Player Capsule: Renell Wren
Position: Defensive Tackle
Weight: 297 pounds
2016 season quick review: As a third-year sophomore, Wren was credited with 16 tackles including six for loss and 1.5 sacks, with three pass break ups and one forced fumble. He started one game, at Washington, and played as a reserve in ASU's other games.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: Few players on the Arizona State roster look as good as Renell Wren or have his physical promise, but tapping into that deep reservoir of natural potential has been a slow trickle of a process.
Wren is huge-framed and long, with a body that effortlessly carries his 297 pounds. He has an NFL defensive lineman physique and is one of the strongest players on the ASU roster according to Shawn Griswold, the program's head strength coach. Wren also can run and move very well for his size. He's coordinated and athletic for his size, with long arms and potential to be enormously difficult to deal to contend with for the player in front of him. But that hasn't happened with any consistency, as yet.
After playing in just four games in 2015 and managing just one tackle, Wren played a lot more as a sophomore in 2016, and had 16 tackles including six for loss. At times, Wren has seemed tantalizingly on the verge of breaking out. In the season opener last year against Northern Arizona, he threw smaller linemen around and had four tackles with two for loss. At other times he was essentially a non-factor.
Migraine headaches have been problematic for Wren and kept him from practicing fully or even playing at time points of games. How much that's a factor is difficult to ascertain, but playing with such a condition is understandably difficult. Focus is another issue. In a spring practice this year, first-year defensive line coach Michael Slater became very frustrated with Wren's failure to listen and execute a basic drill that should have been second-nature to a veteran player It was a glaring example of the attention to detail still not being what it needs to be for Wren to close the gap between potential and production. It's also not a good way to impress your new position coach.
From a technical standpoint, there are a lot of areas in which Wrenn can improve substantially. He's gotten a lot better with his pad level, a major challenge for Wren early in his career because he was too upright within reps. Being so tall and long is an advantage if used properly but can be a disadvantage until that time. Wren tends to provide too much blockable surface area to offensive linemen and has to develop a better sense of how to keep offensive linemen from getting their hands located on him where they're comfortable and can manage his length more effectively. He's improved in this regard, but leverage is still too often an issue.
Becoming quicker and more violent with his hands is the next major step for Wren to start tapping into his power and length. He should be able to be more jarring at initial contact and get into linemen more often in order to do so. He's also got to be better at violently disengaging from lock up situations. Wren's a hard guy to move off his anchor and at this point in time uses his length better as a two-gap read and recognition player.
Wren gets his hands up to bat down throws and can make reach plays with his long arms on running backs in his lane. But this is a very aggressive one-gap scheme and one that defenders like to play in as a result. What it means, however, is that more dynamic playmaking will have to be demonstrated for Wren to get the bounty of reps he no doubt hopes for. Playing with a more consistently higher revving motor is one thing that should help. The physical tools are there.
Projected depth chart status: Wren can play either defensive tackle position. He's currently backing up Tashon Smallwood at the 3-technique tackle spot but could become a factor at nose tackle as well because there's softness on the depth chart with untested players George Lea, Jordan Hoyt, Emmanuel Dayries, D.J. Davidson and Shannon Foreman jockeying for position.