Q&A with Coach Dan Cozzetto

It may not be discussed as often as other positions on the team, but the competition in the tight end core is just as fierce as other groups. The unit consists of mainly unproven players with limited experience, yet their position coach Dan Cozzetto sees great potential. Devils Digest sat down with Cozzetto to discuss the various players at this position and their prospects for this season.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start by reviewing the tight ends that were signed in the 2008 recruiting class. What can you tell us about Steven Figueroa?

Dan Cozzetto: "Stephen will be a physical type of player. He throws shot put 60 feet, so you know he has great leg strength. We had him in camp and he catches the ball well. He's the type of a guy that we need securing the edge when we run over there. He's athletic enough to pass block or to hold up a defensive end and we're just excited about him coming here."

DD: As far as the other 2008 signee, Toa Tuitea, has a determination been made yet if he will play tight end or defensive end when he arrives here in the fall?

DC: "That's coach's call, but if he does play tight end he has explosiveness much like Stephen. He's physical. When you look at him to don't think he's big as he is, but he weights 250 pounds right now, and just like Stephen he can end up being 260, 265. I see him as a four-year player so he will play a lot of football."

DD: When you look at the tight ends as a group, how would you assess their performance in the 2007 season?

DC: "I think there were guys that rose to the occasion when Brent (Miller) couldn't play. He was nicked up with the knee which he injured years before. So there was stuff that was hindering him from playing at full speed. For Tyrice Thompson and Brady Conrad to come in and do the things they did, because they weren't even in the scheme of things…when they got here people said they couldn't play and we came in and gave them a chance."

"We put them in roles that could help us. Brady is a big physical kid and when Brent couldn't play he really helped us. He won the Washington State game for us. Tyrice helped us with his catches and special teams play. On a whole, we got a lot of millage out of those kids. They really helped us and contributed to our success as a football team. "

DD: Let's talk about the tight ends of this year. You must be pretty happy that Dane Guthrie came back to the group after playing defensive end in 2007, and he's your starter right now…

DC: "He hasn't practice a lot, but does he possess the physical talent? Sure he does. He has to take care of business and he knows the deal. But he's as talented as anybody I've been around and let's just see if he's gonna do it."

DD: Dan Knapp, who redshirted last year, is a player that Coach Erickson has raved about on a few occasions. Can you talk about his skill set?

DC: "He was on the scout team and now it's just a matter of rising to a level of playing as a college football player. He has to pay better attention to detail, which he's starting to find out and some of the habits that he carried over from high school he has to change. He was in a situation where he would just dominate people all the time and now he's matched up against (defensive ends) Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez. That's an eye opener that he's going through right now."

"But I'm not worried about him. He's just a young guy that's maturing and growing into

DD: Jovon Williams and Andrew Pettes are two players that have been in the program for a while, but really haven't made an impact. Have you seen something so far in the spring that makes you believe that they are ready to turn the corner?

DC: "Jovon hasn't been practicing all the time, he has a concussion. He can run and catch the ball and be that weapon much like Tyrice did for us. He's a mature, smart player that has grown a lot."

"Andy has been here a long time and he didn't have the best evaluation from guys when we first got in here. But he lost 20 pounds, made a commitment to lifting and developing better. He's moving better and is having a good spring. I think it's just a matter of confidence with him and he knows I have a lot of confidence in him to play. He had to step up when Dane missed practice and he knows this is his last go-around. I'm happy with the way he has practiced and the production he has given us."

DD: Lance Evbuomwan has also had a disappointing career thus far, but is younger than Williams and Pettes…

DC: "It's a critical spring for Lance. He knows that if he's gonna be a tight end, he needs to be consistent. He does some good things and we have two weeks to go (in spring practice). Being young is over with…"

DD: With the offense going to more of a four wide receiver set this season, can you talk about how the tight ends role will change, if at all?

DC: "We're pretty flexible and we have to know all the characters because we have to line up wherever they tell us. Those guys are very aware of all the different formations, and we can do a lot of things as long as those players can handle the volume. We're gonna give different looks, create match up problems…when you see five wide receivers out there, the defense will go to a nickel or dime package. So we have to make sure with our tight ends that they can go out there and play so people can't always check the same defense on you."

"All those guys are smart enough to do all these things. We can bunch up receivers doing it with two wide receivers and one tight end, or two tight ends and one wide receiver. Those guys are well schooled to do that stuff."

DD: What would you like the tight ends group to accomplish at the end of the spring practice session?

DC: "When I look at the group, they are a direct reflection of me. The thing I want them to understand is that they are in a position where it's a never-ending job. You're always working on your blocking, on your catching…the ideal tight end blocks like a tackle and catches like a wide receiver. So our work is never done, and with our work ethic we should get better and better, continue to study the game and above all help the team win games."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories