John Humphrey Jr. could not stop smiling after Saturday’s spring game.
For Humphrey, a redshirt sophomore wide receiver and transfer from the University of Oklahoma, the spring game represented the culmination of two years of sitting out from game activity.
A formidable presence on the scout team for both the Sooners and the Sun Devils over the past two seasons, Humphrey has shifted his focus towards a bigger goal, which is to be a force on the first team offense.
He made a strong first impression on the fans on Saturday by catching four touchdown passes from quarterbacks Manny Wilkins and Blake Barnett. Throughout the game, Humphrey looked like a great candidate for best player on the gridiron.
“Spring ball really helped,” Humphrey said about his performance. “I’m just at a loss for words. It’s been two years. Two hard years. I’m just glad that it’s here.”
Humphrey’s head coach, Todd Graham, went out of his way to name check him as a player who showed up well during the game.
Graham was fond not just of Humphrey, but of the receiving corps as a whole throughout the game.
“I was very impressed with John (Humphrey). I think John is a guy that really stood out,” Graham said. “John’s impressive. Him and Ryan Newsome have had great springs, so has Terrell Chatman with N’Keal (Harry). I mean (Ryan) Jenkins, Jalen Harvey has probably been as good a standout this spring… our receiving core has been impressive. Ryan and John are going to give us some added speed.”
Despite occasionally being matched up against walk-ons, Humphrey was still able to show off some magnificent catches in the end zone, including an over-the-shoulder one on a pass from Barnett, and another in which a defensive back was draped all over him.
“It was me and the quarterbacks being on the same page and things just started clicking,” Humphrey said.
Both Wilkins and Barnett used the entire spring to build some of the early stages of a rapport with Humphrey, who figures to be a key piece of the offense once the fall rolls around.
Wilkins, last season’s starter, has seen the immense growth of Humphrey just based off of the month of spring practices.
“Every day he’s gotten better," Wilkins said. "He’s a special talent. I’m very excited for the opportunity that he has, and he just needs to take hold of it and go get it.”
Barnett has known Humphrey for a few years now due to recruiting before the start of their college careers. They built up their relationship over the years, and the chemistry they possess on the field has begun to align with what they have off the field.
“He (Humphrey) was almost like the extension of a recruiter when I was looking at schools, just because I talked to him over social media,” Barnett said. “John and I knew each other coming out of high school, so building that relationship from when I was a recruit until now, we’ve grown a lot together, and obviously his skill set speaks for itself.
“He’s a phenomenal player. He’s done a great job progressing over spring. I think our whole receiving corps has as well.”
It has been an adjustment for everyone under new offensive coordinator Billy Napier’s scheme, which received its most in-depth look of the spring on Saturday, but both Humphrey and Wilkins had positive remarks about it.
Wilkins stressed that he has learned to be a more patient player under Napier, while Humphrey is a fan of how himself and his fellow wide receivers have been utilized.
“He knows how to get the wide receivers open and it’s very up-tempo,” Humphrey said, keeping the same smile on his face that he carried throughout the post-game.
New wide receivers coach Rob Likens is someone else that Humphrey has looked towards to further his adjustment as a Sun Devil. Having someone as energetic as Likens on his side is something the wide receiver values in a coach.
“He’s my type of coach, I really like him,” Humphrey said. “I’m just thankful that he’s my coach.”
While it was a successful spring for Humphrey, the wide receiver is eager to begin fall practices, which will signify the season being on the horizon. The breakout candidate has one goal for him and his teammates.
“Pretty much building with those around me so that we are all elite and can win the Pac-12 Championship,” he said.