Position: Tight End/3-back
Weight: 235 pounds
2014 season quick review: Epps was at Arizona Western in Yuma, where he converted from wide receiver to tight end after a prep career in Indiana.
Tight ends coach Chip Long: Physically he’s exactly what you want. We’ve just got to bring him along mentally, get him mentally tougher and physically tougher as well. He has all the characteristics you want: length, speed, great ability to get up and makes plays. He’s just got to go through the process. We’ve installed a whole lot. We’re really playing physical right now and it’s something he’s got to get used to. We’ve got guys here three and four years so they get it. He’s just got to come on and get it. He will. There’s a big difference when you put your hand in the ground. It’s like a whole different level.”
SunDevilSource.com analysis: Epps had a rough but much-needed adjustment to ASU's challenge scheme in the spring. He very frequently struggled to get aligned properly and execute his assignment. There's been quite a bit a progress in that regard through preseason camp in August, but it's still a work in progress. Physically, Epps has clearly embraced his need to get bigger and stronger. He arrived in Tempe looking more like a big receiver than someone who should be working at the 3-back/tight end positions. That changed over the summer. He looks to be about 15-20 pounds heavier and is carrying it very well without any loss of explosiveness or mobility.
Epps is at his best in space. He's the fastest of ASU's 3-backs/tight ends, so he's got the best range as a receiver and ability to stress defenses, and he's also relatively long and capable of making plays on the football out away from his body. When he's playing freely he's at his best, but it's hard to do that when you're over-thinking and there will likely be a lot of that in his indoctrination year, particularly when the Sun Devils speed up the tempo. Not only can that lead to pre-snap mistakes, it can lead to drops due to concentration issues.
Blocking assignments are going to be challenging this season, and the closer to the line of scrimmage, the more challenging they'll be. When he's flexed out and trying to block smaller defensive players in space, his athleticism and length should be enough when he's dialed into the task. Against bigger players in the box, he may not be far enough along from a physical strength, heft, or technical standpoint to be very reliable.
Projected depth chart status: With Grant Martinez dealing with a sprained ankle the last several weeks, Epps has taken all the second-team reps in practice when ASU has one tight end on the field. He's also always been the go-to player when ASU's in two tight end formations. True freshman Tommy Hudson isn't ready to play yet and will likely need a redshirt year, so the options at the position are pretty limited, especially if Martinez isn't operating at or near full strength for the opener. ASU has looked at using true freshman Nick Ralston as a 3-back, but the odds are it'll be Epps on the field in two-tight end sets