Hagan Heads Improvement on Offense

It may have a lukewarm start of the season for Derek Hagan, but in the last two games no one has been sizzling more than the sophomore wide receiver. In this exclusive DevilsDigest interview, Hagan talks about his struggles earlier in the year, as well as his fine play as of late and the upcoming North Carolina game.

Back in the dog days of summer, Hagan's performance in Camp Tontozona, as well as the ensuing practices in Tempe, left a lot to be desired. The dreaded sophomore jinx label was started to be attached to a receiver who just broke the receptions record for a true freshman the previous season. "I know I had a slow start," admitted Hagan. "And I really don't know what the reason was. Things were just not going right for me. I just kept on working harder and harder. Right now I'm just getting into the normal way I play, and it's all showing on the field right now."

As mentioned the last past two weeks while interviewing Coach Koetter and his players, it was revealed that Andrew Walter and his receivers spent many joint film sessions trying to figure the offensive woes. That coupled with productive practices, all helped materialize the team's skills on game day. Hagan said that it goes to show you that the formula for success isn't always complex like some may think. "It's that simple," he said. "You may be one day off, but if you work hard you'll click the next day. We did start really slow, and we got tired of playing that way. We knew that we are better than this. We just said to each other that it's time to come together and play ball. We can still get better. But right now, we're looking more like everybody thought we would."

Hagan may seem brash with some of his post touchdown celebrations (which fellow receiver Skyler Fulton is happy to nip at the bud…), but he sheepishly smiled when people suggest that he and not Fulton has become the proverbial go-to receiver for Andrew Walter. "It's hard to be the go to guy," exclaimed the sophomore. "Week in and week out, it's always a different receiver that can do well in a game. You never know what's gonna happen. It all depends on who's open and on Andrew's read. The last couple of weeks it was me, but like I said you never know each game who the go to guy will be."

The humble receiver isn't about to complain if less balls, for whatever reason, are thrown his way. He said that in this year's offense, one shouldn't expect to get ten or so catches in any given game. "All that really matters is the ‘W'," he said. "We know Andrew spreads the ball around a lot, and that's one of the great things about our team – we do have five other great receivers that can do great things when the ball is thrown their way. That does mean that as a receiver you're almost guaranteed to get two-three catches, and that no one is probably gonna catch 9-10 balls a game like Shaun (McDonald) did last year."

For a team that has enjoyed very little success, the euphoria following the 59-14 win over Oregon, can turn quickly into complacency and cockiness. Nevertheless, Hagan stated that the team is far from experiencing those emotions. "Coaches have told us this week to keep our heads straight and keep focused. We know we want to win six straight, and get to a bowl game. We have some payback for North Carolina. That was a sad loss last year, and we're focused on getting a win at their house."

In regards to his next opponent, Hagan is fully respectful of a Tar Heels team that has just won his first game of the season last week. "They may be 1-5," the receiver said. "But you watch them on film and they're a good team. If we bring our ‘A' game we'll be fine. We just can't let down, because if we do we're gonna lose." Much has been written on the challenges that ASU will encounter traveling cross -country through three time zones to play North Carolina. Hagan claimed that him and his teammates are downplaying all the intangibles associated with this road trip. "We don't talk about the time difference and all that. It's just another business trip, and this one is just a little further than Iowa. We're leaving a little early so we can be ready on Saturday. So we're not gonna worry about our far it is and stuff like that. If we play like we're capable of, we'll be fine." And following Derek Hagan's lead from the last couple of weeks is a good way to start.

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