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Hard-nose Case Hatch embraces unsung role as a fullback for ASU football

·6 min read
ASU FB Case Hatch (44) blocks LB Eric Gentry (9) during spring football practice in Tempe, Ariz. March 28, 2021.
ASU FB Case Hatch (44) blocks LB Eric Gentry (9) during spring football practice in Tempe, Ariz. March 28, 2021.

Arizona State fullback Case Hatch prides himself on making the plays that don't show up in a box score. Look no further than the Sun Devils' 41-14 win over Southern Utah in the season opener last year.

Hatch's name doesn't appear anywhere. He didn't score a touchdown, didn't record a catch and didn't rush for even a yard. But yet his fingerprints were all over that victory. How so? Well, Hatch had the key block on each of ASU's six touchdown plays, five of those rushing scores.

The solidly-built 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has embraced that position since he moved there after starting his ASU career as a walk-on linebacker. Oftentimes the fullback plays in anonymity. He might only be noticed if he were to miss a block. He's not going to rack up gaudy offensive numbers and he won't have those dazzling highlight reel runs that make the late-night sports news shows but that suits him just fine.

Hatch says the position is one in which he can use his intensity and experience on the defensive side of the ball to his advantage.

"It’s never about me. Being a fullback is the perfect role for me. It fits me perfectly. I’m able to hit guys as hard as I possibly can every play which is awesome. Now instead of tackling the guy with the ball and hitting him hard, I'm opening up the hole for a teammate."

Dec 19, 2020; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates with tight end Case Hatch (29) after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium.
Dec 19, 2020; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates with tight end Case Hatch (29) after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium.

Like many of his teammates, Hatch has aspirations of playing the game at the next level. He thought about declaring for the draft after last season, one of the factors being his age. At 24, he's already older than most college seniors, with a two-year  LDS mission he served after finishing up at Perry High School the factor there.

He opted to return to ASU for several reasons. He's only got one full year playing the position under his belt and there are many skills to hone, most notably route running and pass catching.

He also got married in January.

And with 43 new athletes on the roster, his veteran presence is valued.

Arizona State fullback Case Hatch (54) during the spring practice game on Feb. 28, 2019, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona State fullback Case Hatch (54) during the spring practice game on Feb. 28, 2019, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

"We thought it would be best to spend the first year close to family and not be going through the draft process and worrying about a team, a camp the first year. So that all played a role," he said. "I had a really good conversation with the coaching staff, we decided if I wanted to make a difference this is the year to do it, especially with all the new kids coming in, one year to actually make a difference on the team it would be this year. I am glad I stayed."

For subscribers: From 'me' to 'we': Sun Devil players say this team is much different than last year's

Not surprisingly, Hatch is among the dozen or so players on a "leadership" committee that meets each week to brainstorm ways to keep their teammates engaged and bridge the gap between the coaching staff and the team.

His selfless nature was rewarded last month when he was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team by the American Football Coaches Association. That honor is doled out to athletes for exemplary community service endeavors, along with athletic and academic success.

On the football field, he's as tough as they come, evidence of that is that he has destroyed four facemasks in his tenure in Tempe, two of those coming last season.

That trademark toughness and work ethic that allowed him to go from walk-on to a starter were factors in him being one of a select number of athletes throughout the country landing NIL deals with the WWE.

Related: Sun Angel NIL collective gains $1 million at launch

He's got an upbeat positive energy that all note. So yes, he appears to be the well-rounded athlete coaches love.

"He's just a cool dude He's annoyingly cool," said joked tight ends coach Juston Wood. "He is the guy that is going to make your room, your team better just being there."

Offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas agrees.

“He’s got a great personality. He’s super open, he’s got great energy about him. And yes, he wants to improve his game," he said. "He understands that he brings a lot to the table from a physical standpoint but now the more that you can open it up, for him, as far as pass catching. Running the ball right. We can hand it off to him. That helps you, because all of sudden he’s in there and the defense is thinking, ‘Oh, they’re running the ball,’ and then you throw it to him. That creates another element that could be pretty special. I’m impressed with what he brings to the table, not only on the field but just his personality and energy off the field.”

For subscribers: State of ASU football: What has the offense lost and gained since 2021?

Discipline improved

Last season the Sun Devils were one of the most penalized teams in college football with those miscues coming up big in losses. Eliminating those has been a focal point and for now, the ASU brain trust likes what it has seen.

Dec 11, 2020; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back DeaMonte Trayanum (1) is hoisted by tight end Case Hatch (29) as he celebrates a first quarter touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the Territorial Cup at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2020; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back DeaMonte Trayanum (1) is hoisted by tight end Case Hatch (29) as he celebrates a first quarter touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the Territorial Cup at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s a point of emphasis for sure," Thomas said "We’re two, three, four practices in, we haven’t had a false start yet. Things like that, we’ll congratulate and acknowledge successes. Then if we’re not getting it done we’ll have to talk about it, show it, give illustrations on the video, whether it’s pictures or whatever. So we put it out in the forefront, talk about it, and then hopefully we see the performance on the field. But I think we’re definitely heading in the right direction. We have officials out there every day. So it’s been addressed aggressively and we’re seeing improvement.”

Somers: Write it down, ASU defense will be 'real good,' coordinator Donnie Henderson says

Odds and ends

—Special teams were a point of emphasis with three place-kickers getting field goal tries. Sophomore Jace Feely, true freshman Carter Brown and Colorado State transfer Robert Liss each had two makes, the longest being from about 47 yards by Brown. All three had at least one miss, however.

—D.J. Taylor looks to be the kickoff return specialist but punt return duty is still being workout out. Taylor got time there but Vanderbilt wide receiver transfer Cam Johnson and Virginia Union transfer Charles Hall, a late addition to the squad, also saw work there.

—Kejuan Markham and Jordan Clark had interceptions today, bringing the team's total in two practices to three. True freshman Blazen Lono-Wong had one in Wednesday's practice and he returned that for a touchdown.

—Sophomore defensive end Gharin Stansbury participated in practice Friday after being the only scholarship player who did not do so on Wednesday.

—Among those in attendance at practice was former defensive end Tyler Johnson.

Former ASU quarterback Gus Farwell has been named to the Pac-12 Network announcing team for games this season. Farwell was a walk-on for the Sun Devils in 1996.

Reach the reporter at Michelle.Gardner@gannett.com or 602 444-4783.  Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.

Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ASU football's Case Hatch ready for his unsung role as a fullback