Key To Success In '09: Sun Devil Tight Ends Must Improve Production

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIJuly 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 16:  Linebacker Dallas Sartz #42 of the USC Trojans tackles tight end Zach Miller #86 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the game with the Los Angeles Coliseum on October 16, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Arizona State 45-7. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The Zach Miller era as a tight end in Tempe came and went, almost in a blur. His three seasons as a Sun Devil tight end, along with his brother Brent's four seasons, were as reliable as it gets.

Last season, the Arizona State tight ends hauled in a total of 33 passes for nearly 230 yards and four touchdowns. That seems like good production out of that position, however, that was five different players totaling those statistics.

As a Junior in 2006, Zach Miller caught 50 passes for 484 yards and four touchdowns. Brother Brent also added 11 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown, including an overtime game-winner at Husky Stadium.

That was the most constant attribute that the previous tight end corps had—consistency.

One of the main goals through recruiting the last two seasons has been regaining the consistency out of the tight end position. Spring ball helped renew the confidence of current tight ends Jovan Williams and Stan Malamala.

Senior Jovan Williams, the Covina (CA) product has transformed himself into a solid mid-range threat in the ASU passing game this spring while working with QB Danny Sullivan. His increased strength will help with run blocking and support of the offensive line.

But Erickson didn't settle on talent he already had—the Sun Devil staff hit the recruiting trail hard to find the missing piece of their offensive attack.

This past offseason, two of the most underrated commits in the 2009 recruiting class might have been Chris Croyle and Max Smith, both of whom are tight ends, and good ones at that.

Croyle, the Oaks Christian (CA) star led his team in receptions in 2008 and was second in 2007 as a junior. In his two seasons as a starter, the 6’4” 235 pound stud hauled in 46 receptions for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Sun Devils also added local product Max Smith from Scottsdale, Saguaro. Smith compiled similar numbers for the Sabercats en route to their undefeated state championship, totaling in 31 receptions for 468 yards and seven touchdowns his junior and senior seasons.

In 2008, Erickson added JUCO product Stan Malamala, who never seemed to grasp the offensive gameplan effectively enough to earn playing time; however, Malamala did impress new tight ends coach Jaime Christian.

With Erickson’s increased focus on depth and team speed on both sides of the ball, these two recruits for 2009 will greatly impact the offensive success for ASU in 2009.