Q&A with DelVaughn Alexander

Despite an overall explosive Arizona State offense in 2012, the Sun Devils' wide receivers unit often times were not on par with the rest of their teammates on this side of the ball. In this exclusive interview ASU's wide receivers coach, DelVaughn Alexander provides his assessment of his group as well his evaluation of the talented newcomers set to join the team in the fall.

Devils Digest: Let's start with the five newcomers at this position that were signed in the 2013 recruiting class. At 6-4 200 lbs. Ellis Jefferson is someone who obviously brings a lot of size to the position, what else can you tell us about his skill set?

DelVaughn Alexander: "He's probably one of our most physical signees. He has a big physical presence and he plays that way. Aside from playing physical you also notice his quick feet and athleticism. You can make the comparison to (former Arizona State wide receiver) Gerell Robinson and his potential to be dominant, He could play both the 9-reciever (aka X-receiver) and the 5-receiver (aka the Y-receiver)."

Devils Digest: What defines incoming freshman Ronald Lewis the most is perhaps his versatility. Was that trait also what made him such a coveted prospect?

DelVaughn Alexander: "It did. He's someone that can line up in the backfield, he can be a Wildcat quarterback, and we can put him in the slot…so he can do a number of things. He can also be a very good specialist in the return game. So he definitely has a lot of unique and dynamic qualities and when he gets here we'll see what position we can put him in to make plays."

Devils Digest: Joseph Morris is one junior college prospect who really flew under the radar playing in only four games in 2012 alongside a dominant wide receiver who also happened to sign with ASU (Jaelen Strong). How can Morris contribute to this unit?

DelVaughn Alexander: "You look at Joe's physical's presence and I don't think he is as big as Jefferson is but at the same time he also plays with a physical presence. You look at his highlight film and he can play multiple positions and also return kicks and he has a real passion for playing special teams. He brings the toughness element you would except from an older guy."

Devils Digest: When I was asked who I thought the steal of the 2013 recruiting class was I always replied that it was Cameron Smith, who is another player that largely went unnoticed during the recruiting process. Do you also see him as recruiting steal?

DelVaughn Alexander: "Definitely. We were lucky to get Cameron. We worked very hard to get him and it wasn't easy because he committed very late. He has great speed, a very good route runner and fundamentally sound. So we are really fortunate to have him as part of our group. He can play in the slot, but like our other wide receivers we will move him around. I can see him making a lot of plays in the offense and we'll see where those plays ended up coming from. Just depends how we use him in our offense and how we use the people around him."

Devils Digest: When you take just a quick glance at statistics such as 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns, playing in one of the toughest junior college divisions in the country, and it's obvious that Jaelen Strong may be the best player in ASU's 2013 class. What makes him such a gifted wide receiver?

DelVaughn Alexander: "The thing about Jaelen is that even though he's a big wide receiver (6-4 205-pounds) he has some of those smaller wide receiver qualities, since he is very quick, dynamic and explosive. He's definitely a home run guy that can catch the deep ball, but can also catch the ball in traffic and make people miss. "

Devils Digest: As the staff was putting together this class of newcomers at wide receiver, what were some of the factors that guided the process in terms of what you wanted to accomplish here?

DelVaughn Alexander: "With all the guys that were gone for the year before and that were going to be gone after last year, we knew we needed a variety package. We need physical receivers, we needed receivers who could make up for the athleticism and speed we lost, so the makeup of this group was really a little bit of everything. We wanted size, we wanted speed and we wanted dynamic playmakers."

Devils Digest: I know that throughout the 2012 season you alluded to the fact that the wide receiver group at times didn't play up to its potential. Now that you had time to reflect on last year, how would you evaluate this unit and their performance?

DelVaughn Alexander: "We definitely under preformed, and I will definitely take the hit saying that we under achieved. But I give the guys credit for adjusting to who we are as a staff and trying to meet our expectations in terms of some things that they were not used to. I really do appreciate what those guys have been able to do for us, and I know they want to be successful and establish that foundation for us for the future. "

Devils Digest: Prior to the 2012 season, the inexperience factor of the wide receivers unit and how it can affect the group's performance, is something that was often discussed. I know that you won't use inexperience as an excuse for this unit's performance, but ultimately was the greenness too much of a hurdle for this group to overcome this past season because there is no substitute for game experience?

