Arizona State preparedness / potential grades: Wide Receiver

Arizona State returns two established Pac-12 wide receivers capable of making a big impact in 2016 and a few others who are promising. How ready are they to break out?

Tim White (senior) -- ASU stumbled upon White at College of the Canyons with an assist from Sun Devil track coach Greg Kraft, who was certainly aware that White was the state's top junior college triple jumper and overall athletes. It proved true on the football field as well, as White was immediately one of ASU's best weapons with the football in his hand.

White arrived in the summer and suffered a broken hand during preseason camp and yet still was one of the team's most productive overall players. It suggests there's potentially some great things in store for White's senior season, even as he spent much off the last six months training for track, where White finished fourth in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the triple jump with a personal best of 54 feet, 4 1/2 inches. 

Short-area explosiveness is an areas in which White is an elite athlete. He's a major weapon on wide screens, quick slants and other plays that get him the ball in space where he is able to use his excellent suddenness to make the first would-be tackler miss. White doesn't need his blocks to be sustained as long as others, and is better able to score in the screen and quick game inside the red zone than most receivers. 

The Sun Devils are likely to move White from the perimeter to the slot under new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and he should be a high volume target. White is very difficult to manage in space because of how well he leverages his quickness from a standstill, and can be used in a variety of applications. He's not especially big but has good strength at his size and has shown the capacity to block, even though he's the one who is usually going to be blocked for. Vision is another major asset of White, as he seems the field well and this is evidenced especially as a kickoff returner, where he sees the field at depth, and can rapidly gear up to exploit a crease.

Where White has the biggest room for growth is as a nuanced route runner working down the field. He is a little tightly wound -- as is often the case with track athletes -- and doesn't yet maximize his explosive athleticism with how he re-directs from a skill standpoint transitioning routes, and can be a tad spotty with his technique making plays on the football at depth. 

White may be used in a very limited way as an extra defensive back on the field when ASU is in nickel personnel, and he's shown some aptitude to handle man coverage situations to some degree, though it's still unclear whether that's effective enough to have it be valuable in the Pac-12. Preparedness Grade: 4 / Potential Grade: 4.5 (factors in capability as a return man).

Cameron Smith (junior) -- The best route runner and vertical threat on the ASU roster as a sophomore in 2014, Smith was poised for a true breakout year in 2015 before a lingering knee issue led to season-ending surgery and a one year rehab process. He spent the year off strength training and focused on nutrition and as a result developed one of the most impressive looking physiques on the roster. 

Ultimately the question has been whether Smith would regain all of the speed and quick-twitch athleticism that made him such a big play receiving threat, and if so how quickly. In the spring he didn't look to have completely returned to full speed -- and to be sure, Smith was one of the fastest players on the roster before the injury -- but Smith had progressed significantly and was getting close to being there. This uncertainty is the only thing that perhaps brings into question to some degree Smith's preparedness for 2016. 

When he's at his best, Smith is a precise route runner with a high revving foot RPM and a lot of skill. He makes aggressive cuts at speed and adjusts well to balls thrown out of his framework, with a nice ability to make challenging receptions look routine. He's the best big-play, double-move receiver on the roster, and has shown a better ability to stretch and get behind the defense with separation on the perimeter than any other ASU player in the last few years. When he's aligned on the field side, defenses have to be protective at the Smith's ability to beat single high safety coverages in particular. 

Importantly, Smith is also a very good blocker for a wide receiver, particularly at his size. He is aggressive and physical, using his quickness to attack blocks with balance and a good base and hand placement. He's a real weapon in wide bubble screens as a blocker and that should help ASU offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey better sell his frequent fake screens that attempt slip a receiver behind the defense. Preparedness Grade: 3.5 / Potential Grade: 4.5

Jalen Harvey (sophomore) -- Raw physicality and toughness exude from Harvey on the practice field. He relishes and is a seeker of contact in all facets of play, from the line of scrimmage to fighting for the football downfield against a defensive back, to aggressively making a block for a teammate. In this respect he brings an element to the position that more players should strive to possess. He plays with a real chip on his shoulder and feels like he has something to prove. 

A moderate or slightly better athlete relative to his peers at the position in the Pac-12, Harvey is certainly no slouch from a mobility standpoint. But he enhances these tools with the aggressive disposition that should provide more playing opportunity as a third-year sophomore. He also has a good feel for how to set up defensive backs prior to the ball's arrival with body position and other techniques. Some of it is innate and some of it has been enhanced through skill development. It suits his style as a scrapper very well and makes sense in that context. 

