Q&A With Coach Daryl Jackson

ASU's wide receivers coach talks about the Sun Devils' newest recruits at this position, and discusses his expectations from his unit for the 2002 season.

DevilsDigest: Coach, what can you tell us about ASU's wide receivers in the 2002 recruiting class?

Daryl Jackson: Derek Hagan – "He's a very athletic individual who also played defensive back. He made quite a few plays. I don't project him playing the slot or an outside receiver. In our offense he needs to play both positions. That's the beauty of our system; a player can utilize his skills playing both positions. Defenses can't focus on one wide receiver, knowing he will only run certain routes. I'm looking forward to getting him in the system."

Terry Richardson – "He does come with a lot of accolades. He's a big time player. He's very talented. I'm really looking forward to him competing. He needs to come in, relax, and play the game. The game in some aspects is the same like high school. The ball may get to you a little faster, and you'll be competing against players 2-3 years older than you. But in some ways if you just stick to your game, you'll succeed."

DD: I know that each coach has his own selling pitch when it comes to recruiting. I would assume that in the wide receivers case, you did tell these two players that they have a chance to play early by just looking at the depth chart. Is this true?

DJ: "We do have availability at this position, and we'll play the best athlete whether he's a freshman or a senior. When we come into someone's house we never promise them that they would start, just that we'll give you a chance to compete. We tell then that if you're the best, you'll play. The kids are smart enough; they do their research seeing how many receivers a school is returning. So they know the numbers. Having a chance to play right away was one, but not the only, reasons these players choose ASU."

DD: I know it may be early to talk about starters and depth chart, But when you look at this group, you see an All Pac-10 player in Shaun McDonald, but you also see that question marks concerning the number two wide receiver. Do you share that same concern, and would you like to establish that position at the conclusion of spring practice?

DJ: "We're always going to establish our best receivers. I'm looking forward to coaching all of them, and watching them grow. I want to see who will elevate their game. Shaun has a lot of things to improve on; he did have a good season. But he knows that at this level one good season doesn't mean anything. He has to improve, and our whole group has to improve. I'm looking forward to seeing how all of them perform in the spring. I would like to see if someone would pass Shaun up. No one mentioned that kid's name going into the fall of last year. That's fine. I never look at one guy saying he's my number one receiver. It's all about competition. People can always be passed up. You want to see who will compete and raise his level of game. You can never be satisfied with what you did last year."

DD: As far as Daryl Lightfoot goes, we know about all the injuries he had that affected his playing time. Is he doing some things in our conditioning program right now that would make him more durable this season?

DJ: "I hope so (smile). He's in the weight room lifting, which helps to minimize injuries. We have a good strength and conditioning program here, and if the man upstairs can help – we should be fine (smile). I'd love to see him make it through all the games healthy. That's the whole key. If he can practice all of spring, he can only get better. Right now he's so raw, he just needs to polish that talent everyday in practice. We want him to shine when the lights go on."

DD: One player I'm very excited about his Matt Miller. He seems to have a great combination of size and speed. Do you share the same opinion?

DJ: "Oh, I'm looking forward to seeing Matt play. Watching him in practice, he did very well for a scout team. . He was phenomenal there. I know what he's capable of and so do our players. Now he's going to compete for a starting position for us. We are young, but everybody is competing for that playing time. And competition breeds a lot of good things."

DD: Justin Taplin showcased his skills more on special teams, than he did at wide receiver. Now because of the thin wide receiver corps, he'll probably be counted on more at this position than he was last year. Do you think the transition may be difficult for him?

DJ: "A lot of people forget that last year he started for us in the first few games. He got injured at the Stanford game, and was out for a couple of games, and people didn't see him a lot. Then, Shaun McDonald got on fire when he replaced him. I'm looking for Taplin to do what he did out of camp T last year. He's a great Football player, who runs routes very well and catches the ball. He understands our offense extremely well. He will help us bring along all the young receivers that we got on the team."

DD: Looking forward to spring practice, what are you're trying to accomplish from a wide receiver standpoint? What is your outlook for this position?

DJ: "We lost two seniors in Donnie O'neal and Ryan Dennard, and we return two players that played a lot in Shaun McDonald and Justin Taplin. Daryl Lightfoot didn't play that much because of injuries. We have Matt Miller coming off a redshirt year. We have Skyler Fulton who will return to us in the fall, who played a little. Getting all those kids on the same page as the quarterback is key. We need to eliminate the number of dropped balls. We didn't do a good job sustaining drives, especially on third downs, so we have to improve on that too. If we're cohesive with the quarterback, we'll make some plays."

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