Arizona State preparedness / potential grades: Offensive Line

Arizona State has the least experienced offensive line in the Pac-12 heading into the 2016 season. Here's how the group's individual players look entering preseason camp.

Evan Goodman (senior) --  Goodman's first start came against Texas A&M in ostensibly a road atmosphere against arguably the best pass rush duo in the country. It didn't go well. After giving up multiple sacks in the game Goodman's confidence could have been ruined but the Sun Devils stuck with him and Goodman ultimately started 11 games last season. He improved as the season went along and may not have allowed as many sacks and/or quarterback pressures the rest of the season as he did against the Aggies, but still left a lot to be desired. 

Goodman has frustrated with his tendency to collect false start penalties and have other mental lapses, including needing to have calls repeated in order to be on the same page. That can't happen from a guy who is now ASU's most veteran player at the group. Maturity and a greater sense of purposes are the things Goodman has needed to display with much greater consistency. ASU's head sports performance coach Shawn Griswold believes that Goodman had a breakthrough in this regard in the team's winter strength and conditioning program. 

What remains to be the case is the impressive physical profile presented by Goodman. He has the physique and movement skills of someone who could conceivably play at the next level if everything comes together for him. He's a bit on the short end for a left tackle but with long arms, big hands and a very good body type for the position. He's got good agility and smooth feet. The intangibles haven't been there with enough consistency though. Preparedness Grade: 3 / Potential Grade: 4

Stephon McCray (senior) -- McCray has been the team's go-to off the bench when someone's been hurt in the last year or so. He has very good joint flexibility in his lower half for a linemen, so he plays with good leverage and that allows him to get the most out of his base blocking, where he generates a reasonable amount of torque. He has a lower center of gravity and carries a little too much weight but still has pretty active feet in the run game and so it works out reasonably well, especially with his longer arms.

He's more of a technique run blocker than a power blocker, enabled by some of his physical tools that lets him stay on blocks. His range is decent for his size but not great, which is why he's played the right guard position, which ASU hasn't tended to use quite as much as a pulling player in man blocking. He's not someone you often want to ask to have to pick up a block chasing to the boundary, particularly on the wide side of the field. 

Pass pro is where McCray has some more room to develop. He can be a bit lazy with his feet and try to use brute force while leaning and having his arms extended instead of working to get more balanced. As a result he gets jostled around a bit because he also isn't the most powerful of linemen in his upper half. Speed attacks into his gap have been effective at times, particularly linebacker pops and stunts, so his visual awareness level can go up another notch. Strength, stamina and overall fitness are key factors for McCray's in-game durability and the summer is important for him in that regard because he's going to be getting dramatically more reps than ever before. He made some strides in this regard earlier in this year and can build on that with a good conclusion to his off-season. Preparedness Grade: 3 / Potential Grade: 3.5

Sam Jones (sophomore) -- Athletically -- and probably stylistically as well -- Jones is better suited to be an inside player at the college level. He's got pretty good length for a guard and has been adding good size the right way in order to fill out his frame. He's pretty much there now. It's one of the things that made him more of a consideration at tackle earlier in his career, when he didn't have as much heft and power to move veteran bodies on the inside. 

As a pass protector though, there was too much to ask of Jones early in his career with managing athletes on the perimeter and it was a real challenge. On the inside he has a tight and accurate punch that he's working to get more powerful. He holds up relatively well on his anchor against bull attacks but there will be challenges in this regard to come. Jones is a more versatile player at guard, where he is relatively smooth getting a release and attacking blocks in the run game. At times he can get a little bit too out in front of himself and miss on blocks against agile defensive linemen working laterally. 

Projecting long term, Jones is going to have to add more heft to his frame to keep from being a classic 'tweener at the highest end projecting to the NFL. But he's got a lot going for him, with great intangibles -- tough, intelligent, team-oriented -- and a chance to get a lot of early on-field experience this season as a third-year sophomore. Preparedness Grade: 3 / Potential Grade: 4

Quinn Bailey (sophomore) -- One of ASU's most improved players over a two-year period, Bailey has significantly refined and smoothed out the coordination of movement in his pass pro. He's much more fluid and synced with his upper and lower halves than when he arrived at ASU, getting functional depth more quickly and efficiently. This remains one of his key focal points as an offensive linemen moving forward and handling speed rushes on the edge from dynamic pass rushers will ultimately determine just how successful he becomes this season and beyond.

In practice, including 11-on-11 situation, Bailey can at times still get beaten by rush ends to really attack and get up the field in a hurry. He's got to work on continuing to increase is capability to expand to handle speed on the perimeter, as there's usually about a handful of Pac-12 players capable of exploiting this, particularly in a load road environment. The form of his sets are much better, but increased foot quickness and more consistent hand location and speed when managing such edge pressure will allow him to continue to improve. 