DelVaughn Alexander: "When you go into a season you know you don't have much time to accomplish everything you want and your goal is obviously to accomplish as much as you can. Like I said we didn't reach all of our goals, but at the same time I won't blame that on inexperience. For a year one group, we were fine but we did underachieve. We could have done better and I will put that on me."

Devils Digest: Now how much will inexperience be a factor this year? You will have returning players that saw extensive playing time but will also have five newcomers that most of them are very capable of ultimately being in the rotation?

DelVaughn Alexander: "Yes, the guys that we signed will obviously come here inexperienced. But because of what you see from them on film you take that with a grain of salt. You do expect the guys that did play last year to be better. There was a learning curve which is on me, experiencing coaching offense with Coach Graham for the very first time. With the guys coming back there are no new expectations, no new situations to be in. They know what to expect in Fall camp, what to expect on a road game…everything in terms of how to play fast and how to play confident should be in the rearview mirror because they should be used to everything. Now we can go out and execute our plan and understand that the most important thing is meeting the expectations."

Devils Digest: Does the fact that all these newcomers are only coming in the fall, make it more of a challenge for your group in spring practice? The look of this group and its talent level in Fall camp is virtually guaranteed to be very different in August…

DelVaughn Alexander: "I think with the lack of numbers we will have here now in the spring, it's an advantage for the returning players but down the road it will also be an advantage for the new players in Fall camp.

"The work that the returning players will be able to put out in the spring, will allow us to take the guys coming in the Fall to go to the front of the line get their own reps and see what they can do. So we know we'll have great competition in this group, but more importantly we need depth so we can play with a lot more guys. That will allow us to have more success. So the veterans that will be here in the spring, will be able to do less and give the new guys an opportunity to do more in Fall camp. It will also allow the veterans to show more leadership."

Devils Digest: Let's talk about some of those returning players you mentioned. As a true freshman last season, Richard Smith seemed to have a successful debut with ASU. What are your thoughts concerning his performance?

DelVaughn Alexander: "I think he was pretty good last year. I know Richard wants more and I want more out of him and that will always be the case. But at the same time when you look at his progression, he was able to do a lot of things that we asked him to with not a lot of repetition. But those small experiences will pay off here shortly.

"I know for a fact that Richard is working the hardest he has ever had worked in his life, and that is on and off the field. Everything that he does is positive and we look forward to having him be a veteran for us on the field next year."

Devils Digest: The wide receivers were extremely inconsistent in 2012 and maybe one player who exemplified that the most was Kevon Ozier. What did you take away from his performance last year?

DelVaughn Alexander: "I took away his commitment, his focus and his determination. I saw his hard work, his passion…I know that he had to do a lot and go through a lot to be put in the position he was last year. There were a lot of demands on him but at the same time he showed a lot of perseverance, and that is something that both the guys that are already here and the guys that are coming in can learn from. I know that he will be the leader of this group and others can follow his work ethic."

Devils Digest: Last year, junior college transfer Alonzo Agwuenu was someone who came highly regarded and definitely passed the proverbial eye test when it came to his physicality. But when his performance was disappointing. What did you think about his play and what do you expect from him in 2013?

DelVaughn Alexander: "I think he left a lot of meat on the bone. I know he came in with high expectations and had high goals, but at the same time you have to understand that you have to compete day in and day out. I think it took Alonzo a little time to understand all these demands of the game. But I think this year he can take advantage of his opportunities. He has a role for us and I think he will be much improved."

Devils Digest: You talked about last year being a large learning curve for the wide receivers. As you go into spring practice later this month, what is on your to-do list for this group to improve on?

DelVaughn Alexander: "Tempo, fundamentals, and playmaking. We have to go faster so we can keep defenses off balance, we have to do a lot more to be sound, and we have to show up in the games and reach the goals that we have set and those goals will be high."


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