VOTE: What is the best pass catching duo in ASU history?

VOTE: What is the best pass catching duo in ASU history?

VOTE: What is the best pass catching duo in ASU history?

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by Brad Denny and Joe Healey

azfamily.com

Posted on June 6, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Poll:
Who is ASU's best ever pass catching duo?

The week's final poll is here.

If you missed any of the others, catch up now before diving into today's debate.

Best QB-to-WR combo

Best DL and LB tandem

Best RB duo

Best CB pairing

Now we air it out one last time:

Who is the best single-season receiving duo in Sun Devil history?

For this debate, this includes both wide receivers and tight ends.

Our nominees...

WR Ben Hawkins & TE Jerry Smith (1964)

A star both at receiver and in the defensive secondary, Hawkins is remembered as one of ASU's most versatile athletes of all time as he was the team's leading receiver in 1964 and '65 while also receiving First-Team All-America honors at defensive back in 1965.  Smith, on the other hand, came to ASU from the junior college ranks and enjoyed an excellent two-year Sun Devil career before becoming one of the NFL's premier tight ends. 

As a junior in 1964, Hawkins hauled in 42 receptions for 719 yards with five touchdowns, joined by Smith's marks of 42 catches for 618 yards with another five scores, helping catapult QB John Torok to single-season ASU records in passing yards and touchdowns that season.

Hawkins went on to play nine professional seasons, while Smith, a team captain as a senior and a Second-Team All-WAC selection in '64, ultimately earned a pair of Pro Bowl selections and ended his career with multiple NFL records for a tight end.  Smith's personal story was recently chronicled on the NFL Network's 'A Football Life'

Both Hawkins and Smith's names now reside in ASU's Sports Hall of Fame. 

WR Steve Holden & TE Joe Petty (1972)

With Danny White at the QB helm, anything was possible for the Devils in the early-1970s and this pair benefitted more than any other during White's junior season in 1972. 

One of ASU's top all-time big-play threats, Holden set what at the time was the school record in touchdown receptions (12) while collecting the second-most receiving yards (911) on only 42 receptions -- a remarkable 21.7-yards-per-catch average.  A First-Team All-America recipient by the FWAA and Time, Holden also netted First-Team All-Western Athletic Conference honors at both wide receiver and as a returns specialist. 

Though not generally remembered as notably as other offensive weapons during the '70s such as Holden, John Jefferson, Woody Green and Freddie Williams, Petty was the most decorated tight end of the decade for the Devils and ranked second all-time at ASU in receptions by a tight end until Todd Heap arrived a quarter century later. Petty captured First-Team All-WAC honors both as a junior in 1971 and as a senior the next season, catching 31 passes for 522 yards with four touchdowns in '72.  Additionally, Petty carries the distinction of joining Heap as the only two tight ends in Sun Devil history to earn first-team all-conference recognition multiple times. 

WR Greg Hudson & WR Morris Owens (1973)

Despite the graduation of both Holden and Petty, Danny White had no shortage of top-notch targets during his record-breaking senior season as Hudson and Owens elevated from lightly-used role players in 1972 to stat book standouts in '73. 

Though the pair only combined for 20 receptions in 1972 in the shadow of the aforementioned star combo, 1973 saw the duo explode equally as Hudson and Owens remain the most statistically dynamic one-two punch at wide receiver Sun Devil football has ever seen. 

Hudson was targeted more frequently, totaling 62 receptions for 974 yards and eight scores, while Owens was a perfect big-play complement with his 1,144 yards with nine touchdowns on 52 receptions.  Shockingly, neither player earned any mention among all-conference or All-America lists, though Hudson took home Offensive Most Valuable Player honors in ASU's 28-7 Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh.  

Despite a lack of accolades and awards that year, 40 years later Hudson and Owens' 2,118 combined total still stands as the top mark for a single-season Sun Devil pass-catching pair. 

WR Derek Hagan and WR Skyler Fulton (2003)

Dirk Koetter's third year in Tempe was a tough one, but the struggles were not due to a lack of a top-notch receiving tandem.

Derek Hagan took over for the departed and record-setting Shaun McDonald as the team's No. 1 wide receiver and excelled. He made 66 catches for 1,076 yards and nine touchdowns and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors.

Opposite Hagan was Skyler Fulton, a talented two-sport star for the Sun Devils. With plenty of Andrew Walter passes to go around, Fulton made the most of his senior year, catching 62 passes for 901 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. That total remains tied for the fifth-best single-season total in ASU history.

WR Derek Hagan and TE Zach Miller (2004)

Hagan was at it again in 2004, posting his best season in what would be a career that re-wrote the Pac-10 record books.

As Andrew Walter's No. 1 target, Hagan led the team with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hagan would go on to earn second team All-Pac-10 honors and lower level All-American honors from many outlets.

As if Hagan wasn't tough enough for defenses, they now had to contend with the eventual Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year and second team All-Pac-10 tight end Zach Miller. The 6-foot-5, 260 pounder was a terror underneath, hauling in a then-school tight end record 56 passes for 552 yards and six touchdowns.

WR Jaelen Strong and TE Chris Coyle (2013)

It was good to be Taylor Kelly last year.

When he wanted to take a shot downfield, he had Jaelen Strong. A 6-foot-4 frame combined with great speed, reliable hands, and excellent ball skills makes for a dangerous weapon, and the Kelly-to-Strong combo immediately become one of the Pac-12's best. Whether he outran, out-jumped, or out-backshouldered the competition, Strong was at times unstoppable. A mid-season injury likely prevented him from breaking records, but he still finished with 75 catches for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns to earn second team All-Pac-12 honors.

When Kelly wanted something underneath or along the seams, he had a record-setting first-team All-Pac-12 tight end. The sure-handed Chris Coyle, coming off a 57 reception year, was a terrific No. 2 option for Kelly. In his senior year, he had 29 catches for 423 yards and four touchdowns. 

Honorable Mention: WR Chris McGaha & WR Michael Jones (2007), WR Keith Poole & WR Lenzie Jackson (1996), WR Aaron Cox & WR Bruce Hill (1986), WR John Jefferson & TE Bruce Hardy (1977)

 

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