Posted: 1:00 p.m. Monday, March 18, 2013
By Jack Follman
Though they won't be favored to win the conference, or even their division, the Sun Devils might have the smallest amount of pressing questions about their team heading into spring. Unlike about half of the conference, they are set at quarterback with Taylor Kelly and return a number of experienced starters at pretty much every position group except for one, wide receivers.
The good news for the Sun Devils is that while they are very thin and unproven at wide receiver, they return two of the best pass-catching running backs in the conference in Marion Grice and D.J. Foster and one of the best tight ends in the conference in Chris Coyle. So they aren't exactly hurting for targets for Kelly per se, but that doesn't mean that their offense will need some receivers out wide to stretch the field.
The Sun Devils graduated their two most productive receivers from 2012 in Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles and return only one receiver who had more than 200 yards receiving in senior Kevin Ozier. Ozier will likely become the Sun Devil's number one receiver and is an excellent possession style receiver at 6'3 196, but Todd Graham and Kelly will definitely need some other, more unproven receivers to emerge in Spring and show what they can do.
Sophomore Richard Smith could be the speedy, big play guy that they need to truly stretch the field. Smith is small at 5'9 165, but is probably the fastest guy of their receivers. Whether split out wide or in the slot, the Sun Devils will likely try to turn Smith into their deep threat this spring as they rest of their receiver options are bigger, more possession style receivers.
With Ozier and Smith already establishing themselves a bit in 2012, the aforementioned cluster of big, possession receivers is where the Sun Devils will have to find some new options. The first option, and the only one with pass-catching experience is the biggest of the group, senior Alonzo Agwuenu. Agwuenu is 6'4 211 and was able to catch a touchdown in 2012. However, he will have a lot of competition from other similar players.
His biggest competition might be JC signee Jaelen Strong. Strong has great speed for a player of his size (6'4 200)and chose Arizona State over other big time schools like Nebraska, Miami and Tennessee. He might actually have the most upside of any receiver the Sun Devils have on their roster, but he will need to start adjusting to major college football this spring. The Sun Devils signed another 6'4 200 JC receiver this year in Joseph Morris, but he was far less heralded than Strong, so it's less likely that he will be able to step in right away.
Another player could get a long look this spring is sophomore Gary Chambers who as actually listed in last season's depth chart but didn't make any catches. Chambers is a big target at 6'3 200 and gained some experience on special teams in 2012. Look for Chambers to have a good chance at becoming Kelly's favorite big receiver target if neither of the JC signees can establish themselves in the Spring.