Q&A with DelVaughn Alexander

In recent years, ASU has lacked depth at the wide receiver position. Heading into the 2014 season, that’s no longer the case with a group that has elevated the level of talent from last season. DevilsDigest caught up with Wide Receivers Coach DelVaughn Alexander to discuss the group’s improved play, the two-deep rotation, and the status of junior college transfer Eric Lauderdale.

DevilsDigest: Coaches like to begin each camp, whether spring or fall, with a list of goals they’d like to see their players achieve. As the wide receiver’s coach, what were some of the goals that you expressed to the group and do you feel they’ve achieved them as we approach the start of the 2014 season?

DelVaughn Alexander: “I do and I’m excited to start the season. The first thing we wanted to do was to be a little bit more fundamentally sound. We wanted to be more physical and we wanted them to understand the playbook that much better, especially as a veteran group.

“Each of these guys has made a step towards understanding our offense and being able to understand the schemes to stop us. I’m excited about what they’ve done and they sure have met their camp goals. Now we’ve just got to build on them as we enter the season.”

DevilsDigest: Obviously everybody knows about the breakout season Jaelen Strong had in 2013, catching 75 passes for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. In his own words, he feels he’s 10 times better now than he was last year. What are some of things he’s done to elevate his game over the offseason?

Alexander: “Well what he’s done is, he’s been a lot more aggressive about his practice habits. He’s really been playing fast and really trying to stick to being a technical wide receiver as well as making plays on a regular basis.”

DevilsDigest: Coach Norvell has said that Gary Chambers is a player who has done all the things he’s been asked to do in this offense and is a guy who has impressed him, maybe even the most since the spring. What are some of those things that he’s been asked to do in the offense and how has he progressed as he gets set to enter his senior season?

Alexander: “Well he’s just matured in the offense also. He’s playing a lot faster because he’s a lot more comfortable with what we’re doing. He’s been around the offense the longest so he’s able to run around fast and make plays because he knows what to do.”

DevilsDigest: Is it safe to say that Chambers will be the starting “Y” receiver come Thursday?

Alexander: “Yes sir.”

DevilsDigest: Cameron Smith is a guy who had a slow start to camp. Obviously the injury which played a role in that but he’s bounced back nicely and has really positioned himself to be a starting wide receiver in 2014. Where has he progressed the most from last year as a freshman, to now?

Alexander: “We’re expecting big things out of Cam. He’s obviously going to be a starter for us also. He’s been really explosive lately. The issue that he had at the start of camp is far behind him, so we’re expecting big things from him this season.”

DevilsDigest: If Smith is starting, then that means Fred Gammage will be moving to a back-up role after having ran with the starting offense or most of the offseason. That being said, Gammage was one of five walk-ons who were awarded a scholarship earlier this week by the coaching staff. What were some of the things that impressed you about Gammage and warranted putting him on scholarship this season?

Alexander: “Well he’s been really consistent and obviously has been competing at a high level with the guys that have scholarships. He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. He’s got a role in our offense this season and because of that, Coach Graham felt that it was time to reward him with a scholarship.”

DevilsDigest: Will he be the primary back-up to Smith?

Alexander: “Yeah, he’ll definitely rotate in. For sure. I mean, we want to play with a lot of guys.”

DevilsDigest: Speaking of back-ups, redshirt freshman Ellis Jefferson is going to be backing up Strong at the X receiver position this season. Jefferson had a breakout Fall Camp last year before suffering an injury. Then he had a great spring but started out slow this fall before finding his stride once again these last two weeks. What’s your overall assessment of the type of offseason he’s had?

Alexander: “He’s looked good. Coach Graham just talked about guys being immature and the only reason they’re immature is because they haven’t played. Between Ellis and some of the other guys, I’ve just got to get them on the field and get them comfortable with the pace of the game. We practice at a high level every day, so he should be fine and I’m looking forward to it.”

DevilsDigest: He seems like a guy who should be on the field and a lot of people have asked why he can’t just play at the receiver position opposite of Strong. Can you shed some light as to why you and the staff feel he’s best suited for the X position rather than the Y?

Alexander: “Well, it’s cross-training. You have to know the entire playbook sometimes to move around from spot to spot. With Ellis just going into his first season coming off of the redshirt year, it’s not that easy. You’ve got to learn and you’ve got to continue to grow mentally and physically and it’s not easy.”

DevilsDigest: Ronald Lewis is a guy who has really stepped it up over the offseason and has turned some heads. I believe he’s even spent some time with the starting offense in a few 11-on-11 drills. How does he fit in this season?

Alexander: “He’s one of those guys that’s got a role in the game also. Ronald made it a priority after the spring to really get into his playbook, watch a lot of film, and prepare himself for a role. He took it upon himself to mature mentally and to understand what we’re doing over the offseason.”

DevilsDigest: One guy that a lot of people had high hopes for was junior college transfer Eric Lauderdale. Coach Norvell has said that he thought Eric was thinking too much rather than reacting and playing at the start of camp. What have you seen from him over these last four weeks?

Alexander: “He’s done a great job. He’s growing. He’s learning how we do things. What we do is difficult. It hasn’t been easy for him or any of the freshmen that came in this year or the year before, but I think he’s really adjusted well.”

DevilsDigest: Can we expect to see him play on Thursday against Weber State?

Alexander: “I don’t know.”

DevilsDigest: So maybe you’re keeping that redshirt option in your back pocket just in case?

Alexander: “Maybe. We’ll see how the veteran guys play out and go from there.”

DevilsDigest: And then lastly, Jalen Harvey looks like a likely redshirt candidate. Is there any chance we can see him play himself onto the field perhaps in a special teams' role, or is he pretty much slated to redshirt at this point?

Alexander: “No. Not necessarily. We’ve got a lot of guys we can use in that area. I would say, with those two guys, I want them to play really, really bad because I know they’re capable, but at the same time there is a lot of competition and if we can hold out, we will.”

DevilsDigest: What are some of the things that Jalen Harvey does well that has impressed you?

Alexander: “He plays with a certain tenacity that you love as a football coach. He’s really physical. He’s really emotional. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and you really love that about a football player.”

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