Ozier Embraces New Role

Last season, Arizona State's receiving corps boasted a great deal of individual talent, but with the loss of playmakers like Gerell Robinson and Aaron Pflugrad, the Sun Devils are looking for a new group to arise this spring. Despite being lean on experience, receivers like Kevin Ozier, no longer just a walk-on, are looking to make their mark in the new high-octane ASU offense.

Kevin Ozier is a quiet individual who, when on the football field, lets his game do the talking for him. Last year, as a seldom-used walk-on, he recorded 11 catches for 169 yards and one touchdown. He put in most his hard work Sunday through Friday though, having to earn each rep he received in practice, slowly commanding the attention of the coaches.

His efforts did not go unrecognized as he was offered a scholarship by new head coach Todd Graham shortly after the coaching change in January, which came as a big relief to not only Ozier, but his uncle as well, Sun Devil great, JR Redmond.

"It's all about just working hard and fighting because as a walk-on, I'm not going to say you're not noticed, but you're not really noticed," said Ozier after practice. "You've got to really stand out in order to be noticed for the coaches to even consider putting you in the games. So in practice, when you do get those reps, you've really got to make the most of them."

And when he told Redmond?

"He said 'Congratulations, you knew it was going to come,'" reflected Ozier with a proud smile on his face."He said 'It's not time to coast now, now is when the work really starts.' He told me I've got to work even harder now."

Of course at this point Ozier is not opposed to putting in the required work to reach his goals.

Tuesday marked the start of spring camp for the Sun Devils and gave Ozier his first chance to make an impression on the new staff in person on the football field. So far, he's spent most of the first couple days taking reps with the first team offense, quite a change from last year at this time.

"Just like every football player, I want to start," he said definitively after practice. "I know that in order for me to maintain and keep a starting position I've got to keep improving and show the coaches that I deserve it because nothing is going to be given to me. I know that if I continue to improve that I'll have that starting position."

"You've just got to work hard and stay focused at practice," he added. "Practice is not time to sit on the sideline and talk with your buddies about what's going on in class and how your day was, it's football time. When it's practice time, it's about football; you've got to be locked in."

As Ozier continues to try to impress his new coaches, those same coaches are getting a chance to make an impression on the players. Only a couple days into camp, Ozier was quick to notice some glaring differences in this new staff compared to last year's.

"The new coaching staff is no joke," he exclaimed. "But change is good. And what they're preaching is good stuff, it's not just anything negative and I feel like it'll help our team improve overall."

One of the new additions to the staff that has made one of the biggest impacts on the Sun Devils so far has been strength and conditioning Coach Shawn Griswold. Leading up to camp the team has been fully immersed in Coach Griswold's program, receiving the type of conditioning and health tips that'll ultimately help them prepare for the spring and season ahead.

"We've been working out a lot with our strength coach, Coach Griz," Ozier said. "I condition every day. I've been eating better. I actually stopped eating fast food."

"Being a college student, sometimes it's hard to make a home-cooked meal and it's easy to go to Wendy's or McDonalds, but I've been trying my hardest to cut all that out. I'm not going to lie though, I've slipped up a couple times and got a double cheeseburger, but I've been better."

A new training regimen along with a new role amongst the wide receivers has Ozier hoping for more opportunities to prove himself on the field. At 6'0" and 200 pounds, he's one of the bigger and more aggressive receivers on the Sun Devil roster this spring. And if you ask him, Ozier insists he's willing to do whatever it takes to help his team succeed this fall.

"We're going to score, that's just what this offense is going to do, so I hope to be a part of that," he commented. "When we run the ball, I'm going to be a part of the blocking for our backs and try to open up a few holes for them. If they bounce it outside, I'll try to create some downfield blocks. I'm a part of this team and I'm going to do whatever it takes for us to win. "I feel that, even though we lost quite a few receivers, we still have a lot of talent. With (Rashad) Ross, we got a lot of speed, along with Jamal (Miles).

"And me personally, I feel like I'm a good blocker," he continued. "In my opinion, I have good hands. I feel I can bring some good possession catching to our receiving corps. And with me playing inside, there's going to be a lot of balls thrown over the middle and I'm not afraid of contact."

Never one to rest on his laurels though, Ozier knows there are still areas he needs to improve this offseason in order to become the player he hopes to be before the season gets underway.

"I want to become a better receiver. I feel like I can still run my routes better. I need to work on my speed and my hands too. I really just want to become a better overall player."

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