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ASU Football Season Positional Grades: Receivers & Tight Ends

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This group of pass catchers flashed ability at different times throughout the season.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret the Sun Devils receiving core missed the production of former standout Jaelen Strong in 2015.

The team was hoping to help remedy Strong's absence by moving D.J. Foster out wide full time, adding a dangerous presence to an intriguing mix of players heading into the season.

Unfortunately, this season's group of pass catchers failed to truly produce a consistent, go-to target who could not only serve as a reliable option, but one who could also pose as a threat to score anytime they were in possession of the ball.

While there wasn't a single player who regularly displayed this full arsenal of traits, the unit as a whole presented pieces that each contributed as the season progressed.

Considering how inconsistent the group was as a whole, with different players performing well at different points in the season, I've employed a quarter-grading system based on three-game splits through the 12-game regular season. There is a cumulative grade for each player, and then a wholesome grade for the entire group at the end.

Devin Lucien, WR -- Quarter Grades: B-/C/B/A

It took Lucien awhile to get acclimated to the Sun Devil offense, but one can only wonder what the results would have been on the field had he been more familiar with both the offensive scheme and quarterback play upon transferring to ASU in late April.

Amidst his slow first half to the season, Lucien flashed his ability on the outside at the ‘X' position as a solid possession target, gaining a first down on 13 of his first 20 catches (not including touchdowns).

In fact, Lucien proved to be one of the team's most reliable targets over the course of the season, hauling in 57 of his 82 targets (69.5 percent), with 37 of his receptions gaining first downs.

However, the graduate transfer's most important contributions came down the final stretch of the season, as he caught 17 passes for 390 yards and four touchdowns in the team's final two games alone. He proved to be a key asset in the vertical passing game as well, averaging an outstanding 23 yards per catch between the two games.

Lucien would finish his one-year stint in Tempe as the team's leading receiver in 2015, totaling 930 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

Again, one can only imagine how the regular season would have went had Lucien found this kind of form earlier in the season and maintained it, but for his efforts to close the season on such a high note, he is commended with a solid grade.

Devin Lucien's Final Grade: B+

Tim White, WR -- Quarter Grades: B+/B+/B+/C

White's big-play ability made him a commodity in the ASU offense early in the season, and it flashed often in his performance as a return man on special teams. However, here we'll try to stick to dissecting his influence as a receiver.

White made the most of his touches during the first half of the year, notching five of his six receiving touchdowns while logging four explosive plays (receptions of 20+ yards OR rushes of 12+ yards) over a five-game span.

His production sputtered over the final quarter of the season, as he only averaged 6.3 yards per catch over the final three games despite snagging 18 receptions, including no explosive plays (of course, Lucien's emergence may have had something to do with that).

As a matter of fact, White only registered two explosive plays over the entire second half of the season for the Sun Devils offense, but was often serviceable in moving the chains.

While drops and consistency remain an issue, White still managed to catch 69.7 percent of his targets on the season. His playmaking ability makes him a dangerous weapon for the ASU offense without even considering his prowess as a return specialist.

All things considered, the JUCO transfer had a solid first year (53 catches, 554 yards, 6 TD), and he should be a featured part of the passing game next season.

Tim White's Final Grade: B

D.J. Foster, WR -- Quarter Grades: B-/C+/C/C

Foster's transition to the outside didn't go as expected, resulting in an underwhelming finish for one of the program's most respected players.

As an at-large threat to defenses from both the backfield and the slot in 2014, Foster managed to take advantage of defenses that were often too focused on containing Jaelen Strong by hauling in 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He also was pretty reliable, catching 66.7 percent of his targets last season.
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This season, Foster's catch rate suffered a drastic regression, as he only caught 54.5 percent of the 99 passes tossed his way, managing only 544 yards on 54 receptions. He even averaged a career-low 10.1 yards per catch during his senior season.

Despite coming into the campaign familiar with the ASU offense and its signal-caller, Foster seemed to be disconnected, particularly throughout the second and third quarters of the year during which he was only able to catch 29 of his 60 targets over a six-game period.

Foster came into the season having only totaled 100+ yards receiving once during his career, and didn't top 87 yards in 2015 (he has the opportunity to do so against West Virginia, though). While he was clearly favored and trusted by Bercovici (see: 99 targets), Foster wasn't able to get going on the outside, preventing the offense from ever performing at full capability.

D.J. Foster's Final Grade: C+

Gary Chambers, WR -- Quarter Grades: C+/B-/C/C

The senior receiver made some opportunistic noise in his final year of play.

Chambers was relatively quiet, but his five-catch, 103-yard showing against the USC Trojans was noteworthy. He wasn't the most talented receiver of the bunch, but he did contribute more often in 2015, finishing the regular season with 24 catches for 420 yards and one touchdown, as well as a team-leading 70.6 percent catch rate.

Gary Chambers' Final Grade: C

Kody Kohl, TE -- Quarter Grades: A-/A-/B/B-

Kohl's role as the team's tight end and H-back proved to be important throughout the season.

He was Mike Bercovici's favorite red zone target, as Kohl was targeted 13 times, catching six passes for 35 yards and four scores in the area of the field.

Kohl was solid for the team in 2015 and one would assume his role would only expand next season after ending the regular season with 30 receptions for 334 yards.

Kody Kohl's Final Grade: B+

Ellis Jefferson, WR -- Quarter Grades: C+/INC/C/C-

Jefferson was a player of intrigue during the offseason because his combination of size and athleticism was the most reminiscent of and comparable to Strong's.

Alas, the sophomore didn't assert himself as the heir apparent for the Sun Devils, and posted very similar numbers to that of his freshman campaign as he caught just 12 passes for 160 yards.

Ellis Jefferson's Final Grade: C

Raymond Epps, TE -- Quarter Grades: INC/INC/INC/INC

Epps' athleticism makes him an intriguing option at H-back, but Kohl deservedly remained utilized ahead of him.

His three-catch game which included a go-ahead touchdown score against Cal was the only highlight of his sophomore season. Aside from that, we didn't really see enough of Epps to make an assessment.

Raymond Epps' Final Grade: INC

Frederick Gammage, WR -- Quarter Grades: C-/INC/C-/INC

Gammage struggled to find the field with ASU deploying D.J. Foster and sometimes even Tim White in the slot position ahead of him.

We'll see if 2016 provides him with an opportunity to display what he can do.

Frederick Gammage's Final Grade: C-

Jalen Harvey, WR -- Quarter Grades: INC/INC/INC/B

As a freshman, Harvey didn't see the field until the final two games, but his first (and only) catch of his career did go for a score, if you needed any reason to be excited for his potential moving forward.

Jalen Harvey's Final Grade: INC

Final Grade: B-

Overall, when you consider the amount of new faces having to replace the production of Jaelen Strong, this is a fair grade.

The group undoubtedly left something to be desired, but while inconsistent, there were flashes of the unit's potential.

Meanwhile, Kody Kohl has shown he can be a consistent contributor when provided the targets, and if any of the returners on the outside can display some steady, strong form next season, this could end up being one of the team's most intriguing position groups, if it isn't already.

Catch rate statistics double-checked using Football Study Hall's 2016 Cactus Bowl advanced stats preview.