When running back Marion Grice went down with an injury late in 2013, who did Arizona State head coach Todd Graham turn to for depth? Tight end De’Marieya Nelson. When the Sun Devils needed a big tackle on special teams, who did Graham turn to? Nelson. In 2014, Graham has a huge need at his devilbacker (outside linebacker that mainly rushes off the edge but will also drop in coverage) position after losing Carl Bradford to the NFL Draft. Who will he turn to? Nelson.
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound athletic specimen is set to play on both sides of the ball in 2014. It has been reported that Nelson is expected to be on the field for 25 plays on offense, 40 on defense and up to 15 on special teams. In 2014, Nelson will be the triathlete of the Pac-12.
Graham understands his team is ready to win and compete for a conference championship in 2014, and he is putting all hands on deck to win. At least he is putting all of Nelson’s hands on deck. After watching UCLA’s star freshman linebacker Myles Jack succeed on both sides of the ball last season, Graham is giving it a try with one of his multi-talented athletes.
Nelson was expected by many to fill the void left by tight end Chris Coyle, but Nelson in fact will be filling the voids of Coyle AND Bradford. Nelson is a jack of all trades, and Graham has even called him the Sun Devils’ best special teams player last season.
In last year’s Territorial Cup against rival Arizona, Nelson scored his first two rushing touchdowns at the Division 1 level. Prior to arriving in Tempe, Nelson played tight end at his junior college, San Joaquin Delta College but he actually also lined up as a wildcat quarterback on numerous plays.
Nelson saw minimal time on defense last season, but he is working with the first-team defense in fall camp thus far. I had the opportunity to stand next to Nelson during one of Arizona State’s spring practices, and the man is built like Hercules. If you were to line the whole team up, he is the first player you would pick out and say “wow!”
Putting your best players on the field, regardless of their original position is how good coaches maximize their talent. Just like Michigan did with Charles Woodson, Ohio State did with Chris Gamble, Georgia did with Champ Bailey and UCLA did with Jack, Arizona State will utilize Nelson any way they can. That decision by Graham is one of many reasons why the Sun Devils will win the Pac-12 South.
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