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ASU Football Spring Preview: Receivers and tight ends

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With spring football nearing, we take a look at ASU’s receiver and tight end units.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Spring football is right around the corner. House of Sparky will be providing you content previewing Arizona State’s units ahead of offseason practices. Next we take a look at the receivers and tight ends.

Overview

The Arizona State Sun Devils’ receiver and tight end corps were a mixed bag of results in 2016. However, that’s not to say those results didn’t produce one or two potentially-big prizes.

At receiver, senior wideout Tim White was hampered by injuries over the course of the year, preventing him from having the full impact he should have had for ASU’s offense. His lack of play made way for N’Keal Harry to establish himself as the team’s most exciting target, but the absence of big-play ability and reliability from White out of the slot was sorely missed. Injuries to other targets, including Jalen Harvey and Cameron Smith, vaulted others into the lineup, too. This season, two additions are expected to help rejuvenate the Sun Devils’ receiving unit.

Tight end responsibilities in ASU’s passing game were different in 2016 as opposed to previous seasons. Starter Kody Kohl established himself as a solid run-blocker while simultaneously seeing his reception totals drop from 32 catches for 368 yards and four touchdowns in 2015, to seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. With Kohl gone, Jay Jay Wilson will look to expand on his sophomore campaign which brought about quite a bit of buzz and intrigue, but was stifled by off-field concerns. With the introduction of a new offensive coordinator, the position’s role could be revitalized next season.

Key Returners

Wide Receivers

Terrell Chatman: No stats recorded in 2016.

Frank Darby: No stats recorded in 2016.

Trent Gilbert: No stats recorded in 2016.

N’Keal Harry: 58 rec., 659 yds, 5 TDs in 12 appearances.

Jalen Harvey: 21 rec., 330 yds in 10 apperances.

Ryan Jenkins: 1 rec., 4 yds in 5 appearances.

Cameron Smith: 12 rec., 192 yds in 8 appearances.

Jack Smith: No stats recorded in 2016.

Jeremy Smith: No stats recorded in 2016.

Kyle Williams: 6 rec., 56 yds in 11 appearances.

Tight Ends

Jared Bubak: No stats recorded in 2016.

Tommy Hudson: No stats recorded in 2016.

Josh Pokraka: No stats recorded in 2016.

Jay Jay Wilson: 4 rec., 81 yds, 3 TDs in 9 appearances.

Who’s New

Wide Receivers

Curtis Hodges: Will arrive following high school graduation.

John Humphrey: No stats recorded in 2016.

Ryan Newsome: No stats recorded in 2016.

Tight Ends

Ceejhay French-Love: 25 rec., 403 yds, 9 TDs at East Los Angeles College.

Mark Walton: Will arrive following high school graduation.

Keep An Eye On: Tight end involvement, starting receiving unit

As aforementioned, the Sun Devils didn’t accrue high production out of their receiving group in 2016, mostly due to what their offensive scheme called for the position to provide. Under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Billy Napier, the unit should see the field more often and be more heavily involved in the passing game.

Napier could also be the key to developing Wilson into a legitimate threat. At 6-foot-2, 259 pounds, his athleticism makes him a concealed weapon begging to utilized. Alongside Wilson, Jared Bubak (6-foot-4, 244 pounds) and Tommy Hudson (6-foot-5, 254 pounds) could etch out on-field roles this season as well, particularly in the blocking game.

As for the receivers, the group is still in the midst of settling out. At the top of the depth chart, expect to see Harry joined by John Humphrey opposite him and Ryan Newsome in the slot. Terrell Chatman, Ryan Jenkins and Kyle Williams are also names worth monitoring entering the new campaign.

Biggest Strength: Star potential

We’ll sound like a broken record here: ASU’s passing options weren’t maximized last season. While Harry went on to set a program record for receiving yards recorded in a single season by a true freshman, his usage and stat totals were only relatively robust. His brilliance came in flashes, but if he can take the next step in his development this year, the sky is obviously the limit for the former top-rated in-state recruit. The same can be said of Wilson, as his four total catches from 2016 underscore the potentially high impact he can have in an offense in which he’s a featured target.

Biggest Concern: Acclimation to the system

With several new faces expected to break into the lineup, the Sun Devils’ receiving options must prove they’re capable of grasping Napier’s offense, all while establishing some form of a rapport with each of the quarterbacks dueling for the starting role. The same can be said of the tight end group, which only returns one player (Wilson) who logged at least one reception in 2016.

What It All Means: Both units are essentially starting anew (sans Harry)

There’s a good amount of greenness between the receiver and tight end units. Both groups could be in line to receive an increased workload in 2017, but there’s plenty riding on how quickly players adjust to Napier’s offensive system. Even when considering the top options from each groups, one must consider Harry is only a sophomore, Wilson hasn’t caught more than five passes in a single season, and the Humphrey-Newsome duo has been removed from game action for a full season.