Nesta Jade Silvera had a lot 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 to be a team with a lot of leverage.
What won Silvera over wasn’t the way ASU defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez praised his play or the way he fit into the defense. It was the details Rodriguez pointed out that could make the 6-foot-2, 306-pounder better that resonated with the Florida native.
“My first conversation with coach Rod we automatically went straight to film, watched film for probably two or three hours,” Silvera said, after the Sun Devils wrapped up the 12th of 15 spring practices on Monday. “He told me a lot of the things I do well and he kind of explained to me where deficiencies were in my game and what he could help me with which was a lot different than what other coaches told me. They were more about what you did. can do to help us and he was more about what he can help me with to improve my game. “
Rodriguez, who was previously on staff with the Minnesota Vikings, is starting his third season heading the position group. He prides himself on technique and the attention to detail, for the betterment of all.
“He said he felt he was missing something,” Rodriguez said of the film session with his new prospect. “He said` I could feel that these things were happening but nobody told me why. ‘ We were the first ones to tell him why. That’s the nature of how we coach here. wrong because on Saturday ain’t nobody there to tell them a lie. It’s going to be all truths because the guy lining up in front of you is going to tell you the truth and he’s going to expose your weaknesses. “
If the Sun Devils are to contend for the Pac-12 South, they’re going to need good performances from transfers such as Silvera.
ASU’s last high school recruiting class was its 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 ongoing NCAA investigation into recruiting violations, which is no closer to being resolved now than it was when it first launched last June.
But the portal makes it easier for a team to restock in a pinch. And while ASU’s high school class was an underwhelming one, its transfer class of a dozen or so athletes is pegged no. 15.
Other reinforcements have been brought in at areas of need. Alabama transfer Paul Tyson is contending for starting quarterback duties while Khoury Bethley (Hawaii) and Chris Edmonds (Samford) are likely to have prominent roles in the back end of the secondary.
The offensive line graduated three starters. Newcomers there include Chris Martinez from San Diego State and Des Holmes from Penn State, who are roommates now in Tempe.
ASU has had a history of bringing in quality players at that position group including tackle Kellen Diesch and guard Henry Hattis, both recently departed two-year starters. 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 at the NFL combine last month.
That was part of ASU’s sale pitch to the Pennsylvania native, Holmes.
“They absolutely did,” Holmes said, when asked if Diesch’s progress was used in his recruitment. “They came in and told me about his situation and how he came here and played a couple years and obviously now he’s doing his thing. He’s in a blessed situation and just doing the combine and Pro Day. He has a bright future coming up, so that was part of the car salesman deal that (coach) Herm (Edwards) tried to pitch that to me. “
All say the process isn’t unlike the initial recruiting process out of high school, which can be overwhelming. Tight end Messiah Swinson came over from Missouri. He was originally headed to Colorado State, but when that coaching staff was fired he had to start over again. It helped that he was already familiar with ASU, having made an official visit when he was recruited out of high school by the previous coaching staff.
“For me the transfer portal was like, it was hectic, overwhelming honestly,” he said. “I talked 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 end room and they wanted to bring in another tall, athletic long tight end in, so that was very enticing for me. Then I saw the Curtis production had last year and he has a similar build as me, similar athleticism. I saw he really excelled in that offense so it as just enticing for me to see. ”
The presence of Rodriguez and others with NFL experience also hit home with Silvera, who has just one season of eligibility remaining, which makes this season all the more important.
“I could have gone anywhere but you got (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 that’s priceless. Being able to be coached by those guys, you can’t put a number on that. Being where I’m at in my career, its more about those things.”
Tight end Jalin Conyers knows what it is like to be a newcomer. He transferred to ASU a year ago from Oklahoma and says he is trying to help the newcomers with the transition.
“Last year, I was coming in. I was like a deer in headlights just trying to figure out everything, so I know how those guys feel,” he said. “This year I feel like I’m in a position where I can help people out, or help people in the offense if that’s what they need.”
Odds and ends
– NFL veteran coach Brian Billick, brought in by Edwards to serve as an offensive analyst, kept a close eye on the quarterbacks throughout practice, scribbling down notes in doing so.
– Linebacker Caleb McCullough continued to don a green non-contact jersey as he has the last two weeks due to migraines.
– Among those in attendance at practice was Jay Feely, former kicker for the New York Jets and father of ASU kicker Jace Feely.
– The Sun Devils finish spring drills with practices Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The Saturday session will be held at 7 pm at Sun Devil Stadium and will be open to the public. Fan festivities will begin in areas around the stadium at 5:30 pm with gates opening at 6 pm There will be player autograph sessions and a post-practice fireworks display.
Reach the reporter at Michelle.Gardner@gannett.com or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.
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