Coyle impressive in comeback

Dressed in full pads for the first time this spring, ASU players took advantage of the more physical practice, including redshirt freshman Chris Coyle. After a season ending injury at the beginning of last year, the tight end has spent the last year recuperating a broken foot, and is as eager as ever to hit the field.

"I'm really excited," Coyle said. "This is the first time I've been able to compete in pads since I broke my foot last year. I was real excited going into camp. I was looking forward to starting, the coaches were saying ‘you're doing a great job, keep up the good work and you're going to be playing for us.'

"Fourth day of camp I broke my foot, it was rough but I did all my rehab and sat out to make sure I was healthy enough when I came back and now I'm 100%, ready to beat this defense up a little bit."

Chris Coyle spent the entire 2009 season sidelined while his team struggled to secure wins. Offensively the Sun Devils were unable to connect, and while much of the criticism landed on the productivity of tight end position, Coyle is determined to alter that opinion.

"I'm going to change their thoughts real fast," Coyle claimed. "We've all gotten better, not just me but the other guys too. We're all going to be making plays this year. We're going to completely change everybody's thinking about the tight end position. We're all beasts; we're going to be getting a lot of touchdowns and a lot of catches. We're going to be doing really well this year."

The focus on the new offensive scheme appears to have a common theme of speed. Practices have reflected this and the players, while continuing to adjust, have embraced the change. Seeing the new offense run for the first time this spring, with Coyle's stamina and athleticism, it seems like a perfect fit for the young tight end.

"For me, I am a route running tight end," Coyle commented. "I'm not the biggest guy, not the strongest so I really focus on my technique when running routes and catching passes. The big thing about our offense is speed, tempo, and technique. I've got a lot of endurance, I've got quickness, and so I feel like I fit in perfectly.

"I'm sort of a flex tight end, a little bit inside for some blocking and some route running but mainly the slot receiver position, still blocking but mainly running routes."

Along with strategic changes, Coach Dennis Erickson and his staff have also engaged the Sun Devils in a sports psychology program to build a strong and positive mindset for the athletes, on and off the field. The Pacific Institute has been working with the team to make them aware of the proverbial blind spots in their vision and providing them with ways to become better athletes.

"The PX2 Program, they've gotten us together a couple mornings," Coyle said. "It's really good, it's all about sports psychology, having a positive mindset. We've talked a lot about scotoma, which are blind spots that people have that limit your abilities and we're talking about how to overcome these blind spots to make ourselves better in the long run, overall as athletes, mentally and physically.

"I think everybody on the team has bought into it, even when people are joking around about it, you know they're soaking it in a little bit."

As a tight end, having the ability to block and receive is crucial. Players are expected to excel in both, yet for someone like Coyle who already excels with receiving skills, there is potential for added pressure to prove his blocking abilities as well.

"I came into college knowing I would do fine with receiving and stuff," Coyle noted. "I did well blocking in high school but blocking from high school to college is a whole lot different. Big thing for me is that I put on some weight. I'm about 235 right now and I came in about 225.

"It's harder for me to go one on one with the defensive end but if I'm getting helped out by a tackle I'm able to move around and stuff. If I'm in slot on a linebacker, I'm alright."

Now that spring practice has begun, a healthy Coyle is ready to take his spot on the team. With a long road ahead for the Sun Devils, the focus will be on nothing other than the upcoming season. Putting last year's struggles behind them, Coyle and his team will once again work towards a winning season.

"Personally my goals are to become a leader," Coyle said. "Make the plays I'm supposed to, catch every pass that touches my hands, set a good example for everybody, set a tempo so the team will follow and just have a positive mindset for the season.

"Forget about last season; let's win a Pac-10 championship."

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