Ideal scholarship roster number: 4-5
Likely returning number: 2
Remaining Target Number: 0
The boundary edge Devil backer pass rush position is ripe for high sack and tackles-for-loss production as demonstrated by former Sun Devils Carl Bradford and Antonio Longino, and most recently Koron Crump last season. Crump came into his own as the season unfolded and showed he was increasingly capable of being more than a sub-package pass rusher.
ASU needed to hit Devil backer hard in recruiting in this cycle because only two players return in 2017 who practiced regularly at the position last year, and both will be seniors: Crump and classmate A.J. Latu.
To that end, the Sun Devils ultimately are expected to add three total signees from players who project to Devil backer, including mid-year four-star early enrollee Doug Subtyl and local four-star prep product Tyler Johnson.
But Kyle Soelle, who played at Notre Dame Prep in 2016 but concluded his high school career at Saguaro last year, was the first of the three in the fold for the Sun Devils. Soelle intrigued college coaches during the spring evaluation period last year 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 last June.
Soelle played both ways at Notre Dame Prep as a junior, 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. As a senior he also played both ways at Saguaro, showing well in limited reps at tight end in addition to playing as a two-way edge pass rusher and contain defender, where he had 53 tackles and nine 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 listed as a tight end prospect 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 when used in a three-point set up, though he'll want to keep working on getting his feet a little more underneath him at set up. He's probably more comfortable as a 2-point player, which is how he was used more at Saguaro than at Notre Dame.
What's clear 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 instinct with a lot of skill development with his hands and the addition of more size and strength, probably upwards of 20 pounds.
He's not lacking a willingness to play the game physically, but it's going to take substantial added size and strength for Soelle to round out as a player at this position. He's not able to get unblocked well enough right now, and his second pass rush isn't effective. He's also got very little ability to mid-line bull rush a tackle into the release and grab/strike zone on quarterbacks. Right now he has to win the edge, or get laterally clear coming cross the face to be ample to impact the quarterback in position situations.
There are instances on film in which he squeezes down nice 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's frame is solid and he's well put together with pretty good muscularity for his size. But he's not as long or wide-framed as the big jumbo athletes tend to be at the Pac-12 level and beyond, and so he's going to have to really max out his potential to play effectively at this level. Still, he's possesses 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.