After two consecutive seasons producing a first-round talent, the Arizona State receivers took a step back in the fall of 2020. N’Keal Harry (2019) and Brandon Aiyuk (2020) each excelled in their final seasons in Tempe, propelling themselves to first round selections in the NFL draft and earning ASU a reputation as the “WRU” of the west.
While it looked as though Frank Darby could be next in line, injuries coupled with a pandemic shortened season spelled disappointment, and ultimately a sixth-round selection by the Atlanta Falcons. The Sun Devil pass catchers are looking to bounce back.
Making a Statement
Not the biggest name in the offense, and not nearly the biggest in stature, junior Ricky Pearsall has been one of Jayden Daniels’ most prolific pass catchers in preseason camp. The local product (Corona Del Sol) caught just six passes for a measly 86 yards and one touchdown in 2020, but his performance in offensive sessions recently make the case that last year was a fluke. Look for Pearsall to have an expanded role in the Sun Devil aerial attack in 2021.
Having a surplus of talent is a problem that no coach will ever complain about. When it comes to his wide receivers, Herm Edwards has no shortage in talent, but the young core of pass catchers are lacking a leader in the pack. Young guns Lonyatta Alexander Jr., Andre Johnson, Geordon Porter and LV Bunkley Shelton have all shown impressive glimpses into their full potential so far in practice, while Johnny Wilson has been the most consistent target outside of Pearsall. There are certainly snaps up for grabs down the stretch of camp.
Clean and Crisp
Minimizing errors will be the name of the game for a talented but largely inexperienced ASU offense this season. A big problem for the unit during the four game 2020 campaign was backbreaking drops, along with costly holding penalties. So far in practice, the drops have been minimal. Although the reps have been mostly uncontested, the receivers have shown a clear commitment to bringing in dimes from Jayden Daniels every time. In practice Monday morning, Andre Johnson had the lone drop in a roughly 20 minute period of routes. The unit was completely clean on deep balls, including nifty grabs from Porter and Wilson on deep post routes.
It’s clear that the rhythm and connection between Daniels and his receivers is improving daily. Just 17 days away from the opener at home against Southern Utah, the Sun Devil passing attack looks formidable, with obvious room for improvement.