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ASU Football: Playing behind Jaelen Strong no problem for Ellis Jefferson

Could Ellis Jefferson be the next Jaelen Strong?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone in the college football world knows Arizona State's Jaelen Strong.

The redshirt junior wide receiver burst onto the national scene last year with 75 receptions for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. Strong is the anchor of the Sun Devil receiving corps, at least until he enters the NFL draft following this season, as he is expected to do.

So who picks up the slack? Who becomes the go-to guy? How about the player listed directly behind Strong on the depth chart?

That would be Ellis Jefferson, a 6-foot-4, 209-pound redshirt freshman from Denton, Texas. He is the tallest receiver on the roster, and outside of Strong's 212-pound listed weight, he is also the biggest.

Jefferson didn't see the field last year, using redshirt eligibility after a groin injury sidelined him in 2013. This season, while he will be dressed and will get in the game, he's still playing behind one of the best receivers in the country.

He said it doesn't bother him in the slightest.

"I'm fine with it," Jefferson said. "I want to start, but I know Jaelen's position and what he's done. I know I'll get playing time."

Last year in practices Jefferson took reps at slot receiver, but has moved to the outside this year. Is the coaching staff getting him ready for a featured role when the team's current outside threat moves on? Perhaps.

No matter where he is playing, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said he has been improving as camp progresses.

"Honestly, he started off a little slow the first week," Norvell said. "But I thought he really showed up at the scrimmage (last Saturday) and had his best day. That was something that was important, you get in the stadium, you in a scrimmage situation, game situation."

"To see him have a quality day was big. The confidence is rolling."

Norvell said he wasn't sure how often Jefferson will see the field this year, and that entirely depends on his production in practice. Jefferson is not slated to start, but a few big days in camp or one big injury could change that.

"You have to know if your opportunity comes, there can't be a drop-off," Norvell said. "You have to be able to step up and answer the call, and he's done a good job."

Obviously it's a competition. Arizona State has 12 wide receivers on their roster and only a handful see the field. Jefferson said even though the teammates are competing with each other, he said Strong is more than willing to give him some pointers.

"That's with all receivers, they all help each other out," Jefferson said. "Even when we're battling for positions, Jaelen helps me out with everything. He tells me what he sees when I run my route, and the things he wants me to fix. I really appreciate what he does."

"Coming into this fall, I know the defenses more, I know the offenses more."

Of course when Strong leaves, Jefferson won't be the only one competing for wide receiver No. 1 reps. In 2015, but don't sleep on the redshirt freshman whose playing time could be sporadic. Don't sleep on Ellis Jefferson.