Arizona State’s offense starting to click, TE Messiah Swinson an X-factor

Aug 13, 2022, 7:55 AM | Updated: Aug 25, 2022, 3:43 pm
Arizona State Sun Devils tight end Messiah Swinson catches a ball during ASU fall camp practice in ...
Arizona State Sun Devils tight end Messiah Swinson catches a ball during ASU fall camp practice in August, 2022. (Emilio Terrazas Photo, Sun Devil Football)
(Emilio Terrazas Photo, Sun Devil Football)

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils offense is finally starting to click as the team completes its second week of fall camp, which included the first practice in full pads.

It also featured the best week of practice from Florida transfer quarterback Emory Jones, who has taken most of the first-team reps after joining the team after spring ball was already completed.

And as Jones continues to build a rapport with his pass catchers, the ASU coaching staff is also finding a rhythm with the rotation of players it will deploy and count on to contribute.

“Definitely a comfort level in I’d say all positions, not just running backs — quarterbacks, O-line — there is a comfort level and I would say that comfort level is hopefully starting to sink in with the new guys at this point being a couple of weeks in,” offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas said after practice on Friday.

“The smoke is kind of settling a little bit, the install is kinda calming down. Hopefully those guys are kinda getting their feet on the ground a little bit, taking a deep breathe and start categorizing what we’re looking for.”

One of those positions that’s becoming more solidified is the offense line, which features returners such as Ben Scott — who is transitioning from right tackle to center — and left guard LaDarius Henderson, who has a chance to be playing on Sundays.

“I think we’re in a good place that way,” Thomas said. “Now it’s a matter of settling it down, figuring out what we have, where we need each guy in each spot, the rotation as we take a step back and start figuring out who the ‘starters’ and then who are the backups.”

Some of the newer additions on the offensive line have come via the transfer portal and include Northern State transfer Emmitt Bohle, San Diego State transfer Chris Martinez, Penn State transfer Des Holmes and Iowa State transfer Joey Ramos, as well as JUCO transfers Thomas Le Boucher and Danny Valenzuela — who committed to Arizona State on Sunday.

“I’m pleased with where they’re at in general with the installation. … Even new guys like Joey, Thomas, Danny the new center — he’s only been here for a few days so to his credit, he’s already been thrown in there and getting the reps that he needs,” the offensive coordinator said.

But perhaps the biggest X-factor for the Sun Devils offense this season will be the tight end room, specifically with Missouri transfer Messiah Swinson.

At a gargantuan 6-foot-8, 255 pounds, Swinson not only provides a substantial catching radius, but he also might have the best hands on the team — or at least this early in camp.

“Somebody that has really been sticking out to me is Messiah,” defensive back Macen Williams said after practice on Friday. “He doesn’t drop the ball at all whether it’s one hand, two hands, no matter how much contact is on him. I think Messiah is really great. Big guy for sure. Made some spectacular catches this camp. He’s having a hell of a camp. In my eyes, he took the biggest step.”

ASU fans will recognize Jalin Conyer’s name, as the tight end is returning for his redshirt sophomore season.

Conyer — who is listed at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds — may have only reeled in six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown last season, but of all the pass catchers to return to Arizona State this year, the tight end ranks fourth in that department and first in his position group.

“We have similar personnel groupings but a variety of looks, so I think we’re really pleased with the depth that we have there — whether it’s Jalin at the Y or Messiah can come in at the Y in 11 personnel and then you can have big Messiah or Jalin,” Glenn Thomas said.

“It’s always the joke in the coaching world: It’s all the same except for the tight ends because there’s always that wrinkle for the tight ends,” he added. “There’s a lot on their plate but hats off to them, they’re really doing a good job and really being conscientious of the details and I think they’re flourishing in that role as far as being an impact on what we’re trying to get done.”

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