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ASU Football: Four Sun Devils named to Preseason Award Watch Lists

Four Arizona State players find names on preseason award watch lists

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 UCLA at Arizona State Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

TEMPE, Ariz. – The preseason watch lists has officially commenced with four Arizona State products representing the maroon and gold, all on the offensive side of the ball.

The talented bunch includes two returning players in junior wide receiver Elijhah Badger and junior tight end Jalin Conyers. Junior running back Cam Skattebo, who played at Sacramento State last year, and graduate student long snapper Slater Zellers, who played at Cal, were both selected to round out the four Sun Devils to be named to preseason award watch lists this week.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Head coach Kenny Dillingham has four preseason award watch list players on the offense ahead of his first season at the helm.
Rob Shumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

WR Elijhah Badger - Fred Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List

Badger, a bright spot in the 2022 Sun Devil football season, had a tenfold jump in receptions in his redshirt sophomore year. The breakout season led to Badger’s name scattered across both Pac-12 and national leaderboards.

His redshirt sophomore year featured 70 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns. His 866 yard mark was good enough for top-50 in the country at the wide receiver position with 5.8 receptions per game which ranked in the top-35 in FBS as well.

Badger’s workload for the ASU offense was tremendous as he averaged 28.3% of all Sun Devil first downs last year (41 of 145 of ASU first downs.)

Badger’s dependability downfield, along with his after-the-catch elusiveness make Badger a legitimate threat for the Pac-12’s best receiver and a crucial part to a new look ASU football roster trying to establish a sense of familiarity with each other. Badger’s stability out wide will be an underrated factor to a group looking for consistent play from experienced players as a new era steps onto Mountain America Stadium this fall. Badger had 25 missed tackles forced last year, the most among Pac-12 receivers and second in FBS during regular season games.

His route running proficiency along with reliable hands makes Badger a top wideout in the nation going into his fourth year in Tempe. Looking to earn more than a Pac-12 Honorable Mention this year, Badger will head the receiving bunch under a new offense and coach, along with representing the Sun Devils with a well-deserved spot on the Biletnikoff Award Preseason List for 2023.

Badger’s speed and route running makes the four-year Sun Devil a slippery target for the 2023 squad.
Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Fred Biletnikoff Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding receiver in college football. The award began in 1994 with Bobby Engram of Penn State being the first recipient. The award is named after Florida State wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff who went on to play professionally for the Oakland Raiders and Montreal Alouettes. The award is presented by the Tallahassee Quarterbacks Federation (TQF,) a charitable organization that provides scholarship opportunities for North Florida High School seniors facing significant challenges. The TQF will surpass the $10 aggregate dollar amount raised goal in 2030.

Notable winners of the Biletnikoff award include:

Randy Moss (1997, Marshall)

Larry Fitzgerald (2003, Pittsburgh)

Calvin Johnson (2006, Georgia Tech)

Michael Crabtree (2007 and 2008, Texas Tech)

Ja’Marr Chase (2019, LSU)

DeVonta Smith (2020, Alabama)

TE Jalin Conyers - John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List

A late bloomer in the Sun Devil offense, Conyers asserted himself into the discussion among premier tight end talents in the nation in the final stretch of the 2022 season.

In the final five games, Conyers caught 30 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns. His 170 yards after-the-catch was good enough for fifth in the country among tight ends, with 160 of those yards coming in only five. Conyers’ physical play at 6 ‘4”, 265 lbs produced 21 missed tackles forced, the most by any FBS tight end.

Conyers breakout game against Colorado in Boulder, CO. was one for the program history books. His afternoon concluded with six receptions for 108 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-34 victory in late Oct. Conyer’s became the only tight end in FBS last season to score three touchdowns in a single game, and became the first ASU tight end in program history with three touchdowns in a single game.

Arizona State v Colorado
Conyer’s three-touchdown performance against Colorado will be cemented in Sun Devil history and perhaps spring board him into a fixture among the top tight ends nationally.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Conyers’ performance against the University of Arizona solidified his importance and expectations for the 2023 season. Conyers finished with 10 receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown on the final game of 2022.

