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Spring Freshman Spotlight: ASU Football DL C.J. Fite

Lots of praise early

Photo via Cullen Fite / Opendorse

TEMPE Ariz. - Arizona State defensive lineman B.J. Green cannot stop talking about C.J. Fite.

They do share a connection. Green hosted Fite during his official visit to Tempe last year. At the same time, Fite is looking to do the same thing Green did two years ago: make an immediate impact as a true freshman on the defensive line.

“I’m gonna keep saying his name,” Green said. “C.J. Fite, that’s a young guy (who) I kind of see myself in. He’s coming in and doing his job. He’s doing a phenomenal job for a freshman.”

Fite was one of the highlights of Herm Edwards’ 2023 projected recruiting class — one that was smaller in size because of the looming NCAA allegations and questions about Edwards’ future. He was primarily recruited by former defensive-line coach Robert Rodriguez and former linebackers coach Chris Claiborne.

ASU hired Kenny Dillingham as its new head coach on November 26th. Two days later, Fite decomitted. It made sense. There was a completely new staff in Tempe — one with which Fite was far less familiar. Within hours, Dillingham called Fite, and he assured him that his offer was still on the table. ASU would honor the scholarship.

He recommitted just over two weeks later. He has not looked back. Like others on that side of the ball, he is thrilled about what defensive coordinator Brian Ward’s scheme, and the playmaking opportunities that come along with it.

“(Ward’s defense) allows us to make plays,” Fite said. “A lot of defenses, you see the d-line, they set stuff up for the linebacker to make plays, but here, (the) d-line can make plays. Linebackers can make plays. Everybody eats.”

“Our d-line is going to be the best group,” he added. “We’ll go get extra work, go through our playbook, go through film just to get better.”

Coming out of Tatum, Texas, Fite was a multi-sport athlete in high school. He won the Texas District 6-3A D-I Defensive MVP as a junior, then competed in shot put and discus events for the school’s track and field team in the spring. During his sophomore and junior seasons on the gridiron, he collected eight sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He also played offensive line.

“C.J.’s a beauty,” offensive lineman Matt Katergaris said. “I love him. He’s good, he feels like an older guy when (you are) going against him. He’s a pretty strong guy. He’s 290 and looks amazing for 290. Those older guys usually are super heavy, but they are light weight, that’s kind of how he is.”

There are five early-enrollee freshmen on the spring roster: defensive backs Josiah Cox and Montana Warren, edge Ashley Williams, quarterback Jaden Rashada, and Fite. Out of the five, Fite is the most likely to receive meaningful snaps in 2023.

He was featured in the defense’s “Best 11” during a team-scrimmage portion of practice two weeks ago, and he is frequently seen taking snaps among the presence of edges Clayton Smith and BJ Green, as well as defensive lineman Anthonie Cooper on the interior defensive line. In the first two weeks of spring ball, the offense struggled to run the ball between the tackles. Fite was a big reason why that was the case.

When Green broke out as a freshman, he led the team in sacks as a true freshman walk-on. Could Fite provide a similar impact? We think so, but given the pedigree of the pass-rushers, it would signal bad news if Fite led the team in the sack category. He also plays on the interior, where Green received snaps across the entire defensive line.

Don’t expect him to simply eat blocks, though. He wants to make plays.

That will keep Green talking.