DevilsDigest: Coach, what can you tell us about the wide receivers in the 2006 recruiting class?
Darryl Jackson: Angelo Richardson – "He's an athletic receiver with good speed and good playmaking ability. He's done a good job of making people miss. As long as he can bring that same level of athleticism here, good things should happen for him. He just has to understand the offense and that's my part. He's a very bright young man, with great passion and enthusiasm for the game. I'm looking forward to him getting here."
Kyle Williams – "Kyle is an explosive player, not as big as Angelo but very explosive. He was injured his junior season and he came under the radar which is fine. He has a lot of talent. Good hands, good change of direction and great leaping ability. He and Angelo can come here and compete for a position."
DD: The fact that you signed only two wide receivers was obviously done first and foremost because there were more pressing needs at other positions. However, is part of it also having a lot faith in the returning players?
DJ: "That's just part of recruiting. Being able to get outstanding players to compete within a position, and having the right number of receivers to be competitive in the spring and fall, and each of them will have an opportunity to show what they can or cannot do. We have a good balance and we feel very fortunate to get the two players that we did."
DD: How would you evaluate the wide receivers group as a whole in 2005?
DJ: "As a whole we preformed pretty well. We weren't excellent by any stretch of the imagination. There were some plays that we could of made and didn't make and there were some games that we made plays that nobody probably thought we could make. We know we have certain goals we set for ourselves for the group and individually. This past year was pretty rough, but the one thing I will say about the group is that they never backed down for a challenge, which is something that also goes into life skills. We won four of the last five games and that speaks volumes."
DD: Did you get special satisfaction that the wide receivers group didn't miss a beat when Rudy Carpenter was inserted as the starter at quarterback?
DJ: "The young man threw in rhythm all summer long, plus the two-a-days practices, plus the beginning of the season – it's not like there was no chemistry between them (Carpenter and the receivers). A lot of his deal last spring was just picking up the language of the offense, and knowing where to go with the ball. That's what he did all summer long – is getting ready for the opportunity. Nobody sees him throwing from June till August and that's where he and the players get their timing and chemistry. They can go out during those months and play all day long. During the season, we have restrictions that doesn't allow them to do that. They can go out there all day long and they did."
"You never know when the person in front of you will go down, and when he does the reason that we brought you here is to compete and play. He did his part and that's part of the growth process."
DD: Your group will have two somewhat new faces in Jamaal Lewis, who will be a part-time receiver, and Rudy Burgess. What do you expect from those two this year?
DJ: "It's gonna be a great opportunity to see everyone go out there and compete. There are a lot positions available and we'll find out what they can do. As I told them, it's a great opportunity to go out there, understand what's going on, and add value to the team. These guys know that they're coming to play receiver, but they also know that they're coming to dominate special teams. Until this year, receivers have dominated on special teams – Donnie O'Neal, Ryan Dennard, Justin Taplin, Skyler Fulton, Moey Mutz, Matt Miller, all down the line…it's great that you can catch the ball, but you have to add value to the team."
DD: Can you talk about two players that played sparingly last season Mike Jones and Nate Kimbrough and how they are progressing?
DJ: "Mike played late in the season and actually came on. We had injuries to different guys, and Mike has progressed to the point where he understands three positions right now and he does a great job. He got better on special teams – he wasn't on special teams in the beginning of the season and when he was he got more reps. His confidence grew from being on special teams. He did a got job in run blocking."
"Nate didn't have that same opportunity. He's still learning and understanding the game and the speed of the game. Like a lot of new guys out there – the cream of the crop will rise to the top. Every year someone asks me ‘who's gonna be your guy'? ASU has a history of great receivers and the next one is coming. Who it is, we'll find out when we get through spring practice and the fall."
DD: How would you evaluate the two receivers that redshirted Chris McGaha and Brandon Smith?
DJ: "Chris and Brandon did a very good job on the scout team. They're extremely competitive and both are tough football players. Very good hands, very athletic, great knack for just going and getting the ball. A lot of it is gonna come down to how much time they spend on their own watching film and understanding the game. If they put the time in they have a chance to have excellent careers."
DD: It does appear, at least on paper, that you will have less experience at this position compared to 2005. Do you expect a steeper learning curve in general for this group?
DJ: "As I told those guys, we have from now until August to get it right. We have to be full speed in August. We do have a steep curve, and the ones that understand it will probably be on the field playing. You have two new kids coming in and they'll have their opportunity early in camp to go out there and show what they can do. We're moving forward and there's not a lot of time to sit back and catch your breath. Next season already started and the learning curve has already started. We just have to keep on chopping it down (smile)."
Q& A With Coach Darryl Jackson
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