Last all, Arizona State featured a potent offense which ranked 14th in scoring average (38.4 points/game) and 25th in yards (464.5 yards/game). ASU quarterbacks also combined for the eighth-best passing efficiency rating in the nation at 155.68.
Just imagine what those figures could have been had the team had any consistent threat at wide receiver.
The team's wide outs struggled early and often in 2012, and in turn, quarterback Taylor Kelly's top targets became tight end Chris Coyle and running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice. To complicate matters moving forward, ASU's top two wide receivers from last season—Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles—depart.
Thankfully, the record-setting Coyle returns. The team was aggressive on the recruiting trail, bringing in five wide receivers to stabilize the group, as well as two intriguing tight end options.
No group may be more interesting, or important, to watch develop over the next four weeks of fall camp than this collection of Sun Devil pass catchers.
- Sr. Kevin Ozier: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
- So. Rick Smith: 5-foot-9, 165 pounds
- Sr. Alonzo Agwuenu: 6-foot-4, 212 pounds
- RSo. Gary Chambers: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
- RFr. Frederick Gammage: 5-foot-10, 168 pounds
- Sr. Chris Coyle: 6-foot-3, 240 pounds
- Sr. Darwin Rodgers: 6-foot-4, 244 pounds
- RFr. Kody Kohl: 6-foot-3, 251 pounds
- RSo. Jaelen Strong: 6-foot-4, 205 pounds
- Jr. Joe Morris: 6-foot-4, 200 pounds
- Fr. Cameron Smith: 6-foot, 185 pounds
- Fr. Ronald Lewis: 6-foot, 185 pounds
- Fr. Ellis Jefferson: 6-foot-4, 200 pounds
- RJr. De'Marieya Nelson: 6-foot-3, 230 pounds
- Fr. Grant Martinez: 6-foot-5, 210 pounds
- Rashad Ross
- Jamal Miles
- A.J. Pickens
- Josiah Blandin
Starting Lineup: First, the good news.
ASU has one of the nation's elite tight ends in Coyle. In his first year in ASU's "3-Back" position, the 6-foot-3, 240 pounder set a new school record for single-season receptions by a tight end with 57. His blend of size, reliable hands, and speed provided matchup problems for defenses along the seams, and his rapport with Kelly should result in another 50+ catch season.
One very intriguing player to watch is Nelson, who fits the team's 3-back description perfectly. Nelson has a powerful 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame, but is a fluid athlete, able to run, receive and block very well.
Big-bodied Darwin Rogers sees time as a more traditional, in-line tight end, and his blocking ability is an asset situationally.
At wide receiver, this are far less settled.
Rick Smith, the speedy sophomore, was a spring standout. Despite standing just 5-foot-9, he proved effective in the slot and on the outside, ran crisp routes, and caught anything thrown his way. A repeat performance in fall camp should see Smith hold on to his current starting spot at the Z-position.
Sure-handed senior Kevin Ozier exited spring as the starter at the X-spot, but could be in for a strong push from incoming players, principally Jaelen Strong. Ozier will not wow anyone with speed or physical talent, yet he has proven to be a reliable possession receiver fro ASU.
The Y, or slot, receiver spot should be wide open. Gary Chambers held the spot in spring, but several newcomers will join the fray for the job.
Camp Battle to Watch: The Y Receiver
With Smith and Ozier penciled in for big roles, how will the third starting spot play out?
The coaching staff has several options here, including incumbent Gary Chambers. Speedy newcomers like Ronald Lewis and Cameron Smith could get a look, or the team could go bigger with Joe Morris. They could slide either Smith or Ozier to the Y, as each has experience there, and focus on the newcomers on the outside.
In any event, this spot remains a key area that should be followed closely for the next few weeks.
X-Factor: Jaelen Strong
Of the five players that ASU brought into the position in the recruiting class, none of them has greater expectations than Strong.
It's easy to see why.
Strong has terrific measurables, combining great size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), speed, and after-the-catch ability to form a potent, all-around threat. The redshirt sophomore hauled in 67 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns last season at Pierce College, and was ranked by ESPN as the nation's 15th overall junior college prospect.
ASU's wide receiving corps remains the biggest question mark on an otherwise talented roster, and should Strong be able to meet the high expectations thrust upon him and nail down a starting job, a good Sun Devil offense could potentially become great.
Overall Situation: 2.5 pitchforks out of 5
Top to bottom, ASU's roster has very few holes and areas of concern, but the biggest by far is at wide receiver. The team will have no lack of talented options from which to choose, but it will invariably rely on some newcomers to help provide a consistent threat outside and downfield.
The Sun Devil offense will be run-heavy and lean on the talented of the dynamic backfield, so having threats at the position that defense respect will be essential.
As long as Coyle stays healthy, there are no such concerns at tight end. He'll be among the nation's best, and if Nelson can come around with his versatile skillset, the Sun Devil offense will be one that will provide multiple matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.