The injury list for Sun Devil football has been boundless this season, stretching to all sides of the ball and targeting offensive and defensive players.
The injuries have even plagued the field goal unit, knocking down the big bodies the team needs to execute successfully. This need for big, strong players in bulk prompted head coach Kenny Dillingham to address it in a post-game press conference.
"I don't know if there are big bodies at ASU who just go there that want to play field goal for us," Dillingham said after the Washington game. "If you weigh 330-pound, and I mean it, reach out to our team because we need big bodies to put in there on field goal, and we're down a lot of them."
A couple weeks after Dillingham's comment, in comes freshman defensive lineman C.J. Fite, a 6'2", 315-pound asset for the field goal team. Within his first season as a Sun Devil, Fite has racked up one fumble recovery, eight total tackles and one TFL so far.
Despite being a defensive lineman, he played on the offensive line in high school, making him a very versatile player. This, combined with his size and performance, created an ideal recruit for the field goal team.
Since last week, Fite has been practicing with the field goal unit to help the unit compensate for their lack of big bodies. Fite volunteered to participate with the team after realizing they needed the help.
"It had already been thrown out there that I might be on the field goal team," Fite said. "One of our coaches had to say that I might be on there, so I was like, 'I wouldn’t mind doing it at all.' So when the opportunity presented itself in the team meeting, I was down for it."
Fite said that impacting the team in any shape or form was huge for him, so he willingly took the job. Improving the field goal team has become a priority for Dillingham, especially after going 0-2 on field goals against the University of Washington in Seattle.
The field goal squad's woes have also swayed playmaking calls, as the scarcity of linemen has concerned Dillingham when kicking field goals. The presence of Fite, nicknamed the "tight end" of the field goal unit, will attempt to remedy these woes.
Special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle believes Fite is someone they can count on in this area.
"You're looking for guys that have that size and the capabilities to hold up under extreme duress when you have other 300-pound guys leaning on him, and when you don’t have those body types, you're really trying to manufacture the protection and get creative, and that becomes extremely difficult," Ragle said. "But we're okay, and I think we’re gonna be just fine as we move forward."
Ragle wasn't surprised that Fite offered to join special teams. It showcases his character and the tremendous person he is. The two already work together in other areas of the field, so Ragle counts it as more quality time for the two.
"I work with him on the punt (team) too because he's one of our shields," Ragle said. "I coach the D-line as well with Coach Amey, so I work with him a lot. Adding him to the field goal unit was just another few minutes we got to spend together."
Fite said the adjustment to the field goal team has been going well. He has no prior experience playing on field goal units, but his ability to adapt has helped him adjust fluently.
He's also acquiring knowledge on how to execute on the unit, working on taking pressure off the edges during plays and preventing blocks from that way. He’s also debunking certain predispositions on the technique.
"I think more if it's just technical," Fite said. "Some people think it's more of a physicality, but if you really watch it, it's not physicality at all. Most people think the pressure's coming from the inside, but it's not. It’s just the little parts of feet … just the little things."
Fite may be expected to see time with the field goal crew as the team improves on all sides of the ball.
Edited by Vincent DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.