Player Capsule: Raymond Epps
Position: Tight End
Weight: 235 pounds
2015 season quick review: Epps had four catches for 52 yards and one touchdown in his first season with the Sun Devils as he adjusted to playing the position at the Division I level out of Arizona Western Junior College.
Tight ends coach Del Alexander: "He's got a great frame and he's been able to put some muscle on it. I think that's really helped him in the offseason and he kind of developed that through the season. Watching him block and watching him move in the spring, you'd like to say you can see some improvement. You can see his footwork, his hand placement, how he's doing things. You can do multiple things with him. You can stand him up and move him out without having to change personnel groups."
SunDevilSource.com analysis (05/16): In the last year Epps is one of the most improved players on the ASU roster. He started out last spring transitioning from the junior college level substantially undersized and with the disposition of a wide receiver. Additionally it was a rough adjustment with learning a play book that is very challenging for the tight end position with how many different alignments and techniques are required. He really wasn't ready to play effectively last season, but had to serve a limited role because the Sun Devils were so light on talent and depth at the position.
The great news for Epps and ASU is that he was only a sophomore last season, and there's been been significant across-the-board development from last spring to now. He really looks like a very different player, quite literally. Physically he's probably 25 pounds heavier and now looks the part of a Division I tight end. Not only that, he's made major improvements with his understanding of the game and physical execution of his his assignments.
Epps is a full service tight end, with above average length and the ability to line up attached in a three-point stance or as a flexed out option as a receiver. He can play effective in double tight end formations in either role and a variety of alignments. He isn't especially sudden releasing from the line of scrimmage but gears up nicely and has above average range and playmaking ability as a receiver. He's a guy who can stretch the seam as a route runner and require a little extra attention from defenses. He makes plays on the football with his hands and tends to receive the ball cleanly. As a blocker he's worked to tighten up his movements and and be more functional with his arms and hands, and also on his footwork. He can at times be too high and reach in this regard as opposed to getting into ideal position, and to not quickly enough identify blocking assignments and whiff as a result, and that's an area he'll have to improve upon.
(07/05) It's a very good thing for Epps and ASU that he was available to enroll in the spring and has three years of eligibility remaining because it was a major adjustment to this level football and he has a long way to go in order to be a reliable option for the Sun Devils. From a physical standpoint, Epps looks more like a big wide receiver -- the position he played in high school -- than a tight end prospect. If he weighs more than 220 pounds it would be a surprise. So he's going to have to really get a lot bigger.
In every practice the Sun Devils have a team tempo 11-on-11 period which is run at breakneck speed and one of the things coaches are most interested in is seeing how effectively their players get lined up from play to play in what is a very chaotic and mentally challenging environment. The tight end/3-back position is one of the most challenging because of how many different alignments the players have to operate from and Epps was one of the team's biggest missed alignment offenders in the spring. He would be on the wrong side of the field, or split at the wrong location, etc., even when the ball was snapped. What that means is he's thinking more about where he needs to be before the play's even begun and less about what he needs to do once it has begun.
The good news for Epps is that he's got very good range for a tight end prospect and is more of a big play threat than ASU's had at the position in a long time. He's someone who can access the seam vertically and stress defenses in a different kind of way when he's fully operational. It's just that he's a long way from being there in any reliably predictive way, and we won't can't know what his rate of improvement will be in terms of assimilation and adding strength. It's just something to monitor, but looks to be unlikely to be incorporated in a way that allows him to be a full service player this year. Epps also needs a lot more polishing from a technical standpoint as a blocker. He's got some ability but is just quite
Projected depth chart status: At this point we can expect Epps will have more of a role for the Sun Devils in 2016 as long as he remains healthy. He has a higher ceiling than others at the position but was just very green when he arrived. As long as he continues to show the improvement we've seen in the last year he's going to end up with a fair amount of game reps and quite possibly become a regular on the field as a junior.