ASU’s offense was good last year. It could have been even better.
The Sun Devils ranked No. 25 in the country in total offense with 464.54 yards per game and 6,039 total offensive yards. QB Taylor Kelly threw for 3,039 yards and was among the most efficient passers in the country and ranked ninth in pass efficiency rating (159.88). And he did this with a less than ideal receiver set.
What the offense lacked was a big-play wide receiver who could take the top off of opposing defenses.
Prince Community College transfer Jaelen Strong could be that very threat if he lives up to the hype that’s buzzing around him.
There’s good reason for it. In 2012 at Prince CC, Strong put up some gaudy numbers: 67 receptions for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. That averages out to 18.9 yards per reception and a touchdown every 4.5 times he caught the football.
The reason why the 6-foot-4 Strong managed to rack up such eye-popping averages was because of his outstanding straight-line speed. In his game film, Strong frequently flat-out outruns defenders to get behind the safeties. From there, it’s just pitch-and-catch with the quarterback for the touchdown.
In addition to his speed, Strong is also slippery in the open-field. He ran a lot of quick hook routes or short slants designed to get him the ball in open space. Once he had the ball in his hands, he was able to slip though arm-tackles and pick up an extra three to five yards after the catch.
While an explosive wide receiver like Strong could obviously add a wrinkle to the passing game, he could also help improve the Sun Devil’s bread and butter: a ground attack that was ranked No. 25 in the country at the end of last year.
Opposing defensive backs would have to respect Strong’s speed, creating even more opportunities for running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice. Safeties would be forced to play further away from the ball and cornerbacks wouldn’t be able to jump the run for fear of letting a touchdown sail over their heads.
This leads to wider running lanes for Grice and Foster, meaning a potential boost to an ASU running game that already rolled out 205.3 rushing yards per game.
So, potentially, Strong could equal improvement for both the running and passing games of the Sun Devil offense.
Before getting too worked up, let’s slow down for a second.
At this point, this is all speculation. Although Strong will almost certainly see the field this season he still has to perform well at camp against ASU’s incumbent receivers and the receivers from this year’s recruiting class.
Kevin Ozier is listed at number one on the post-spring depth chart at the “X” receiver spot with Gary Chambers the number one at “Y.” Alonzo Agwuenu could compete for the “X” spot with Ozier and Strong.
Several talented receivers are on their way to Tempe from this year’s recruiting class. Fellow big-bodied receivers Ellis Jefferson and Pierce College teammate Joe Morris, who are also both 6-foot-4, are in the mix as well.
With fall camp still to be played out, it’s hard to tell precisely where Strong will end up. But, with his potential, Sun Devil fans have every reason to be excited.
Here’s a look at Jaelen Strong’s Freshman Highlights at Pierce College. For more of his videos along with other incoming recruits, visit the RECRUITS BEFORE THEY WERE SUN DEVILS Video Collection.
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