Player capsule: John Humphrey Jr.
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 170 pounds
2016 season quick review: After transferring away from Oklahoma following his freshman season, Humphrey was forced to sit out the 2016 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules. The League City, Texas native redshirted during his freshman year with the Sooners, so last season marked the second straight campaign Humphrey was relegated to the sidelines. Even though he wasn't eligible to compete in games for the Sun Devils, Humphrey drew rave reviews from Arizona State's coaching staff and his teammates for his efforts as a scout team receiver, as he and fellow transfer Ryan Newsome earned high marks for their speed and explosiveness.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: Even though Humphrey hasn't played a down of competitive football at the FBS level yet, he's the type of explosive, twitchy play-maker who has the potential to become an immediate-impact contributor this fall.
Twice this spring, Humphrey topped SunDevilSource's Hot-11 list, in large part due to the top-end speed and fluidity he displayed on an every day basis. There's no doubt Humphrey is one of the fastest players on ASU's roster, and he might be the fastest receiver the Sun Devils have had during the Todd Graham era, as he claims to have run multiple sub 4.3-second 40-yard dashes.
In watching drills this spring, what immediately stands out about Humphrey is his ability to create separation at the line of scrimmage. Humphrey drives out of his stance with force, and he's able to stretch cornerbacks laterally before stemming vertically in a way that makes him a challenge to defend in press coverage. Humphrey imposes problems for defenses because if cornerbacks play him in press man at the line, he's able to race off the ball and use his second gear to give the Sun Devils' offense a vertical threat.
Once he proves he can take the top off of a defense, though, defenders will have trouble reacting to Humphrey's ability to work back toward the football, because he can cut on a dime and is precise with his footwork to the point where he's a challenge to defend on comeback routes. Humphrey told SunDevilSource the curl route is his second favorite route, which shouldn't come as a surprise because he's able to change direction so fluidly.
While Humphrey doesn't have much experience working against starter-caliber cornerbacks, he proved in ASU's spring game that he's able to make contested catches and fight for the football in the air, which are important traits for a receiver who is slightly built.
Even though ASU can't expect the same type of production from Humphrey, there are similarities between his game and that of former Washington Huskies' receiver John Ross. Ross recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL Combine history, but what made him so effective was the way he took advantage of his speed in tight quarters.
Look for ASU to try to get the ball to Humphrey on bubble screens, tunnel screens and shorter routes closer to the line of scrimmage when the Sun Devils feel they have a mismatch and think Humphrey can beat a defender one-on-one. Humphrey's short-field elusiveness and ability to see the field and work toward open space are going to be critical for ASU's offense, and if he can develop a comfort level catching the ball in traffic, the Sun Devils will have an important security blanket they can count on.
Though we didn't see ASU practice special teams this spring, Humphrey also possesses potential as a punt returner and may be able to compete for reps as a kick returner as well.
While Humphrey has as much potential as any receiver on ASU's roster, how he responds to the adversity he faces at the beginning of the regular season will largely dictate what type of an impact he's able to have. Humphrey hasn't played in a live game in over two years, and has yet to face the caliber of defensive back he'll go up against in the Pac-12 on a weekly basis. Additionally, Humphrey will need to maintain consistency and ensure he has route integrity, because the Sun Devils aren't only going to be counting on him to give the team speed, they'll be counting on Humphrey for precision on the perimeter.
Projected depth chart status: Humphrey began the spring as the No. 1 Z-receiver on ASU’s depth chart, and held his spot throughout the spring despite strong play from fellow sophomore Kyle Williams. Humphrey probably has the athleticism to play on both the inside and outside, and if ASU uses Humphrey and slot receiver Ryan Newsome on the field together, offensive coordinator Billy Napier can get creative with how he deploys each player in given formations and situations. Still, we anticipate Humphrey to take the majority of his reps on the perimeter and to begin the 2017 season as ASU’s starting Z-receiver.