Ideal scholarship roster number: 4-5
* Subtyl's qualification for 2016 remains undetermined
Likely returning number: 3
Remaining ideal number: 1-2
Coming out of Arizona State's spring ball there's some uncertainty about Devil backer for this season and beyond. The position is ripe for high sack and tackles-for-loss production as demonstrated by Carl Bradford and Antonio Longino. But the roster this year is speculative at best, depending on what happens with the eligibility status of highly regarded signee Doug Subtyl.
There's a lot of different ways ASU can go with this position in 2016, shuffling players around to go with an assortment of looks. What is clear is that with Subtyl's status uncertain, Chans Cox out in 2016 with an Achilles injury, Alani Latu a senior in 2017, and Bo Wallace not returning to the program, ASU needs to hit Devil backer hard in recruiting.
To that end, the Sun Devils already have two commitments from players who project to Devil backer. Longtime pledge Loren Mondy, the earliest ever commit for the Sun Devils, told us that he's still slotted at Devil backer and is currently 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds. Mondy said he'll be graduating high school early and be enrolled at ASU for the spring 2017 semester.
Then last Friday ASU took a commitment from 6-foot-3, 220 pound Kyle Soelle, who played at Notre Dame Prep last year but will conclude his high school career in the fall at Saguaro. Soelle intrigued college coaches during the spring evaluation period and picked up some noteworthy scholarship offers as a result, including Boise State, Cal, San Diego State, Utah, Washington State and several military academies. He visited Boise State and Cal in the week or so immediately prior to making his commitment to ASU.
Soelle played both ways at Notre Dame Prep last season, showing impressive versatility. Playing more on offense than defense, he had 54 carries for 258 yards and five touchdown runs as well as 37 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown catch. Defensively he had 21 tackles with 3.5 sacks.
One of the things that stands out immediately about Soelle is how well he bends and moves for his length. You see it when he caries the ball on offense, with his ability to drop his hips and run with a lower center of gravity near the line of scrimmage. This is one of the reasons Scout has Soelle as a tight end instead of an outside linebacker. He has a lot of ability to win leverage as a blocker and runs well in space. He's a guy who could play at the Division I level as a move h-back type player.
Of course those types of movement skills also comes in handy as a pass rusher, and Soelle coils low into a stance, though he'll want to keep working on getting his feet a little more underneath him at set up. That's something they'll no doubt make progress on Saguaro, where defensive line coach and former ASU defensive end Kyle Caldwell is going to enjoy working with an athlete with this type of potential.
What's clear though is that when Soelle keys the football he has some quick twitch athleticism releasing off the line of scrimmage and a natural instinct for keeping an offensive tackle in a reactionary state. He can take advantage of that by lowering his hips and bending the corner working back to the quarterback. Now that he's transitioning to more of a full time defensive player he'll have to hone that innate with a lot of skill development with his hands. He's not lacking a willingness to play the game physically, but it's going to take substantial added size and strength to round out as a player at this position.
There are instances on film in which he squeezes down against zone read and has the suddenness and range to close down to the ball on the keep or hand off, and because he runs well and can drop his weight, and he purses well from the backside. He's also a good zone drop prospect from the position, protecting well against the pass when teams want to mix up their rush and keep quarterbacks off balance.
Soelle frame is solid and he's well put together but good muscularity for his size. But not as long or wide-framed as the big jumbo athletes tend to be at the Pac-12 level and beyond. Still, he's got very good movement skills and enough quickness to play the position effectively. To be able to handle the run and show the versatility that ASU will ask of him to be an every down player will take time. He needs to be developed in a host of areas, as is commonly the case, but has a pretty decent upside.
Even though ASU has two Devil backers in the fold, with the departure of Wallace and uncertainty of Subtyl and Cox it really should add another, and that player can be from the high school or junior college level. Arizona is loaded with Devil backer recruits in high school.