Bailey has quite a bit of pop behind his pads against the run and is particularly jarring for an offensive tackle on down blocks. He has good leverage releasing off the football in the run game and accesses his lower body strength in a very functional way. For a good 6-foot-5, 311 pounds, this is a real asset. He has the ability to fire out and be very capable in the inside, outside and stretch concepts the Sun Devils employ, with a nice understanding of how to use angles, and how he stays relatively compact. These attributes make him a candidate to also play inside at right guard if ASU coaches ever feel like another offensive tackle has improved enough that it is the right move to get the best overall five on the field together.  Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4

Zach Robertson (redshirt freshman) -- It's very possible going into this season that Robertson is ASU's best NFL offensive line prospect when taking everything into account and looking long term. He has rare physical stature for the position among Sun Devils in recent decades, broad and thickly constructed. He wouldn't look out of place on potent SEC offensive line or even in the NFL as an offensive guard. 

Robertson isn't someone who just looks the part, though. He has large, heavy hands and is capable of stunning defensive linemen at the point of attack and likes firing with violence in his punch. Due to his length and potency Robertson has a little more margin for error with leverage and locating his hands relative to some of his peers, but that can contribute to bad habits so it's a double-edged sword he'll have to be aware of. It's a good problem to have though. He's less susceptible to bull attacks when aligned inside and projects to being able to wear on lighter or less physical peers as he continues to physically mature.

In his first year with the program, Robertson lost a significant amount of weight, going from 350-plus pounds at arrival to the 320 pound range. He carries weight very well though and probably will be able to play north of 330 pounds effectively as his career unfolds as long as he's able to maintain conditioning to a desired level. That's exactly what you want from your linemen in an ideal situation. 

ASU has tinkered with Robertson at left and right tackle and also guard. His versatility for the college game is a strong asset. Long term Robertson doesn't seem to have the foot quickness in pass pro to be considered a strong left tackle prospect in the NFL, but he can probably play the position at ASU if there's not another equivalent candidate following the departure of Evan Goodman after this season. Right tackle is a more reasonable possibility since he has very good length and strength. Ideally though, Robertson would be developed to be a body-mover and pocket integrity provider at guard.  Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4.5

Steve Miller (redshirt freshman) --  Upon arrival in 2015 at preseason camp, Miller and fellow freshman Zach Robertson were the best looking tandem we've seen ASU sign out of high school from a physical tools and size standpoint. Miller was underrated as a prospect out of Gilbert High and should have received more high profile scholarship offers than he did, but ASU certainly didn't have a problem with how his recruitment concluded. 

Miller has relatively good foot quickness and joint flexion for being as thick as he is in the lower half. He's built like a huge fire plug, but more limber than you might think at a glance. He has moderately quick hands, a fair amount of initial burst from a stance and the ability to cover ground on kick out blocks or the pull with agile, rangy steps and as a result makes sense for the Sun Devils in a guard capacity. Still, ASU seems to be transitioning to being more zone blocking and a bit less man blocking as an overall percentage of its offensive snaps and as a result there's probably a little more interchangeability at the guard and tackle positions. 

Like Robertson, Miller has been given looks on the outside at tackle and at guard. He's probably better served at guard or right tackle long term but might be able to play left tackle effectively at the college level. He has good posture and tends to be well balanced releasing into his pass pro but speed on the edge can get him top heavy and reaching at times. One of the most important things for Miller to play to his high ceiling potential is to further develop a nasty disposition and play with greater overall urgency and violence.  Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4.5

Tyler McClure (junior) -- We were surprised by McClure's overall competency in spring football from what we were able to observe -- and that wasn't much in the way of live 11-on-11 action, to be fully transparent. What became immediately apparent is that he has gone from a guy who wasn't quite up to Pac-12 interior offensive line size standards, even for a center, to someone who not only looks the part, but does so in an authentic way. He's not at all bloated or heavy with bad weight. Physically, he looks every bit the part of a Pac-12 scholarship center. McClure could be in line to be awarded a scholarship in mid-August. 

From a mobility standpoint, McClure is not deficient relative to the minimum Pac-12 threshold. Actually, a strong case could be made that he's a bit better athlete at his size and with better body composition than Kody Koebensky, who started for several years for the Sun Devils at center during at time when the offense had impressive overall success. Still, there is a lot to prove here against Pac-12 defensive coaches that do a great job scheming to exploit integrity question marks. Koebensky struggled with power at the point of attack and athleticism in his gap, particularly with linebacker pops and other quick hitting actions, and that's what we have to figure out at game speed against opposing teams as far as McClure's true capability. 

Functionally, he snaps the ball consistently and has pretty sound mechanics for a guy who hasn't played at this level, particularly a walk-on. He is poised in practice and appears to have the overall disposition and mental capacity to handle what is at worst the second most demanding role on the offense, behind quarterback. Does this hold up under the intense pressure of playing opponents and seeing things that are newer? There are many unknowns here that will only get answered in time, but there are no clear indications that McClure is in over his head at this stage.  Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3

Connor Humphreys (sophomore) -- It's not even been a full year since Humphreys moved to the offensive side of the football but he showed some aptitude for the position immediately upon making the switch and that's continued. It's going to be a process but if Humphreys sticks with it he has a good opportunity to be in the mix for a starting job in his fourth and fifth seasons in Tempe, beginning in 2017. 

