Player Capsule: Jalen Bates
Position: Defensive End /Devil backer
Eligibility: Redshirt Freshman
Weight: 250 pounds
2015 season quick review: Bates redshirted last year and was one of the more impressive players on the scout team.
SunDevilSource.com analysis (06/2016): There are some innate tools Bates has to work with that just can't be taught. He's extremely long-limbed on an angular 6-foot-4 frame, with enormous hands that required ASU to special order size 4x gloves. He covers tremendous ground with his long, aggressive strides getting off the football, and has quite a bit of suddenness for a 250 pounder.
Whether you call it a Buck, LEO or Elephant at the NFL level, ASU hasn't had anyone during the Todd Graham-era who physically looks more like a prototypical outside linebacker pass rush specialist than Bates. He's a little tightly wound, and as a result might even be better operating out of a two-point stance on the edge. It's one of the things that makes him potentially a better candidate to be a bigger Devil backer than a 3-point defensive end. It's an intriguing thing to consider, particularly if there is a need at the position in August. On the flip side, Bates has a big frame and can easily support 275 pounds in the long run, and be a versatile 3-4 or 4-3 strong-side end projecting beyond college.
Right now, Bates is a lot further along as a pass rusher than he is against the run, and that's holding him back from more playing opportunity. He has such long strides and a hyper-focus on getting to the quarterback that he can be manipulated in the run game, run directly at, and is an execution risk from a containment standpoint. This shouldn't always be the case, however, as his size and length should eventually benefit him in this regard. But he just needs more situational understand and split-second run recognition and the ability to adapt on the fly. It comes down to knowing when and how to chop his footwork and not get his shoulders turned away, and not letting linemen use his momentum against him as easily.
Where Bates excels is using his length and very good explosiveness to win the edge as a pass rusher and he converts well to the pocket for a guy of his size, even though he needs to work on being able to drop his center of gravity to do so even more effectively. He's a candidate to out-run the pocket and be pushed behind the play as a result. But when he wins reps he does so with violent impact at the quarterback, and there's a very high ceiling here that he's working toward in the long term. He uses his length well at times hand displacement of the setting offensive tackle. Added flexibility work and strength training is going to help unlock a lot of his potential, the rest will come with time and experience.
Projected depth chart status: If ASU uses him exclusively at the field end spot Bates is competing to be the back-up to Joseph Wicker on base downs and perhaps be a starter at end on passing downs, when Wicker could move inside next to Tashon Smallwood. If, however, the Sun Devils give serious consideration to playing Wicker and/or Bates at the Devil backer position, there will immediately be a much better opportunity for reps on base downs. It's something ASU may be wise to consider, but a trade-off may be run stoppage on the edge against teams that execute effectively in this regard. A guy that Bates is competing against is junior college transfer Christian Hill, another huge-framed prospect who is relatively raw.