Chatman looking to make a quick impact for Sun Devil offense

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(Courtesy: ASU Athletics) (Courtesy: ASU Athletics)

At Wednesday night’s Arizona State practice, No. 21 was making a few leaping catches for the Sun Devil offense from the wide receiver position.

It was a sight seen often over the last two seasons, as Jaelen Strong reeled in one highlight reel catch after another. However, he’s now in the NFL, but a new Sun Devil is looking to keep up that number's standard of excellence.

“I didn’t even know anything about that until I got here,” true freshman wide receiver Terrell Chatman said of wearing Strong’s old No. 21, “but I’m grateful for it. They expect a lot from me, and I’m going to live up to their expectation.”

Wednesday’s session was the first ever practice for Chatman and his fellow newcomers as Sun Devils. The coaching staff led the rookies through a brisk two-hour session in helmets and shorts, looking to get them up to speed before full-team practices begin later this week.

“There are a few things I need to sharpen up, but overall, I think it went pretty good,” Chatman said of the session.

Chatman’s road to this initial practice was anything but straightforward.

The Baton Rouge, La. native starred at Central High School, picking up offers from programs like TCU, Louisville, and Arizona. He ultimately decided to verbally commit to Miami in July of 2014, but following a visit to ASU on Jan. 23 of this year, he was torn.

National Signing Day came and went on Feb. 4 with no decision from Chatman. With so many factors to consider, he realized the magnitude of his decision and took some extra time.

“This is the place that I’m going to be spending the next three to four years of my life, and I feel like that is very important,” Chatman said. “I felt there that it was very important.”

Five days later, Chatman chose the Sun Devils.

“I just felt that, out of all of the other school that were recruiting me, ASU fit me right,” he said.

Chatman’s commitment continued a run of success that ASU’s coaching staff has had in Louisiana. He is the sixth Louisiana prep player brought in by the program over the last three years, and a seventh—running back Tre Turner—is a verbal commit for 2016. Chatman is happy to be part of a new talent pipeline.

“It’s comforting to see other people that are from Louisiana out here,” Chatman said. “I don’t feel stranded.”

Since arriving in Tempe, Chatman has been adjusting to life as a student-athlete at a major program.

“The classroom, it’s a lot different,” said Chatman. “There are bigger tasks. The work ethic, you just have to step it up that much more.”

Much of that work comes in learning the Sun Devil offense and his responsibilities within it. Helping him along have been veterans like D.J. Foster, Gary Chambers, and Ellis Jefferson.

“They are doing a really good job of helping me to learn the playbook,” Chatman said. “We stay after practice sometimes, spending extra time going over the playbook.”

ASU’s staff not only has high hopes for Chatman, but expectations of contributing quickly.

Other than Foster, who played running back last season, ASU’s returning wide receivers combined for just 37 catches a year ago. With gunslinging quarterback Mike Bercovici taking over, the ball will be in the air a lot this season, and sure-handed playmakers are a necessity. A gradual learning curve is a luxury that Chatman does not have, but he’s fine with that.

“I like the pressure.”

On the field, Chatman boasts an imposing 6-foot-4 frame that, when combined with his leaping ability, make him an ideal jump ball target. He also has some pretty good hands.

“Height and playmaking ability,” said Chatman of his top skills. “My jumping ability, getting in and out of my breaks, and attacking the ball.”

Over the next few weeks of fall camp, Chatman will battle with Jefferson and UCLA transfer Devin Lucien at the X receiver position. He says his top focus is to continue to assimilate the offense, but that he hopes to find a contributing role this fall.

“Hopefully I’ll be on the field a lot,” said Chatman. “That’s what I’m expecting. I’m going to work my hardest to do that.”

So far, so good. His initial efforts on Wednesday caught the eye of head coach Todd Graham.

"Terrell Chatman? Looked good in that No. 21 jersey, didn't he? Really good," said Graham after practice.

Yet as he wrapped up practice No. 1 and looked ahead to what’s next, Chatman had just one goal in mind.

“Be a playmaker like I know I can. That’s what I came here to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Follow me on Twitter @BDenny29

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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