Rob Malara

ASU Midterm Report: Wide Receiver


As the Sun Devils head into the middle of what Todd Graham refers to it as an “extra week” on his program’s schedule, we have broken down each and every position group on the football team giving a recap of performance with an GIF to match.  Assessments will be dealt out to the performance of this team over a nine-part series.

While the final chapter “has not been written” on the 2015 season according to Graham, the offense has struggled mightily through the first seven games of the season, lacking any consistency from week-to-week.  And by most accounts, the offense has been the main reason behind at least two of the team’s three losses.

Heading into the 2015 season, the ASU football team was facing a monumental hurdle in being forced to replace to production of 2014 stand-outs Jaelen Strong and Cam Smith.  With Strong headed to the NFL, and Smith out for the year due to a knee injury, this would be the position group with the biggest question mark as the Devils headed to Houston for their season opener.

Much like the running back position, and offensive line, this unit has been plagued by inconsistency and injury through the first two months of the season.  Only senior starter Gary Chambers has been healthy through the first seven games, with the likes of Devin Lucien, D.J. Foster, Tim White, and Fred Gammage all dealing with ailments of one kind or another.

While expectations were reserved for this group to replace the first and third most targeted players in the offense last year, not to mention its biggest playmakers in the passing  game, the talent level on paper has yet to match the expectations of the coaching staff or the fan base to this point.  As discussed in our quarterback report, a witches brew of poor quarterback play, drops, play calling, and offensive line play have all played its part in the failure of the ASU passing game to this point in the season.

Most disturbing has been the lack of productivity by Foster, a returning starter from ‘14 assumed to be money in the back after coming back to play out his senior year.  While growing pains were to be expected as Foster transitioned from a full-time running back to a full-time receiver, his lack of explosiveness has been shocking.  

While he’s been targeted by Bercovici more, his yards per target and catch rate have plummeted since last season.  He’s recorded just two catches of twenty yards or more (behind five other receivers on this team) after averaging ten a year over his previous three seasons with the team.

PlayerYearGamesTargetsTargets / GameCatchesCatches / GameYardsTDYds/Yds/Catch RateTarget
Foster, D.J.20157588.2324.527838.74.855.2%21.9%
Foster, D.J.201413937.1624.7688311.17.466.7%20.8%

Some have argued Mike Norvell hasn’t been utilizing him as creatively as in seasons past in the routes he’s running in the scheme, while the casual observer has noticed the increase in drops this season (3 dropped passes on 11 targets against Utah were unacceptable for his experience and talent).  There’s also been the question of whether or not he’s been injured having limped off the field at numerous times during the first seven games of ‘15.

Conversely, the positive contributions by senior transfer Devin Lucien and junior Tim White have been a breath of fresh air to the offense.  White, whose seven explosive plays rank second among all wide receivers despite suffering from a hand injury back in September, has arguably been the most dynamic member of the offense along with running back Demario Richard.  The sky is the limit for White for the remainder of 2015, he just might be the best thing ASU has going for it at receiver in 2016 when they’ll be breaking in a new quarterback.

Lucien recorded his biggest game with the Devils against the Utes catching six passes for 118 yards and has shown to have the best hands among this group of receivers.  With Foster shifting back and forth from receiver to running back due to the injuries on the roster, Lucien has been the most dependable receiver for Bercovici, his friend and former rival dating back to their high school days in Southern California.

Lost in the mix has been Chambers, one of three seniors in this group that when he has targeted him, has provided Bercovici with a big-bodied third down and red zone target.  However it boggles the mind how at 6-foot-4 he has yet to catch a pass in the end zone for the Devils in 2015, leading the Devils in both yards per target (11.4) and yards per catch (17.5) by a wide margin.

Utilizing Foster to help resume being player he was his first three years with the Devils with the continued development of White could be the shot in the arm this position group needs to help the Devils run the table in their final five games leading into bowl season.

About Rob Malara

Rob Malara

Rob Malara is a 2002 Sun Devil grad having spent the majority of his time in Tempe as a football, basketball, and baseball season ticket holder and front row inhabitant. A member of the Football Writers Association of America, he hosted the ASU Devils podcast and was its sub-optimal technical producer through its lifespan. Currently the president of the ASU Alumni Association's Northern Colorado Club, he is part of a family of maroon and gold residing in Fort Collins with his Sun Devil wife and nearby Sun Devil sister.

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