Hagan Not Complacent as #1 Receiver

To call Derek Hagan the top wide receiver currently on the team would be an understatement. After catching 66 passes for 1076 yards (both team highs in 2003), the junior is fully cemented as the Sun Devils' leading wideout. Nevertheless, Hagan told DevilsDigest that his status isn't one that it takes for granted, and his new role as his group's leader forces him to set a good example each and every day.

"This spring I'm just trying to be competitive, work on my routes, and staying healthy," said Hagan. "I have to work on keeping on top and being the number one receiver. I know I'm coming in as the number one receiver, and that means people are expecting big things from me. You always have to compete so you can stay number one. You never know when a good receiver will step up and take your place. If I can compete and be at my best – I can do big things this year."

While the former Palmdale (CA) high school standout complains a bit about the heat during spring practice, there's not anything else he dislikes about this time of year. "It feels real good to be back out here," said Hagan. "It's good to have everyone back and ready to go. The spirit of practice is one that has really caught the wide receiver's eye in comparison to practices last year. "The drills are really different in the spring," stated Hagan." Everybody is competing hard because no one wants to go 5-7 again. The defensive backs are wanting to make the receivers look bad, and the receivers really want to make the defensive backs look bad (smile)."

Last season, the wide receivers group was perceived as one that grossly under performed and served as a very unpleasant surprise. The junior doesn't necessarily agree with that notion. "People say that year in and year out," commented Hagan. "But every year we always had one receiver that steps up. Last year I had over 1,000 yards and Skyler Fulton had over 900. But I know people don't look at the stats that much, and look at what we do in the game. I know we have a good receiving core that will do well, and now we have to show it on the field."

Some contend that the shortcomings of this group lie in the lack of depth. Hagan believes that this aspect can never be overstated as an ingredient for success. "You always need good depth," he remarked. "You never want the defense to key on one receiver and take you out of your game. You can't depend on one reviver, and having three or four good wideouts helps you make plays at anytime during the game."

Lack of chemistry between quarterback Andrew Walter and his receivers was a glaring weakness of ASU's offense in 2003. Hagan can only speak for himself, but he believes that this is a non-issue between him and the senior signal caller. "We have a real good connection that we have been developing through the years. We connected a little my freshman year, and last year we really started to connect. Now we're ready to go and on the same page. I told him I wanted to do big things this year, and he doesn't want to go out with a losing record."

In the off-season Hagan had an unfortunate incident where he was arrested for allegedly damaging the car of his ex-girlfriend following an argument. The wide receiver stated that he owns up to his mistake, and is ready to put that ordeal in the rearview mirror. "That day should have never happened," he said. "But you just have to deal with it, learn from it, and right now it's all behind me. I'm just focused on football and school."

No one in the wide receivers group has near the experience or overall stats as Hagan does. Thus, he becomes by default the leader of his unit. Hagan said that he readily embraces that title. "As a freshman you come in as the underdog," he stated. "But now a lot of people look up to you. They see what you do on the field, and you have to make sure you set a good example as veteran. I learned a lot from Skyler and Shaun McDonald on how to be a good receiver and a good leader, and it all paid out on the field." And the dividends from Hagan should continue in 2004…

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