Player capsule: Christian Hill
Position: Tight end
Weight: 285 pounds
2016 season quick review: Hill arrived at Arizona State last January as a junior college transfer out of Glendale Community College. The Kansas City, Missouri native entered the ASU program with three seasons to play two, and the Sun Devils put him on the field last fall despite Hill still being extremely raw from a skill development standpoint. Though Hill practiced at defensive end, he earned most of his playing time on special teams and on offense, where he served as an additional blocker in the Sun Devils' "Sparky" package.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: One of the most physically imposing players on ASU's roster, Hill came to the Sun Devils after suffering an injury during his sophomore season at Glendale Community College that stunted his development. While an injury isn't necessarily impossible for junior college players to overcome, Hill was already behind from a developmental standpoint because immediately after high school, Hill served in the Air Force.
The gap from high school football to college football created by Hill's service coupled with Hill's injury during his sophomore season left him with a raw skill set by the time his first season with ASU began. Even though Hill has the physical traits needed to play defensive line in the Pac-12, he didn't possess the type of advanced technique and understanding of fundamentals required to make an immediate impact.
Because Hill had three years to play two, ASU was left with a decision to make regarding whether to use him in 2016. The Sun Devils could have elected to redshirt Hill if they believed a year of training and skill development would lead to significant improvement, but instead ASU chose to play Hill and secure any possible production he could provide right away.
The result of burning Hill's redshirt is that he'll likely never become more than a sub-package player on either side of the ball, but it will allow ASU to free up his scholarship one year sooner.
Last season, Hill practiced almost exclusively with the defensive line during skill development periods, but earned his most extensive opportunities as a fullback in ASU's "Sparky" package. With the departure of ASU offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey this offseason, Hill headed back to defense at the start of the spring, but was quickly pulled over to the offensive side of the ball by Lindsey's replacement, Billy Napier.
For the better part of the spring, Hill practiced with the tight ends, and that appears to be the position he'll stick at permanently in 2017.
Though Hill won't provide ASU with any value as a route runner or as a pass-catcher, the Sun Devils can make use of Hill in sub-package groupings and in short-yardage and goal line situations.
Hill has a wide frame and a gigantic upper body that should allow him to create leverage against defensive ends and outside linebackers at the line of scrimmage, and if he can play with a low center of gravity, Hill should provide ASU with some sort of value as an in-line blocker. Though Hill won't be as technically advanced as sophomore tight end Thomas Hudson, he's another big-bodied blocker who can help ASU set and own the edge in the run game.
Hill's success rate in converting blocks as a fullback was relatively strong last season, but when he lined up in the backfield, all he needed to do was essentially stay in front of his man and prevent a defender from having a clean path to the ball carrier. If Hill is going to become a more serviceable tight end, he'll need to learn the nuances of blocking, understand how to use his hands to his advantage, and fire off the line of scrimmage with more explosiveness.
Though Hill won't have enough time to become a more polished product, there's still an opportunity for him to provide ASU's offense with a jolt in certain situations.
Projected depth chart status: Hill may not see the field much for ASU, because he's not a full-service tight end who can performs some of the essential functions of the position. Nevertheless, he provides Napier with an important set of skills that can allow ASU to play to its strengths in short-yardage situations. Expect Hill to earn most of his playing time in sub-package groupings where ASU needs more athletic blockers, but don't expect Hill to become a central piece of ASU's offense.