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Tight Ends Gaining Hype During Spring Practice

Look for Arizona State's tight-end group to be more prominent in 2022.

Let's face it, tight ends aren't flashy. 

Of course you have NFL guys such as Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller who provide a dynamic presence on the field and are featured in highlight reels on a weekly basis. 

Then, you have many other players at the position who juggle catching the ball and block as an extra body on the line of scrimmage. 

It's a position that requires versatility, and one that Arizona State hasn't exactly used often under head coach Herm Edwards. 

For example, the 2021 offense for ASU saw starting tight end Curtis Hodges catch the ball 20 times, ranking fourth on the team in receptions and not even matching 50% of the receptions from running back Rachaad White, who caught 43 balls. 

Hodges' 20 receptions last season was still double the amount of the previous high from a tight end under Edwards, as fellow tight end Tommy Hudson had only 10 in 2019. 

The aforementioned numbers aren't to say Arizona State's tight end talent has been abysmal, or that the Sun Devils haven't been properly utilizing the position. In an offense that's been heavily dependent on its running backs to shoulder the workload, the tight ends have had the short end of the stick in the box score. 

That all might change heading into 2022, as ASU searches for a new quarterback after the departure of Jayden Daniels. New offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas may factor tight ends into Arizona State's new (and hopefully improved) offense moving forward. 

This year's room features returning tight end Jalin Conyers and transfer Messiah Swinson, both towering presences that figure to settle into 1A and 1B roles where each player would play significant snaps. 

Edwards said last week he believes this group of tight ends is the best he's had at ASU since his arrival.

"(As for) the tight ends, we've got a good group of tight ends I think. Probably the best group we've had. Hodges had a great year for us last year, no doubt, but I think we've got some young guys that have come in that will help us there," Edwards said. 

Conyers says Arizona State's tight end group can help the Sun Devils put points on the board heading into next season after reflecting on what the offense can do better.

"I'd definitely say score points," he said. "I think last year we had an offense that was able to score a lot of points and sometimes we just weren't able to accomplish that. But I feel like going into this year, that's our big goal is to score a lot of points . . . We got to put points up on the board and going into spring ball with (our) offensive setup, we're gonna have a lot of shots. So I'm excited to see where the offense goes."

Conyers, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Oklahoma, said last season took some adjusting to a new place and system, but he's ready to set the tone in 2022. 

"I would definitely say I'm a lot more comfortable. Being in a system for a full year definitely opened my eyes to see what I'm able to do on a level like that so I feel good," said Conyers. 

"Right now it's all about technique and competing, and seeing what this team's gonna be about at the end of the year. I know a lot of people have doubts and stuff like that, but we're feeling good heading into spring ball."

Swinson, a 6-foot-7 tight end who recently arrived via the transfer portal from Missouri, also hopes to provide mismatches for whoever wins ASU's quarterback battle. 

"I think we're one of the most dangerous rooms in the country," Conyers said. "We have three, four, five guys that can go out there and do the same thing and be consistent. Messiah coming in, getting a veteran, that was really big for us. (Adding) a guy like Bryce (Pierre) from JUCO, that's something that's really cool. I feel really good this season. We still have Jacob Newell coming in from high school, so I think it's going to be a really good tight-end room." 

Time will tell if Arizona State's tight ends will see an increase in usage next season, but early signs from spring practice suggest ASU feels strongly about their guys in the group. 

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