It would not be surprising to see other records broken by Conyers this year as his involvement in the offense will reportedly be high according to first year head coach Kenny Dillingham. Conyers unique combination of physical strength and speed will pose a threat for defensive secondaries with many options on the ASU offense already. A healthy Conyers with the right amount of involvement in the offense could land Conyers a look at the professional level next year.

The John Mackey Award is given to the most outstanding tight end in the country every year. The award was established in 2000 by the Nassau County Sports Commission and is named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey.

Notable winners of the John Mackey Award Include:

Dallas Clark (2002, Iowa)

Health Miller (2004, Virginia)

Aaron Hernadez (2009, Florida)

Mark Andrews (2017, Oklahoma)

T.J. Hockenson (2018, Iowa)

Kyle Pitts (2020, Florida)

RB Cam Skattebo - Paul Hornung and Doak Walker Awards Preseason Watch List

Perhaps one of the most intriguing pickups in Dillingham’s first crack at recruitment at ASU, the junior transfer running back from Sacramento State will make the jump from the FCS level to FBS. Skattebo carried with him an impressive workload as a Hornet and will be expected to do a little bit of everything for the Sun Devils this season.

Skettebo rushed for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns last season, earning him the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year Award. His 31 catches for 371 yards proved the Sacramento native’s versatility and value to the Sun Devils as a transfer. His 1,382 rushing yards were good enough for seventh in the FBS last season to go along with his 93.0 running back grade, the fifth highest at the FCS level.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Skattebo’s versatile might be key in Sun Devils attack in 2023. Look for Skattebo to have an impact in different ways on the offensive side of the ball and even special teams.
Cheryl Evans/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Skattebo’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield adds to depth to the Sun Devil offense and a change of pace from the more traditional back. Skattebo managed to record either a first down or touchdown in 40.3 percent of touches, the highest mark in the FCS.

Skattebo’s involvement as a veteran player, having played two years of college football at a lower level, will play a significant role in the complexity and effectiveness of the Sun Devil offense. There are many levels that the 2023 offense can be effective for Arizona State, two of which have been discussed previously in Badger (deep threat) and Conyers (middle, hitch or post route threat.) Skattebo will be the ground force of ASU’s offense and will add a pass catching threat out of the backfield. Skattebo managed to gain positive yardage on 95 percent of his touches last season with Sac State.

The Paul Hornung Award is awarded to the best versatile football player in the country by the Louisville Sports Commission. The award began in 2010 with some or all the criteria of playing multiple positions on offense and/or defense, a significant role on special teams and playing as a two-way player in some capacity. The award is named after Paul Hornung, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Notable winners of the Paul Hornung Award include:

Tavon Austin (2012, West Virginia)

Odell Beckham Jr. (2013, LSU)

Christian McCaffrey (2014, Stanford)

Saquan Barkley (2017, Penn State)

The Doak Walker Award has been given to the best running back in the country since 1990. The award is selected by the National Selection Committee and is named after Doak Walker, an SMU running back from 1945 to 1949.

Notable winners of the Doak Walker Award include:

Rickey Williams (1997 and 1998, Texas)

LaDainian Tomlinson (2000, TCU)

Reggie Bush (2005, USC)

Darren McFadden (2006 and 2007, Arkansas)

Derrick Henry (2015, Alabama)

Jonathan Taylor (2018 and 2019, Wisconsin)

LS Slater Zellers- Patrick Mannelly Long Snapper Award Preseason Watch List

A graduate student who played at Cal last year, Zellers comes back to his native state of Arizona as the no. 1 ranked long snapper in the 2023 NFL Draft according to college football writer and analyst Phil Steele.

California v Washington
Zellers has consistently been one of the most reliable long snappers in the country in his four -year career at Cal.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Zellers appeared on the Patrick Mannelly Award Preseason List in 2022 with the Golden Bears. During his four years with Cal, Zellers appeared in 38 games making snaps on punts, field goals and extra points. He is perfect in his career with snaps completed.

The Patrick Mannelly Award was established in 2019 and is named after Patrick Mannelly, a Chicago Bears long snapper of 15 years, having played in 245 games. The award has had four winners since its establishment in 2019 and is dedicated to recognize undoubtedly one of the most underrated positions in football.