TEMPE – Among the storylines that have surfaced during Arizona State’s spring football practice season is the battle at tight end, and the new faces at the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields who could make an impact.
Tight ends Messiah Swinson, a senior transfer from Missouri, and junior Bryce Pierre from Mount San Antonio College are expected to bolster an area of need for the Sun Devils. They are showcasing their skills coaches along with several returning tight ends, including sophomore Jalin Conyers.
Swinson is a part of an ASU 2022 transfer class ranked 15th best in the nation, according to 247Sports, which also ranked Pierre as the No. 1 junior college tight end prospect in the country.
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards and his staff put an emphasis on recruiting at the tight end position after the departure of Curtis Hodges, a 6-foot-8, 240 pound tight end who played five seasons in Maroon and Gold.
“I talked to Coach Herm and (former assistant) coach (Antonio Pierce) while he was here, and they just told me about Curtis leaving and how they have a gap in the tight end room, and how they’re looking to bring in another big, athletic, long tight end in,” Swinson said.
The 6-7, 255-pound Swinson brings similar size to the position as Hodges, who caught 20 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns last season.
“I saw the production that Curtis had last year, and he has a similar build as me and similar athleticism,” Swinson said. “And I saw he really excelled in that offense and that was just really enticing for me to see.”
So far, Arizona State’s scheme has been just what Swinson hoped it would be when he left Missouri for the desert.
“This offense is amazing,” he said. “I came from an offense where we didn’t really throw the ball to the tight end, and the tight end didn’t really have many routes or deep routes in the pass game. Before this, I was mostly running 10-yard in cuts, outs, drags, and Omaha. So this is a lot more tight end friendly, and I love it.
“This is the type of stuff you see in Madden.”
Meanwhile, Pierre is still adjusting to what it takes to play in a Division I program.
“Throughout spring I’m trying to take it day by day,” Pierre said. “I know there’s going to be some days that I don’t do my best because I’m adjusting to everything. But so far, I think I’ve been doing good, adjusting day by day, listening to (tight ends) coach (Juston) Wood and coach Glenn (Thomas, ASU’s new offensive coordinator).”
Both Swinson and Pierre are joining a tight end room that already includes sophomore Conners, who is expected to play a larger role in the offense after catching just six passes for 62 yards and one touchdown in 2021.
Now there is depth at the position, and a set of players who bring unique skill sets to the offense.
“We all have something different, honestly; that’s why I think it’s so good,” Pierre said. “We all can stretch the field vertically. Messiah, he came from an SEC school, so he’s really good with the blocking. We all have something similar in a sense, but at the same time we all have something different to our game.”
The quarterback who will be targeting the tight ends next season is still in question. Former ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels entered the portal and transferred to LSU. Swinson has been able to build a good rapport with both junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet and Alabama junior transfer Paul Tyson.
“Both guys are really, I think, playing well,” Swinson said. “I’ve worked a lot with (Tyson) in the offseason, just running routes and catching balls. But Trenton, also. My first time really working with Trenton was seven-on-seven a little bit before spring ball started, and I’ve been working with him a lot now that spring ball has started, rotating in with him.
“Both of those guys are really good people to begin with, and they can both really throw the ball.”