Offense riding red-hot Simpson

When a player comes to a football program, whether or not they have aspirations of going to the NFL there is one thing you ask of them from the time they get there until the time they leave: progression.

After redshirting his first year at ASU, junior wide receiver T.J .Simpson has seen his total receptions and receiving yards grow each year going from two catches for 12 yards in 2008 to five catches for 94 yards in 2009, and 24 catches for 376 yards and counting this season for the Sun Devils.

Talk about progression.

"You start maturing, and with this new offense with my speed and everything I bring to the table it really helps," Simpson said of his development. "It puts defenses in a bind because we have a lot of speed on the offensive side of the ball."

The Peoria High School product has had his ups and downs since arriving at ASU, and while many players find relief through phone calls and text messages, Simpson has the luxury of driving home to see his family.

"It really helps for their support," Simpson mentioned. "Family and friends and people I went to high school with who are still here I get to talk to them. If I'm feeling down about a loss or something I talk to my family, I get to go home and talk to them so the support factor is really good for me to have everyone so close that I can talk to them about a lot of stuff going on."

And if that isn't convenient enough, he could just knock on the door of his cousin, roommate, teammate, and fellow wide receiver Jamal Miles.

"We help each other a lot," Simpson said of his relationship with Miles. "We're also roommates so I help him if he has a question about something; we watch film together so not only here, but at home we help each other."

In the wake of the heart-breaking 34-33 loss to USC in the Coliseum, the two cousins hooked up for a 54-yard completion on the first play to put ASU in position to open the game with a score. As Miles took the handoff, Simpson jetted up the sideline and Miles delivered a pass that Simpson had to come back for to make the catch.

"It was good," Simpson joked of the pass. "I just wish he would've put a little more air under it so it could get to me and I could score, but he threw a good pass, I couldn't blame him for it."

The 54-yard catch is nothing new to Simpson who has seen his share of big plays the last few weeks, and while the offense features short, quick passes, Simpson has emerged as the team's number one deep threat.

"I don't really think it's a role," Simpson declared. "I just think I'm in the right place at the right time, but I'm not going to say I don't like it. I really do like it, and I just like helping the team out and whatever I can do, I'll do just to get a win."

Eight catches and 95 yards weren't enough to get the Sun Devils a win versus the Trojans, but the offense picked up some steam in the second half, and Simpson played a large part in that.

"I think once we went into halftime, the coaches came to us and told us what they were doing," Simpson pointed out. "They had all the right reads and they gave us some plays that we could run and execute and we all went out there on the same page. (QB Steven) Threet was on the same page as the receivers and we just got it done in the second half."

With more catches in the last three games then he's had in his previous two-plus seasons combined, Simpson's hard work is finally starting to pay off, and head coach Dennis Erickson has taken notice.

"He's probably playing better receiver than anyone we have right now," Erickson mentioned. "Particularly the last three weeks. He's made a lot of big plays for us. It's like I said, it's just kind of how it turns out sometimes. It depends on what they do defensively.

"He's grown a lot the last three years and he's starting to take advantage of his speed and he's catching the ball a lot better and he's really spent time working on that."

So with the book closed on the USC contest, the Sun Devils now turn their attention to Stanford who is looking for a birth in the Rose Bowl. While ASU must win out to secure a bowl bid, a win against a top ten team would mean so much more than a chance to play in a bowl game: it would mean a chance to finally to prove to themselves and their fans that they can beat a quality opponent.

"I think they are really disciplined," Simpson said of Stanford's defense. "They are well coached, they don't make many mistakes so we're just trying to go out there and execute what we have to do and hopefully we'll come out with a ‘W'.

"I think with a win this weekend it would be great for the team and great for everybody who is in Arizona and is an Arizona State fan because like you said, we've been close in a lot of games and we just need to get over the hump. I just feel like we've been so close and we can taste victory and we just need a ‘W' really bad."

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