Humphreys has very good flexibility and as a result has the potential to play very well leveraged. His footwork execution on defense was a barrier to success and he doesn't pick up that part of the game as quickly as other areas, which creates some balancing issues. You can see him thinking through the in-rep execution in a way that keeps his natural talent from shining through. That's less of an issue on offense, however, and when his base execution does become more second-nature Humphreys could rapidly develop due to his assets. ASU offensive line coach Chris Thomsen is a good fit for Humphreys. 

One of Humphreys' best attributes is he uses his hands. It was his best asset on defense but he never fully accessed it because of some syncing issues and how mechanical he was in the development of his footwork. He has a compact body type for a linemen and didn't have the heft to hold up over the football or suddenness to be a 3-technique tackle so he was a 'tweener defensively and maybe even better suited to be a 3-4 end. But as an interior offensive linemen he fits the bill quite well from a physical standpoint. He's just got to become more skilled and have it all become second-nature so that his hands and impressive natural instincts can flourish.  Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3.5

Tyson Rising (junior) -- Spring was an important acclimation opportunity for Rising. If he had arrived in the summer he would have had a very difficult transition that wouldn't have yielded much opportunity for playing time in 2016. Even though he did have the spring to learn and develop with ASU offensive line coach Chris Thomsen, Rising is going to have to show a lot of progress in preseason camp to have a chance to crack the starting lineup or even be one of the first guys off the bench.

There's a possibility it may take a full year for Rising to get fully up to speed but that's going to be determined in the next month or two based on how rapidly he progressed over the summer months. The speed of the game and strength of the typical opponent is much better at this level and adjusting to that while also learning everything on the fly is a major challenge for many making the junior college transition.

Rising doesn't have the length to foot quickness ratio to make him a natural fit at left tackle and he'll need to improve his upper body strength and kick step functionality in order to have the ability to move speed rushers off their line and handle counters and mid-line bull attacks. His natural ability isn't lacking but skill refinement is early across the board here for the level of athlete Rising is. He doesn't have a huge margin for error in some of these areas now that he's in the Pac-12.  When he has early success in reps Rising does finish effectively and he has the right disposition to play effectively at this level. Right now he's in between a tackle and guard though, with a need for more strength and didn't show in the spring that he's ready to handle the grunt work quite yet in the Pac-12. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3

Cade Cote (redshirt freshman) -- Cote took full advantage of the bridge year advantages provided to local non-mid-year signees out of high school. Even though he wasn't enrolled at ASU in the spring of 2015 he regularly worked out in the ASU weight room and was able to sit in on meetings and attend spring football practices, all allowed under NCAA guidelines.

During that time, Cote gained several dozen pounds and as a result, was physically and mentally further along that he likely would have otherwise been last year, even though he redshirted. As a right tackle at Gilbert, Williams Field, Cote showed good mobility and that should help him as he transitions to playing inside. He's getting looks at center now entering his second season with the Sun Devils and could factor into the depth chart battle. 

Cote is light on his feet, with good agility and working to have the right balance and physical posture throughout his reps to best take advantage of the asset. A lot of the barriers to playing time are additional schematic fluency and overall football knowledge, which only come with time and experience. He'll benefit from working on staying within his framework and having a sturdier foundation in his pass pro -- he can at times lean and be top heavy -- and continuing to add strength. As he gets bigger, guard could also be an option.  Preparedness Grade: 1.5 / Potential Grade: 3

Mason Walter (redshirt freshman) --  As a true freshman Walter worked on the scout team last season. He's a tackle prospect who needs to maximize his techncial capability to play the position effectively because even though Walter has pretty good stature at 6-foot-5 and 294 pounds, he's a modest athlete for the role in the Pac-12. 

Walter has a longer odds path to factor into the depth chart this season as he continues to fine-tune. He's been a daily worker in practice and has some level of physicality for the position. Preparedness Grade: 1.5 / Potential Grade: 2.5

Dillon Faamatau (redshirt freshman) -- Faamatau spent much of his season -- his first out of high school -- with his knee in a brace and subsequently rehabilitating from surgery. We've seen very little from him in practices  even though he returned in the spring, and it's been difficult to get much of an evaluation as a result. He has needed to add size but in high school showed good foot quickness and flexibility which should serve him well when he's at full strength this year.  Preparedness Grade: 1 / Potential Grade: 3

Marshal Nathe (freshman) -- Nathe was rehabilitating an ACL tear he suffered in high school in the spring as a mid-year transfer. Coaches seem to think he could compete for a spot on the depth chart at center but he's not practiced and can't be evaluated for this overview at this time. 

Preparedness/Potential Grade Key

5: All-American level performer

4: First/second team all-league level performer

3: Mid-level Pac-12 performer

2: Fringe Pac-12 performer

1: Non-Pac-12 level performer

Editor's note: Players are ranked in terms of overall current preparedness and not based on potential.


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