Chris Coyle: "A week and a half ago I got cleared to do everything. My shoulder's feeling really good right now. Strength-wise, everything's coming back real quick. Throughout the practices these past couple of days, it's been feeling really good and it hasn't been bothering me whatsoever. I'm looking forward to getting some pads on and actually doing something again and get back out on that field."
JH: In two years on the field, you've caught only six passes. Has it been frustrating or just a matter of you needing to be patient for some older players to graduate so you could have your chance?
CC: "I won't lie, it has been frustrating, but I've always been taught to have patience. Everything happens for a reason. I'm so thankful that I'm still around; the offense that we have right now is sort of the perfect situation for me, so I'm really thankful to be here and to be a part of this team and part of the Sun Devil nation."
JH: Define the three-back position for us and what its role will be in this offense.
CC: "The three-back in this offense, we're going to be doing everything; we're going to be motioning everywhere and in different formations. Coach Norvell said we're going to be in about 80% of the time and we're always a focal point of the plays, whether it's as a lead blocker or going out for a pass, even if it's a little check-down for the quarterback, we're still always going to be out there and going to be a threat for the defense. We're going to be utilized in the offense a lot and I'm looking forward to it."
JH: How eager are you to step into the spotlight and be a playmaker?
CC: "Back in high school I was a playmaker and it took a little bit of time here but I'm really looking forward to just proving myself and proving that I have the ability to make these plays. I haven't done it yet so I have to prove it to the Sun Devil fans and to the world that I can do it and that I can step up to the plate and take responsibility for the position and get everything done."
JH: Has it been frustrating to move from tight end to wide receiver and back again or has your time at multiple positions helped you develop?
CC: "They actually helped me a lot. Going to wide receiver, I did lose some weight but I gained quickness and speed and I've been able to maintain that even when I gained the weight back to play the three-back position. I also played some fullback last year with Trevor Kohl and that really helped my confidence in going in full-speed for the blocks and blocking in open spaces. Pretty much, the different positions I've been in are all perfect in how they've helped me increase my skill set for this position. It's kind of a culmination of everything I've been learning over the past couple years so I think that I'm well prepared."
JH: What are your thoughts on the quarterback competition?
CC: "I've caught for all these guys. I know that each of them has a really good arm and I'll be there for whoever's on the field and I'll be ready to make plays for anyone. I know that they can get me the ball and stretch the ball to everyone on the field."
JH: How important is it for you to be a reliable receiving option with ASU breaking in a new quarterback this year?
CC: "I really feel like it's my time to step up, to be that leader and hopefully become the foundation of this offense similar to what Cameron Marshall has done in his time here, just because the three-back is such a vital position to this offense. I know that it's my job to step up and be that real secure guy that people can rely on to make the big plays.
"I've always looked up to [Aaron] Pflugrad because he was that guy when he was here and I'm just trying to follow in his footsteps and be that playmaker."
JH: How does having so many talented running backs help you?
CC: "It's unbelievable when you stop and think about all the talent we have at running back. It just motivates me to block well for those guys. I know when we get out in that open field I'm going to do the best to block my butt off, even if I get on a guy for a second or two, as long as I throw him off his path I know that our running backs will blow by them and get in the end zone.
"We do a lot of play action stuff, so when we are pounding the ball on these teams the defenses are going to start coming up and I'll be able to get past the secondary and be a deep threat as well as an intermediate threat and they just won't see it coming. It's going to open up a lot of plays for us, especially in the play action game."
JH: What are some of the biggest differences with the team now compared to the past few years before Coach Graham and his staff arrived?
CC: "The past couple years we worked hard, we've always worked hard as Sun Devils, but this year we've stepped it up to the next level. Coach Graham, when he first came in, he said he's going to push us harder than we've ever been pushed. We didn't even completely realize until we got to the point that we actually performed at that next level.
"Everybody's stepped up to the plate, they've bought in and everybody's just getting better everyday and we're looking forward to the season so we can put what we've learned and what we've worked on in our conditioning and strength training out on that field."
JH: What is it about Coach Graham that makes him able to motivate players and have them buy into what he is teaching them?
CC: "He truly cares about us. Him and his whole coaching staff, they're constantly checking in on us to make sure we're doing well in the class room, to make sure we're doing a good job just as people outside of the program; making sure we're doing community service, that we're getting out in the public. He's really motivated us to become better all-around people."
JH: What are your thoughts on ASU football returning to Camp Tontozona later this month?
CC: "I'm excited, I've heard stories, and I know it's going to be tough but it's the best way for our team to come together and bond and be away from everything for a while. No cell phones, no communication with the outside world, I think it will be a great opportunity for everyone to come together and truly become the team we need to be right before the season starts."
JH: Let's talk about the other key players that will be competing for time at three-back and tight end, starting with Max Smith.
CC: "Max is a great kid, he's a hard worker, he's got good hands, he's a physical blocker, and he'll definitely be doing a good job out there and be a reliable receiver as well."
JH: Darwin Rogers...
CC: "Darwin just came in before spring ball and has been working his butt off. He knows the playbook pretty dang well and he and I have been sort of competing at the position and it helps us both become better overall football players. He's going to be a real good asset to our offense as well."
JH: Kody Kohl…
CC: "I've known Kody because Trevor [Kohl] is my roommate. He's a tough kid just like Trevor. I've been helping him learn the playbook and I know he'll be able to go out and make plays just because he's a tough kid and a good athlete. He's got a bright future ahead of him."
JH: What expectations do you have for yourself this year?
CC: "I have really high expectations for myself. The standard that I set for myself is that I catch anything that touches my hands, I will make sure to get into that end zone as many times as possible for the Sun Devils and just be the best tight end that I can be all-around; blocking, receiving and on special teams. I plan to be as much of a part of this team as I can and just do as much as possible for the team."
JH: What are your thoughts when you hear critics say things such as ASU will be lucky to finish .500 this season and, of course, how the Pac-12 media picked the Sun Devils fifth in the south division.
CC: "It's just more motivation to go out and prove everyone wrong. What people don't understand is that they don't see what's going on within this [team], they don't see how we're coming together and the synergy we're going to have out on that field with everyone working together. It's going to be unbelievable and people aren't going to be ready for what we have to bring to the table, so I think a lot of people are going to be surprised with how we come out and how well we perform."