I'm well known for being out-spoken, and my new series, "Haber's Hunches" showcases my thoughts. Let's not get carried away, I make plenty of bold predictions, but don't compare me to Skip Bayless.
The first edition of Haber's Hunches will be focused around the Arizona State receiving corps and the player I believe we'll all be talking about.
The Hunch: Jaelen Strong will be the best wide receiver on the ASU roster.
The combination of ASU's lack of talent on the outside and Strong's incredible ability led me to the statement above. The Pierce College product comes into Tempe with three years of eligibility remaining. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Strong possess a rare blend of size and speed. Strong reportedly runs the 40-yard-dash at 4.46, which could be problematic for Pac-12 defenses.
The four-star recruit and Philadelphia native will be the real deal. Strong had 13 offers to decide from, including the likes of South Carolina, University of Miami, Nebraska, Tennessee and more. Wide receivers commonly get labeled as divas and poor decision makers, but Strong proved those stigmas wrong by showing no interest in the University of Arizona.
Joking aside, the numbers back up my lofty claims about Strong. In 10 games played last season, he posted 67 catches, 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. Victor Valley College saw Strong at his strongest, as he accumulated 10 receptions, 250 yards and three trips to pay dirt.
Though Strong's academic standing appeared in question, he seems on track to join the team for fall camp.
According to an interview with DevilsDigest.com, Strong said: "I told the Arizona State coaches before that I don't know if I can get out in time to play in the fall (of 2013). But they sat down with me and helped me out with a plan and that got me excited and motivated. I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. It's like a football game. If you give 100 percent, you will look over your shoulder and the ball will be thrown to you at the right spot. So, in school if I give my all it won't be a problem for me being a Sun Devil in the fall."
More recently, our good friend Brad Denny of AzFamily.com ranked Strong as the Sun Devils 12th most important player. I would argue Strong should be significantly higher because of the need for help at wide receiver. In the piece, Denny turned to ESPN's scouts for some help: "Strong is a playmaker and on skill alone should be able to be a factor quickly at the next level."
Comparing Strong to offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's curent crop of wideouts seems unfair. The best options in the ASU passing attack are running backs, granting Strong an immediate opportunity to prove his worth. Rashad Ross graduated, opening up at least one starting position.
Kevin Ozier headlines the current group and pulled in 21 receptions, 324 yards and five touchdowns, yet lacked the game changing dynamic. Strong could've easily surpassed those pedestrian numbers. Nothing against Ozier, who emerged as a solid outlet, but he simply doesn't have the speed or size to compare to Strong. Although, Ozier can and will be asked to factor in on the opposite side of Strong.
To be clear, this conversation doesn't include elite tight end Chris Coyle. Fellow junior college wide receiver transfer Joe Morris is arguably Strong's biggest competition production wise. However, Morris needs to overcome a foot issue, and will be limited throughout fall camp.
Coach Todd Graham referred to Strong as one of the most dynamic players he's seen on film. Strong features long arms and uncanny leaping skills, grabbing the ball at its highest point. Wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander will challenge Strong to improve on his route running. At times, Strong tends to rely on his "freak of nature" athletic capabilities over running crisp routes.
Strong seems eerily similar to a combination of Gerell Robinson and Mike Willie, both ex-ASU wideouts that made the NFL via un-drafted free agency. It may be premature, but Strong could be better than both. Robinson displayed the size of Strong at 6'3 while Willie sported the unteachable athleticism of Strong. Robinson and Willie provided lots of production for the Sun Devil faithful, and Strong owns their strengths and doesn't have either's weakness.
By the end of the hype-fulled 2013 season, I expect Strong to tally 1,100 yards receiving and about 60 receptions. If Strong lives up to my outlandish expectations, he will easily be the best ASU wide receiver.