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Arizona State should use UNLV contest to build confidence in young receivers

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A building block

Zac BonDurant

At this point, everyone knows how explosive and dangerous the Arizona State rushing attack is. It’s even reasonable to say that Jayden Daniels could not throw a single pass and the Sun Devils could beat the inferior UNLV on Saturday.

However, what’s the point in doing that? It’s known that Arizona State has a great running game and backfield. It’s known that the defense has plenty of experience and will be reliable throughout the season. The unknown part of the Sun Devils is what is the ceiling of the passing game and the offense as a whole?

The youngsters of the wide receiver room; Andre Johnson, LV Bunkley-Shelton and Johnny Wilson combined for seven catches and 82 yards in the win over Southern Utah. Johnson went up and brought down a ball for a huge gain for 31 yards on the Sun Devils first real drive, but he wasn’t really involved after that. Bunkley-Shelton had three catches, only one had significant yardage. Wilson, who had drop issues last season, caught two, but fumbled one away.

There’s nothing wrong building an offense on the running game. Although, it’s a lot easier as a defense to allocate resources to stop the run compared to stopping a good passing game. Arizona State can certainly get by lesser opponents without passing a lot, but what about versus USC or when the Sun Devils head to Utah or UCLA, and those teams stack the box? Are those guys ready to step up to do it in those moments? That’s why it is important in a game against a weaker defense to help create confidence in those guys.

Offensive coordinator Zak Hill a lot more creativity in his passing concepts last week than Sun Devil fans saw during the Rob Likens era. Nevertheless, it’s important for him to get the younger guys involved early against UNLV.

Johnson showed he’ll go get a jump ball as an X receiver? Why not try to give him two to three a game just to see if he’ll continue to make plays on them. Pepper Bunkley-Shelton with short targets to let him make plays in the open field. Scheme open Wilson with bump and rubs to let him just focus on catching the ball.

Daniels has shown flashes of stardom, but he can only succeed so much if his receivers aren’t ready to make plays. The chances against UNLV could mean highlights against Pac-12 teams.