TEMPE, Ariz. – Chris Coyle gets very little local love.
“I usually get to slide around campus under the radar,” ASU’s tight end said with a smile.
But Coyle’s Tempe attention feels like a glaring spotlight when compared to the attention he garners nationally.
When the Mackey Award semifinalists for the nation’s top tight end were announced Monday, three of the eight players listed were from the Pac-12. Coyle wasn’t one of them, but you can certainly make an argument that he belongs in the company of Stanford senior Zach Ertz, UCLA senior Joseph Fauria and Washington sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins, all of whom made the list.
Entering Saturday’s games, Seferian-Jenkins led the quartet with 55 receptions while Coyle (48) was second, Ertz (47) was third and Fauria had 31. Seferian-Jenkins was also tops in yards per game (73.1), with Ertz (64.1), Coyle (58.6) and Fauria (41.70) trailing. Fauria led all four in touchdowns (10), followed by Ertz (5), Seferian-Jenkins (4) and Coyle (3).
So why the glaring omission?
“No idea,” Coyle said. “I don’t really think about it. I was just honored to be on the watch list at the start of the season.”
This isn’t a story about a snub. It can’t be when the principle actor doesn’t feel that snub.
Instead, it’s a story about a player whose most defining moment entering this season was a game-winning touchdown pass he didn’t catch last season at Illinois that would have propelled ASU to a 3-0 start — and maybe a whole lot more.
That a tight end or H-back should be so involved in a Todd Graham offense is no surprise. Charles Clay, now with the Miami Dolphins, had 1,024 yards on 69 receptions as an H-back under Graham at Tulsa in 2007.
But consider the two poles on which Coyle has existed the past two seasons. The tight end was an afterthought in former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s offense. We’re not even sure Mazzone could define the term.
Now, Coyle is a critical cog in the Sun Devils’ arsenal.
“He’s great for our offense,” quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “I can always count on him making a catch for me on third down, because he does a great job of finding holes in the zones. I count on him making a big play for us when we’re in need.”
There weren’t many critical plays in Saturday’s 46-7 whipping of Washington State at Sun Devil Stadium. But Coyle still inched closer to a trio of ASU records with three catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. To put that in perspective, Coyle had six catches for 73 yards in his career before this season.
“We just developed a really good chemistry in camp, and it went from there,” Kelly said.
With 639 yards this season, Coyle is still well shy of Todd Heap’s single-season record of 832 yards, but with five touchdowns, he is just one TD short of tying Zach Miller (2004) and Joe Petty (1971) for most TDs by a tight end in a season. His 51 catches this year are just five shy of Miller’s single-season record of 56 set in 2004.
“I never expected to be getting so close to these records,” said Coyle, a junior. “But it’s my goal to beat them and make them my records.”
As for his out-of-nowhere role, Cole still has to pinch himself to be sure this is reality after how little he was used last season.
“We’d watch film on Tulsa and see how they use their tight end, but you still don’t get the full feel of what’s going to be happening until you do it yourself,” he said. “It wasn’t until the end of camp that it hit me that I was going to be a crucial part of almost every single play. It’s unbelievable, and I just have to give thanks to my parents and everyone else who convinced me to stay here.
“I’m really grateful I did, and I’m grateful I’ll get to do it for another year.”