The biggest challenges for Harvey have been mental: bringing consistent habits into all facets of his life and preparation and having that consume him; not allowing any distractions to deviate him from the path that he wants to be on with regard to his focus and energy. He seems to have improved and turned the corner on some of these things as he's matured and if that proves to be the case, he could be ready to break out. Preparedness Grade: 3 / Potential Grade: 4

N'Keal Harry  (freshman) -- The highest rated high school signee in Arizona State's 2016 class, Harry became the only player to receiver first-team reps with the offense in base down situations early in camp. Subsequent to that he's continued to rise, even pushing through a taped ankle that led to a green non-contact jersey for a couple practices in the middle of the month. 

A big athlete with very good movement skills, balance and coordination, Harry can get out and run but isn't someone with elite speed. He has a big catch radius though, makes contested grabs, tracks the football well, and is able to adjust near its arrival. He has good foot dexterity, returns to the ball nicely for someone with great size, and is a true wide receiver.

Most importantly, Harry has self-confidence beyond his years and has a fearlessness that presents a lot of calmness on the practice field. If he's able to transition all of this to a much bigger audience, he has a chance to become one of the most accomplished wide receivers at ASU in recent decades. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 5

Ellis Jefferson (junior) -- Heading into his fourth year in Tempe it's getting closer to now-or-never time for Jefferson, a player who looks the part and has the tools to be successful but hasn't been able to translate that to a lot of game reps or productivity. An an outside receiver, Jefferson is battling a few teammates for the spot opposite Cameron Smith, and there's some good young talent on the roster that will make for a competitive camp. 

Jefferson has flashed when given opportunities but those have come primarily in blowouts and not early in closely contested games. His route integrity hasn't been consistent enough in a practice setting, and getting to the right depth and location on time on a day-to-day basis is what it's going to take to get Jefferson more opportunities to show the playmaking capability that exists when he's targeted. 

Perhaps better than anyone on the roster, Jefferson can make contested catches when draped. This is due to his strength, big hands, and ability to secure the ball out away from his body when at the apex of his jump. Improving the routine play and route consistency is what's needed for Jefferson to be able to showcase his ample potential. Using his hands better and becoming more physical getting off the line of scrimmage and into his routes, and elevating his play as a blocker are also key components in Jefferson's skill development process. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 3.5

Frederick Gammage (senior) -- A quick game receiving threat, Gammage could be a benefactor of the offensive shift to new coordinator Chip Lindsey. Gammage is likely to move from the perimeter to the slot, where his particular skill base could be better utilized. 

Gammage is better closer to the line of scrimmage. A former walk-on who earned  a scholarship, Gammage is neither big nor particularly fast, but has pretty good quickness and is adept at getting separation by working laterally at the snap of the football. He has good hands on balls thrown in a hurry in his direction and understands leverage. Since Lindsey incorporates a lot of quick slants and outs that get the ball out of the quarterback's hand in a hurry, Gammage could end up serving a role.

He's not going to run away from defenders or be especially slippery after the catch, but Gammage can help the Sun Devils on run replacement type throws that gain a handful of yards and keep manageable down and distances. For being a smaller receiver, he's also a pretty good blocker. You're just not going to see the big plays too often from Gammage down the field unless there's been a defensive breakdown. 

In the right type of offense -- more of an Air Raid scheme, which ASU is moving a bit more in the direction of under Lindsey -- Gammage can have more value. He doesn't have too high a ceiling but it wouldn't surprise if he plays an important role at some point or another in his final season.  Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 2.5

Terrell Chatman (redshirt freshman) --  Few players on the ASU offensive roster have as high a football ceiling as Chatman. At 6-foot-3 with a great wide receivers' body, Chatman is a plus-athlete for the position at his size. He has above average speed and agility and has the ability to gear up well in-route when balanced. He gets off the deck very well and can make extension plays on the football, with occasional hints of a true highlight reel capability. 

There were some plays on the practice field in the spring that probably nobody else on the roster save Cameron Smith could have completed down the field in which there was both separation from a defender and a layout required to complete the play. The Sun Devils haven't had enough field stretchers in recent history at the position, and certainly not enough ones who also have height. Jaelen Strong was a fantastic player but still more on the scale of possession receiver than vertical threat. Smith has that capability and Chatman is building to being able to have it as well. He has NFL upside in this respect, but it's a multi-year process developing it. 

Chatman has worked on getting stronger and to that end has added 10-15 pounds since arriving at ASU. He's trim and lanky, which is an asset as he matures but that's a process with some challenges Additional strength should help him get into his routes better at the line of scrimmage and he'll need to also continue to work on his hand skill in this respect. He can lose a bit of balance and composure within his routes, and not be able to fully access his athleticism as a result.

Getting a stronger, more consistent base is going to help him in this respect, and keep on his route without being moved off it by cornerbacks. As he becomes stronger and more proficient, the eye-opening catches will start to happen more often, and he should ultimate prove to be an important red zone weapon as well due to his combination of length and athleticism.  Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 4

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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