(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
While the quarterbacks have garnered most of the attention, another Arizona State position group with a lot of change are the wide receivers. Gone are Devin Lucien and Gary Chambers, and in are freshman N’Keal Harry and (again) Cameron Smith, who is returning from an injury that kept him out all of last season. Add in the emergence of track star Tim White and suddenly this becomes a position of great intrigue.
The experience of the group is far from abundant, but the potential is there for wide receiver to be a huge strength of the Sun Devils. At Monday’s practice, White, Smith and Ellis Jefferson played with the first team.
The breakout player from last year’s underachieving team, White had 57 receptions for 633 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015. He will enter the 2016 season with high expectations.
Smith is on the recovery path, but proved himself in 2014 with a strong campaign, catching six touchdowns and collecting a total of 596 yards as the team’s third option. A normally quiet presence, quarterback Brady White mentioned that Smith has been more vocal this season both on and off the field.
Meanwhile, Jefferson may see a more expansive role with the team after just 12 catches last season.
New wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, who held the same position at the University of Texas previously, will have his hands full with this group due to its youth.
A big difference this year as opposed to previous years is that the starting quarterback job is still up for grabs, and likely won’t be resolved until next fall. Unlike the past few years, in which Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici have come in as the clear starter, nobody has taken the reins of the offense yet, which has made it more difficult for the receivers to get into a rhythm.
With Brady White, Bryce Perkins and Manny Wilkins all getting reps with the first team, it is anyone’s job and means that the receivers are working with a different quarterback almost every practice.
“Everyone is on the field right now trying to execute the offense,” Norvell said. “We have had four days of spring ball, we don’t play a game until September so we are just trying to execute.”
Norvell mentioned Jalen Harvey and Ellis Jefferson as two players who have had strong camps thus far.
The position battle, however, has not had much of an effect on the preparation of the wide receivers.
“We are all learning this system and seeing how we can play with continuity,” Norvell said. “It has gone real well so far.”
ASU’s coaching staff will take its time choosing a quarterback, but chemistry with the wide receivers will be a huge factor.
Whether it is any of the experienced players or a younger guy like Harry, who won’t enter campus until the fall, someone will have to step into the lead receiver role. Having stability at quarterback will play a big part in determining who that will be.