While all the attention of the offseason camps has centered on the Arizona State quarterback battle, the competition to be one of the eventual winner's receiving targets is just as intense.
After losing Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad, Mike Willie and George Bell, the Sun Devil wide receiving corps is in full rebuilding mode.
Thankfully, the group is full of talented--if inexperienced--players. One of the most promising, and inspiring, players this offseason has been junior Kevin Ozier.
The 6'0", 200 pounder began his Sun Devil career as a walk-on in 2009 and did not see game action until last year. In his limited reps, he caught 11 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Over this offseason, his incredible work ethic resulted in Todd Graham awarding him a scholarship, and a strong spring has him currently atop the depth chart at the "Y" wide receiver spot.
I caught up with Ozier to discuss his journey, what the new passing game will look like and how good this Sun Devil team can be in 2012.
Brad Denny: Joining the team as a walk-on player was obviously a very difficult route to take. After not seeing the field until last year, did you ever have doubts, or did you always see light at the end of the tunnel?
KO: I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I think of myself as a humble player. I just worked hard, and they said that hard work pays off, and it finally paid off for me.
BD: As you're streaking into the endzone against Colorado, and Brock's pass is in the air, what thoughts were going through your mind, and what was the feeling after you made the score?
KO: When the ball was in the air, I was thinking "I got it, I got it, I got it." Then when I caught the touchdown, I thought "Yeah, Coach is going to see this. Hopefully after he's seen it, he'll put me in the game more, have more trust in me, and hopefully give me a scholarship off that play."
BD: It didn't take a lot of time for Coach Graham to reward your effort with a scholarship. What did that mean to you?
KO: It meant a lot. He wasn't here the previous season, so he didn't get to see me practice. All he had was film. Him giving me the scholarship shows that he has good judgement in players. I appreciate it.
BD: What has been your impression of the changes Coach Graham has brought about in his first eight months?
KO: I feel the program has gotten more strict. It's a zero tolerance type team now, and that's good. It will help keep us disciplined. He's not going to take any lollygagging at practice. You're going to go full speed no matter what you do, or you're not going to play.
BD: In the new offense, Coach Norvell has you at the Y position, making the middle of the field your domain. What should we expect from you in this scheme, and on a larger scale, from the passing offense as a whole?
KO: For me to make plays. To make a good block and open up a hole for a running back, and making great catches over the middle.
The old offense, we threw more. But in this offense, I feel like we're going to take more shots down the field. Run it, run it, run it, take a shot and hopefully get a big gain or touchdown.
BD: One of your better skills is your ability to block for the run game. With an offense that figures to be a run-first attack, how have you and the other wide receivers that responsibility?
KO: Our new receivers coach, Coach Alexander, at the beginning of practice, we do blocking drills for 10 minutes straight. We block each other and work different cutoff angles. We work at it a lot more.
BD: The big story heading into camp is the battle at quarterback. From a wide receiver's perspective, what can you tell us about the three guys?
KO: It's difficult to say. They all bring different great qualities. Eubank can zone read and he can throw the ball. TK (Taylor Kelly) can as well. I think TK and Eubank are the same kind of players, and Berc (Mike Bercovici) has more accuracy. I feel like he's more accurate and can put the ball on the money.
BD: How have you and the rest of the receiving corps taken to position coach DelVaughn Alexander?
KO: He's been coaching for 17 years or so and I feel like he knows a lot about this position. He can help teach me as well as the other wide receivers the fundamentals that we need. He does that. Like blocking. It's not all about running routes. If you can block well, it adds another aspect to your game.
BD: What do you feel are the reasonable expectations from this year's Sun Devil team?
KO: To play hard and win.
BD: What are the primary challenges that this team is going to face this year?
KO: It's really just getting the offense locked down. It's a new offense and a new defense too. As long as we grasp the new offense and defense, and we players take it in like we should and study film, we shouldn't have any problems. As long as everyone is studying film and their playbooks, we should be good.
BD: How do you define the term "Speaking Victory"?
KO: Speaking victory is simple things. If I ask you how you are doing today, I'm doing great, I'm doing excellent. You have to have an optimistic outlook on everything. Think positive.
BD: For this team to succeed in 2012, what is the one X-factor that has to come through?
KO: Just coming together. As long as we all play together. I'll speak for the offense, as long the offense all plays together and rallies to the ball, lines up and plays at a fast tempo, we're going to be a problem for other teams.
Previous interviews in our "12 in '12" series: QB Michael Eubank, K Alex Garoutte, RB James Morrison, C Kody Koebensky, CB Deveron Carr, QB Mike Bercovici, Devilbacker Carl Bradford, S Keelan Johnson, LB Brandon Magee, S Alden Darby, P Josh Hubner
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