Saguaro season opener: ASU commitment evaluations

We watched three Arizona State 2017 commits in action Friday in the season opener of Saguaro. Here's our evaluations of the players.

Scottsdale Saguaro opened the season with a good 35-20 win over talented Gardena (California) Serra at home on Friday. Here's our in-person review of Arizona State's three committed players from Saguaro. 

Jared Poplawski -- Overall this was a very good showing for Poplawski and he helped his cause as a prospect with his performance. There is a clear progression from a size and strength standpoint as he enters his senior year. The most impressive thing was how cleanly and fluidly he was releasing from an attached 3-point stance into his routes. His footwork and overall body composure was smooth and competent. He had several of the game's biggest plays including a 40-yard touchdown reception. He clearly meets the Pac-12 threshold and is taller than either former ASU tight end Chris Coyle or current ASU starting tight end Kody Kohl and should have a similar body composition at Kohl with no less heft or athleticism. Saguaro flexed him out at times and he looked comfortable and natural getting into his routes and blocking on space. He didn't fight the football. As a blocker he was spraying too much with his hands but firing them and had pretty good overall posture and approach as a blocker. So again, a good showing, a clear verdict that he's a Pac-12 tight end and in the mold of someone who has had some success at ASU. He's not an elite or near-elite tight end prospect like a Zach Miller or Todd Heap type guy, but we knew that going in and that's okay. There aren't many guys like that. Poplawski if a fine Power 5 prospect. 

Kyle Soelle -- Saguaro uses Soelle in a lot of different ways and he's clearly an important player for his versatility. He looked quite good as a tight end/h-back type and could play Division I football at that position, definitely, and likely even in the Pac-12. There are guys who are like that. He's like a version of former ASU tight end De'Marieya Nelson in that regard in that he's similarly sized and roughly similar from a mobility standpoint. He could probably play some running back if needed for that role even as a bigger guy and certainly that's not where you'd want to ideally use him. For ASU he's going to be a Devil backer and that's probably the best spot for him. He showed versatility on the defensive side of the ball in how he's used. They'll have him in almost a nickel type alignment situationally and he's asked to do some things covering and he did fine with it. A lot of what he was asked to do was containment pressure as opposed to a real aggressive ears-pushed-back type of pass rush. That's a philosophical approach. Saguaro did a good job of keeping the Serra quarterback in the pocket and there were multiple coverage sacks as a result of the quarterback being bottled up. There was some good secondary pressure from Soelle, but he showed up on the field more as an endurance play than eye raising quick twitch athleticism. The biggest thing that wasn't shown in this game from Soelle was an ability to out-physical bigger guys along the offensive front. You have to dominate more than he showed at the high school level in that regard if you're going to translate to the position at the next level. So this was kind of a mixed bag evaluation that may be furthered by additional study but part of that was Soelle just doing his job. He isn't going to be a high end speed rusher/elite or near elite Devil backer, and his size makes ASU level football player? Not as clear cut on this day at Poplawski about that relative to what ASU has at the position, but not a no either. 

Corey Stephens -- Perhaps the guy I was most intrigued to study among the Saguaro 2017 players in this game in particular because Serra had some size and a lot of the the guys that Saguaro will go against this year won't be much of a contest. Unfortunately Serra didn't have any real speed rush to test Stephens' athletic mobility on passing plays and it has to go down as an incomplete in that regard. Of course, we know ASU's planning to use him as a center prospect or maybe a guard, and certainly not at center. What I liked about Stephens is that he had some quickness off the snap and showed heavy hands and good run blocking form. It was a slew of down blocks, one after the other, and he pretty much dominated in terms of winning his reps and doing what he set out to do. I thought it was a good sign for him that he had a physical disposition, that he wanted to be violent with his hands and he wanted to do more than just deliver an initial blow. He worked through plays, had good field awareness, finished, and made quick read adjustments on the fly that were logical. You can see that he's extremely bright and thinks well on the go and is adaptive. The limitation that I saw was primarily related to his range. Even though he has pretty good initial quickness, he's not the type of interior offensive linemen who is going to get out and run and reach a long range block on a buck sweep or something like that. He should be able to get on the second level vertically to the inside backers, but he's got really thick legs and is a little heavier legged running. Overall thought I came away thinking that he's probably going to be fine at ASU as a center option. 


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