Rogers making strides

After being primarily a blocking tight end during his junior year at Arizona State, last year's junior college transfer, Darwin Rogers has, made the necessary adjustments this offseason to overall improve his skills also become a threat in the passing game in 2013.

Darwin Rogers appeared in twelve games last year for the Sun Devils as a transfer from Arizona Western Community College in Yuma. The 6-4 250-pound tight end was a physical presence on the football field and came in mainly on goal line situations for blocking assignments, only catching three balls as a junior. The catches weren't without impact though, as two went for ten yards or more and another was a touchdown.

Head Coach Todd Graham said that if you were to ask him last spring how Rogers was performing, he'd have told you "he had a long way to go to be productive." But Graham mentioned that Rogers was one of the most improved offensive players over the fall.

Fast forward to spring 2013, and Rogers has clearly made strides in the offseason to become more of an impact player in the passing game as well as improve his run blocking, thanks to the help of his position coach Chip Long.

"Coach Long has been on me about my techniques and also being in shape, that was a huge transition from last season," Rogers said. "Blocking, coming off of the line quick, sprinting on and off the field, coming off of the routes quick, being able to catch, tuck in and get up the field vertical are the main things I've worked on."

Production from the tight end position came largely from Chris Coyle last season. Coyle finished third in the nation in tight end receptions per game with just over four, and was fifth in the nation in total receiving yards with 696. Rogers admitted that he's learned a lot from watching Coyle, and he's become a better tight end as a result.

"Chris and me are both good tight ends, we know what to expect in this offense and we know we have to make plays," Rogers said. "You have to be smart, be able to move and block. We both can do the same things; we are both athletic and can make plays down the stretch.

"No matter what we are going to have each other's back, no matter what it's competition. If he starts, I have to back him up and be prepared to come in and make plays."

Throughout the spring, there have been times during the eleven on eleven sessions when both Rogers and Coyle are out on the field together in shotgun sets, running routes on passing plays. Rogers explained that being on the field more this year is a testament to his offseason training.

"It's a great opportunity, that's what hard work gets you," Rogers commented. "I showed the coaches that I've been watching film, lifting hard and trying to ask questions when I need to. I'm able to read coverage better and have gotten leaner, faster on my routes."

Benefitting from a full offseason of work, Rogers is lighter on his feet and has vastly improved his hands. Because of that, Rogers believes his role as a block-heavy style tight end is transitioning to an all-around type player who can do multiple things well.

"You always have to be positive in this offense," Rogers explained. "I think I can come in and make plays and I hope the coaches can see that. I've been a huge improvement this offseason and they tell me all the time that they want me and Chris out there on the field at the same time. That's a cool thing."

Rogers arrived at ASU just months before his Arizona Western teammates, Chris Young and Steffon Martin, did the same. Both linebackers had great success last year and have been performing at a high level this spring. When asked if he feels any pressure to match their level of play, Rogers claimed that this wasn't a factor in his quest for improvement.

"We stay together and we always talk positive," Rogers noted. "We help each other out with what we need to work on. We watch film together at home, so that's one good thing about staying with each other and being able to communicate."

With the way he's looked this spring, Rogers has a good chance to contribute to the success of the Sun Devils' offense in 2013, a unit that he says needs to be more consistent and make more plays if they truly want to be a participant in any of the January bowls.

"Our goal is to win a national championship and that's why I'm here," Rogers said. "We have a lot of playmakers on this team so there are no excuses. We just have to keep on pushing."


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