Spring evaluation: WR preparedness grades

The shift of senior D.J. Foster from running back to wide receiver should help buoy an inexperienced Arizona State wide receiver corps that remains very much in flux from a depth chart standpoint heading into the summer.

1. D.J. Foster (senior) -- It's been a relatively seamless transition to true wide receiver from the backfield for Foster. In the spring he showed terrific physicality at the line of scrimmage to fend off press coverage and had some extremely intense clashes with senior cornerback Lloyd Carrington on the boundary side of the field. Foster is better suited to be the field-side receiver for the Sun Devils because of how well he uses lateral space to gain separation nearer the line of scrimmage while still maintaining a threat as a vertical target releasing to the outside, and what ASU can do with him on motions from the perimeter. It's tailor made for the Sun Devils' scheme even though it hasn't typically been the program's high volume receiver position as far as number of targets. But ASU may need to play him at its feature boundary side position because of how the personnel pieces fit together. Nobody else has emerged in a clear enough way at that position as yet and the Sun Devils have other options at the 2-receiver (field side) spot. Either way, it's likely Foster ends up catching more balls than anyone else in the group. Preparedness Grade: 4 / Potential Grade: 4.5

2. Gary Chambers (senior) -- Incrementally steady, predictable improvement has been the calling card for Chambers over the course of his ASU career. There has been no rapid ascent to prominence but he's becoming increasingly indispensable due to his well-roundedness, understanding of the scheme, and willingness and capability as a blocker. ASU doesn't tend to use the 5-receiver position as one that gets a lot of targets, but the arm of senior quarterback Mike Bercovici and his tendency to move the ball around the field a bit more than Taylor Kelly might provide some more opportunities over the middle of the field, where Chambers has shown the ability to be a reliable possession option in traffic. He has good size, gets off the ground well vertically and has a desire to go make plays on the football. Chambers had good foot dexterity for his size, but average speed. He could be an option at the boundary spot if someone else can emerge in the big slot role. Preparedness Grade: 3 / Potential Grade: 3.5

3. Ellis Jefferson (sophomore) -- Though he oozes potential, Jefferson has lacked consistency in a practice setting. He has tended to start pre-season camp and spring football very hot in terms of his level of energy and competitiveness only to cool off as the team has practiced more. This is not unlike former ASU wide receiver Gerrell Robinson, who finally became more consistent late in his career. Jefferson is the most Jaelen Strong-like from a size and skills standpoint among the players on the ASU roster and in a perfect world for the Sun Devils he would solidify his standing as the starter in that boundary side role and allow Foster to bookend him on the field side. But reliability is so important for the Sun Devils and what leads to coaches' trust. Jefferson has a good rapport with Bercovici, who is one of his housemates along with Foster, and that could help. They connected nicely at times in the spring but there's still too much uncertainty for Jefferson in terms of his predictability and that's what is holding him back. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4

4. Frederick Gammage (senior) -- Without question, Gammage is one of the players on the team who has best maximized his potential. He's neither big not particularly athletic, but Gammage blends impressive toughness, determination and understanding of the position to make plays in a practice setting with pretty good reliability. He's a nearer-area type receiver, lacking the foot speed to be a vertical threat and will not keep defenses honest over the top. But he makes a lot of plays on lateral slips working toward the football, especially quicker hitting routes, like slants, and is always going to be a serviceable option though he lacks high end potential due to the physical limitations that led to Gammage initially being a walk-on prior to eventually earning a scholarship. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 2.5

5. Eric Lauderdale (junior) -- Though he arrived as a high profile junior prospect, Lauderdale wasn't ready to play last year and redshirted in order to better acclimated to major college football. His biggest challenge was simply absorbing all of the concepts and getting aligned properly and knowing his role intuitively on any given play. Now that he's further along in that regard, Lauderdale is playing more naturally but he remains challenged at getting a release into his routes against press and bump techniques. Increased physicality and improved technique at the line of scrimmage are required for Lauderdale to unlock his potential as a receiver. When Lauderdale gets lined up properly and cleanly gets into his route he's pretty competent but that needs to happen with a lot more consistency. He's a lot better off relaxed coverage right now and is a good yards-after-catch guy when he makes a play on the football. He's a good athlete with size trying to transition into being a skilled wide receiver. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3.5

6. Jalen Harvey (redshirt freshman) -- Last year Harvey arrived at ASU and made an impression with his physicality and natural ability to catch the football, but the more incorporation of structure was layered in, the more he had to know and be able to do and then when school started it became too much and a bit overwhelming and Harvey redshirted. He was one of the better scout team performers all year and then in bowl practices ASU looked at him as a Spur option, where he again impressed us with his toughness on the field. But it was another situation in which Harvey wasn't asked to learn a lot conceptually and ASU coaches ultimately decided to play him on offense this spring, especially in light of its limited numbers. Harvey isn't a burner speed wise but is versatile -- he can play all three positions athletically - and has good potential if he's able to continue to progress as a student of the game and with regard to skill development. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 4

7. Tyler Whiley (redshirt freshman) -- Whiley bounced between wide receiver and safety since he arrived last summer and just doesn't really seem to have fully settled in anywhere yet, at least not through the spring. In high school he was an extremely confident play-maker and the game seemed relatively effortless. The challenges of playing effectively at this level are a lot steeper. Whiley would be well served to lean out physically if he's going to remain at receiver, to better maximize his speed and quickness. He's mostly played the 5-receiver slot role, which could be a good fit, but he'll have to take his day-to-day energy output and practice habits up a notch and demonstrate more conceptual fluency. In high school and camp settings, when he wasn't thinking much, Whiley had very good hands. That hasn't been the case in practices at ASU and an easy hypothesis is he hasn't become fully comfortable and is still over-thinking on the field. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3.5

Preparedness/Potential Grade Key

5: All-American level performer

4: First/second team all-league level performer

3: Mid-level Pac-12 performer

2: Fringe Pac-12 performer

1: Non-Pac-12 level performer

Editor's Note: Players are ranked in terms of overall current preparedness and not based on potential.


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