J.J. Holliday makes a great catch during the spring game (Photo: ASU)
The Arizona State starting quarterback job is still going on as intense as ever, but in the race for to become the eventual winner's go-to target, an early leader has begun to emerge in fall camp.
Over the course of his first three seasons in Tempe, wide receiver J.J. Holliday has yet to make a reception. He saw time on special teams in 2010, but a broken collarbone limited him to just three appearances last season.
However, when Todd Graham took over the program, the door to playing time was opened for the 6'0", 170 pound Holliday. After eight months with Graham, Holliday likes where things are headed, not just for him but for the program as a whole.
"It's really exciting, especially not having a catch as a redshirt junior. It's looking really good right now," told me at ASU Media Day. "I'm really impressed. What he (Graham) has said, he's actually doing, if not done already. It's great to see someone of such high character."
The primary reason for this opportunity is the lack of proven receivers in this offense. The Sun Devils lost over two-thirds of last season's receiving yards, and their leading returning receiver—senior Jamal Miles—caught a large percentage of his passes on swing passes and quick screens. What they lack in experience, Holliday feels they make up for with another trait.
"I think we have a lot of speed. Our receiving corps is really fast. I think Jamal is always going to be there stepping up. There a couple of other roles to fill in, but we'll know by the end of camp who's in those."
Holliday was one of the offense's stars throughout spring practice, showing off consistent hands and crisp routes to complement his excellent speed. He capped off the month with a great showing in the spring game, catching four passes for 72 yards, including a fantastic leaping grab along the sidelines that drew raves from his teammates. Such success is one reason he has become a fan of the new offense and feels his skills are a perfect fit.
"I was a big fan of last year's offense, but this year I feel is a better offense. You can get more done. It's more productive and we can score more often. I'm really fast (he runs a low 4.4 40) and precise on my routes. A technician. I think that will be really good for this offense."
Coming out of spring, Holliday was a co-starter at the X receiver position, and that early success has carried over into the start of fall camp, catching the eye of the most important person out there.
"J.J. Holliday is guy I think is having a great camp," said Graham after Monday's practice. "He's doing some good things."
Those "good things" have come with all quarterbacks lined up behind center, and while Holliday continues to make plays, he thinks the offense can succeed with any one of them...as long as they don't hang him out to dry.
"All three of the quarterbacks have different strengths. They're all really good in their own, individual way. I personally like a quarterback that can take care of you, not let you get hit really bad by throwing it in an awkward position to get hit."
There is still a lot of time for the receiving position to develop over the next three weeks as the August 30th season opener approaches. As Holliday continues to grind to lock down that starting X receiver spot and make that first of hopefully many career receptions, he has just a singular goal.
"My number one goal is to win. I really love winning and winning at all costs."