Through four seasons ASU has been undermanned at the position and working toward getting bigger, longer and more athletic, not to mention, deeper. This was tough as Todd Graham took over a program that had not used the tight end position, and his preferred offense often uses two tight end sets. 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.
At various times in 2015, ASU was down to just two or even one healthy scholarship tight end/3-back other than its two true freshmen, one of whom redshirted. But going into next season they should have everyone back, and be five players deep at the position, and more experience than they've ever been in the past, with multi-year start Kody Kohl returning.
Jared Bubak is essentially the Kohl replacement. A product of Lincoln, Nebraska, at 6-foot-4, Bubak is already bigger than the 3-backs before him, Chris Coyle, De'Marieya Nelson, Raymond Epps and Kohl. Bubak already weighs in the neighborhood of 250 pounds, having gained 20-plus pounds in recent months after his high school season ended and he started transitioning from the quarterback position he played in high school to the position he'll play in college.
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 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. Jay Jay Wilson are very much in this mold also and Raymond Epps has this potential, so between the there should be an added dimensionality to the team's offense in coming years.
Bubak's high school team had to use him as a quarterback so his film in the last two seasons has very limited value. 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.
We were present at practices for the Semper Fi All-American Game in January as Bubak worked for the first time in his career attached and out of a 3-point stance. Even when he played a tight end role as a sophomore in high school, it was really more like a wideout. This will be a massive adjustment for Bubak, as he was clearly out of his comfort zone in this respect. He is a true beginning with regard to getting into a proper, economical stance and understanding all of the nuances of blocking with hands, feet, posture, and alignment.
Fortunately for Bubak and ASU, he's not going to be needed to play in 2016, with Kohl, Epps, Grant Martinez, Jay Jay Wilson and Tommy Hudson set to return to the group, as well as flex player Nick Ralston. Bubak will be able to spend a year watching and learning from Kohl and the rest of the unit. Since Bubak's size is already good, it's more about the technical adjustment to playing the position. How long that will take is difficult to project but he's no less of an athlete than Kohl, and probably better, with a bigger frame.
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.