Football transfers see Arizona State as an NFL prep location

Nesta Jade Silvera had plenty of suitors for his services when he entered the transfer portal. He was an established starter at the University of Miami, so he already had a track record. Arizona State didn’t seem like a team with much influence.

What won Silvera over was not how ASU defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez praised his play or how he fit into the defense. It was the details Rodriguez pointed out that could improve the 6-foot-2, 306-pounder that resonated with the Florida native.

“My first conversation with Coach Rod, we automatically went straight to the movie, watched the movie for probably two or three hours,” Silvera said, after the Sun Devils completed the 12th of 15 spring workouts on Monday. “He told me a lot of things that I’m doing well and he kind of explained to me where the gaps in my game were and what he could help me with, which was very different from what the others coaches told me. They were more about what you can do to help us and it was more about what he can do to help me improve my game.”

Rodriguez, formerly on the staff of the Minnesota Vikings, enters his third season at the top of the position group. He prides himself on technique and attention to detail, for the good of all.

October 23, 2021;  Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera (1) reacts during the second half of the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Hard Rock Stadium.

“He said he felt something was missing,” Rodriguez said of the movie session with his new prospect. “He said ‘I could feel these things happening but nobody told me why.’ We were the first to tell him why. It’s the nature of the way we coach here. I don’t say anything to put people down but also, I don’t want to falsely excite my guys if they do something wrong. because Saturday there is no one to tell them a lie. It will only be truths because the guy in line in front of you will tell you the truth and he will expose your weaknesses.

If the Sun Devils are to challenge for the Pac-12 South, they will need strong performances from transfers such as Silvera.

ASU’s final high school recruiting class was the weakest in modern recruiting history and ranked 103rd nationally and last in the conference. The small group of high schoolers is a byproduct of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into recruiting violations, which is no closer to being resolved now than it was when it launched in June. last.

But the portal makes it easier for a team to restock in a snap. And while ASU’s high school class was underwhelming, its transfer class of a dozen athletes is ranked No. 15.

March 23, 2022;  Tempe, Arizona, USA;  Arizona State defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez during spring training at Kajikawa Practice Fields.  Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

Further reinforcements have been brought to areas where they are needed. Alabama transfer Paul Tyson is vying for quarterback duties while Khoury Bethley (Hawaii) and Chris Edmonds (Samford) are likely to have prominent roles in the high school fullback.

The offensive line graduated three starters. Newcomers include San Diego State’s Chris Martinez and Penn State’s Des Holmes, who are now roommates in Tempe.

ASU has a history of signing quality players in this group of positions, including tackle Kellen Diesch and guard Henry Hattis, both recently gone two years. Diesch came from Texas A&M where he was a little-used backup and now finds himself a likely draft pick after a strong showing last month in the NFL.

It was part of ASU’s sales pitch to Pennsylvania native Holmes.

“They did,” Holmes said, when asked if Diesch’s advancements had been used in his recruiting. “They came and told me about his situation and how he came here and played a few years and obviously now he’s doing his thing. He’s in a blessed situation and just doing the combine and the Pro Day. He has a great future ahead, so that was part of the deal with the car salesman that (coach) Herm (Edwards) tried to offer me.”

October 5, 2019;  University Park, Pennsylvania, USA;  Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Des Holmes (75) passes protects against Purdue Boilermakers defensive end George Karlaftis (5) during the first half at Beaver Stadium.

All say the process is not unlike the initial recruitment process out of high school, which can be overwhelming. Tight end Messiah Swinson came from Missouri. He was originally heading to Colorado State, but when that coaching staff was fired, he had to start over. It helped that he was already familiar with ASU, having made an official visit when he was drafted out of high school by the former coaching staff.

“For me, the transfer portal was like, it was hectic, overwhelming honestly,” he said. “I spoke to Coach Herm and Coach AP (Antonio Pierce) while he was here and they told me about Curtis (Hodges) leaving and how they had a gap in the tight ends room and they wanted to bring in another athletic long tight end, so that was very appealing to me. Then I saw the production that Curtis had last year and he has a similar build to me, similar athleticism. I saw that he really excelled in that offense, so it was just appealing for me to see.”

The presence of Rodriguez and others with NFL experience also hurt Silvera, who only has one season left of eligibility, which makes this season all the more important.

“I could have gone anywhere but you have (defensive analyst) Marvin Lewis. You have Herm Edwards. You have a coach like Coach Rodriguez,” Silvera said. “It’s impossible to turn that down for anything really because it’s priceless. To be able to be coached by these guys, you can’t put a figure on that. Being where I’m at in my career is more about these things.”

TEMPE, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 25: Arizona State Sun Devils tight end Jalin Conyers #12 runs with the football after a reception against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half of the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Tempe, Arizona .  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tight end Jalin Conyers knows what it’s like to be a newcomer. He transferred to ASU a year ago from Oklahoma and says he tries to help newcomers make the transition.

“Last year coming in I was like a deer in the headlights just trying to figure it all out, so I know how these guys feel,” he said. “This year I feel like I’m in a position where I can help people, or help people in the offense if that’s what they need.”


–Veteran NFL coach Brian Billick, brought in by Edwards to serve as an offensive analyst, closely watched the quarterbacks throughout practice, scribbling notes in the process.

–Linebacker Caleb McCullough continued to don a non-contact green jersey as he has for the past two weeks due to migraines.

– Among those present at practice was Jay Feely, former New York Jets kicker and father of ASU kicker Jace Feely.

– The Sun Devils wrap up spring drills with practices Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s session will take place at 7 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium and will be open to the public. Fan festivities will begin in the areas around the stadium at 5.30pm with the gates opening at 6.00pm. There will be player autograph sessions and fireworks after practice.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.

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