Jalin Conyers (6 receptions, 62 yards, one touchdown), Bryce Pierre, Jacob Newell, Justin Roehl, Ryan Morgan, Jack Cole and Jake Ray.