Ideal scholarship roster number: 6
Likely returning number: 5-6
2016 Commitments: 2 (Darel Middleton, Jared Bubak)
Remaining ideal number: 0 (pending position moves/attrition)
The Skinny: Based on the above overview, ASU is clearly focused on loading up at the tight end/3-back position group and better addressing a personnel limitation that has existed in his first few years in Tempe. Position coach Chip Long has to be happy, and no doubt he's played a significant role in this talent acquisition, along with offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.
When Todd Graham arrived in Tempe he was replacing an offensive staff that didn't didn't utilize the tight end position at all in its offense with a scheme that, when operating at full capacity, relies heavily on the position, often utilizing two and even three players from the unit in a given formation. To get from a bare cupboard to having a stockpile of talented and experienced tight ends was always going to be a multi-year challenge and the progress is now starting to be demonstrated in recruiting.
Through three seasons ASU has been undermanned at the position, though with good coaching and Chris Coyle and Kody Kohl they've had some hard working overachievers who have provided just enough to get the job done. The focus has been on adding a good combination of versatile players with range and playmaking ability with others who are also athletic, but much bigger and better able to make an impact blocking in the box in addition to possessing other desirable attributes.
This year the Sun Devils return just three tight ends to the group from last season, none of whom is a big in-line physical threat. But going into next season they could return five or six players to the group, which is a big benefit from a developmental standpoint. And now they've taken commitments from two more high school players who project to the position group. If all of these players remain in the program and at the position group ASU could have as many as eight scholarship players working with the tight ends group in 2016, which is a substantially different landscape than the last few seasons.
ASU added three prospects likely to work at the position group in the 2015 class, including Tommy Hudson, who at 6-foot-5 and 250ish pounds is in the mold of the bigger bodied in-line player they want to incorporate into more sets. They followed that up more recently with a commitment from Oak Ridge (Tenn.) tight end Darel Middleton on Monday, a player who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, and looks it on film. He could stay at tight end or easily become an offensive tackle or defensive lineman over time.
Now, the Sun Devils have taken a commitment from Jared Bubak, a player who projects to be an upgraded model of what they've had to work with at 3-back with Coyle, De'Marieya Nelson, and now Kohl. At 6-foot-4, Bubak is a bit taller and bigger framed than any of those players. He already carries 235 or so pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame and is not done filling out. He'll play longer and heavier than prior ASU 3-backs, which should help in a variety of applications.
Bubak also may have a better top-end gear than any of ASU's recent 3-backs. His 40-yard dash isn't great but Bubak has clocked 11.59 seconds in the 100 meters in high school, which is good for a football player of his size. On film he often outruns much smaller high school players and moves well in the open field, with relatively light, agile feet for the position.
Though he isn't especially sudden athletically, Bubak gears up well and has a higher end than a lot of college level h-back types, so his range as a receiver is better than many, including what we've seen at ASU the last few years. 2015 ASU signees Jason Lewis and Jay Jay Wilson are very much in this mold also and between the three there should be an added dimensionality to the team's offense in coming years.
As a junior Bubak's high school team had to use him as a quarterback so his film from last season has some limited value (very little blocking or catching). He played a 3-back type role as a sophomore, but was somewhat smaller so that also is a bit problematic from an evaluation standpoint. He doesn't seem to really fight the ball though as a receiver and has good in route physical composure and tends to try to catch the ball properly and not let it get into him.
There's nothing present in the film that gives pause about Bubak as a blocker even though he's not asked to do a lot of it in high school and when he is, it's usually against completely overmatched smaller players in space. But his feet are good and his posture doesn't hint at any problems here, but it's likely going to be a process because he's earlier in his experience and understanding in this aspect.
As with Kohl or Coyle, Bubak is going to be able to play in-line and be a primary blocker, though it's probably going to be a year or two of skill development, at least, before he's going to be reliable in this part of the game against Pac-12 linebackers and defensive ends. He has the type of frame that eventually probably carries about 250 pounds and enough length that he projects to be capable in this role given his other athletic attributes, but it's probably not going to be a forte, as a primary 3-back prospect it doesn't have to be as long as Hudson or Middleton or someone else works out in that role.
Perhaps most impressive about Bubak's addition for ASU is that he lives and goes to high school in Lincoln and was an early Nebraska commit and his father works for the school's athletic department. It's a big Nebraska household, as would be expected, and new coach Mike Riley uses the tight end position and players like Bubak extensively. And yet, Bubak decided to instead play at ASU.