Strong sense of comfort

CAMP TONTOZONA – The level of accolades that accompanied Jaelen Strong created perhaps the unrealistic expectation that the newcomer was going to hit the ground running in his first ASU practice last Friday. Nonetheless, a week or so later the heralded junior college wide receiver is progressively showing why he could be one of the biggest offensive weapons on this 2013 Sun Devil squad.

After last season's performance, coaches and fans alike are looking to the wide receivers unit to step up their play and become a more significant factor in the offense. Strong feels as if he and his teammates are still in the process of getting to the level of play that they aspire to reach this year.

"We have to just stop making the mental mistakes that cause the penalties," Strong said. "We have to stop putting the ball on the ground. You guys may be looking at us and thinking that we are doing well, but it's the little things that are messing us up like our alignment, getting depth with our routes and the coaches point these out as big things.

"So right now we aren't where we want to be for the season."

While the wide receiver offers a honest personal assessment of himself, it was hard not to get excited today when seeing the 6-4 205-pound Jaelen Strong use his frame and sure hands to make a spectacular play today snatching what probably should have been an interception by the player covering him, cornerback Osahon Irabor, into a reception that ended up in a long touchdown down the sidelines.

"That was a big time play," Strong admitted. "(Quarterback) Taylor Kelly trusts me a lot and gave me the opportunity to go get it. He (Irabor) is making me better. When he was first on me I couldn't get off from him at all. Just going against him every day has helped me a lot.

"I'm feeling way more comfortable. My (lack of conditioning) isn't as bad as it was before, maybe because it's cooler up here."

Strong feels that part of his improvement he's experiencing should be certainly be credited to his position coach, DelVaughn Alexander, who has been more than just an on-field instructor.

"By far one the best coaches I have ever had in my whole life," Strong stated. "Not only is he a coach but also a mentor. He does a lot of things for me and teaches me how to play football at the same time, applying some of those things to life as well.

"He has helped me with my alignments, explaining to me why I should do this but not do that. He's just proven himself to be one of the best coaches I have ever had."

Strong remarked that route depth and timing are two attributes that he has to be mindful of as he continues to seek improvement. All in all, the wide receiver feels that much has to be accomplished before the season opener versus Sacramento State on September 5th.

"I'll put the time in, put the work in everyday and do what I can," Strong said. "I'm very excited, but I also don't feel excitement right now because I have a lot of learning to do. I'm making a lot of mental mistakes that I need to fix, I need to remain focused, remain humble and remain grounded."

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