Hagan Eager to Show His Improvement

Limited playing time as a rookie. A lowly 6-10 team record. Your team drafting a player in your position with the 9th overall pick. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Derek Hagan isn't fazed by all these facts. When Devils Digest caught up with the ex-Sun Devil standout, it wasn't hard to detect the enthusiasm in his voice and his strong belief that he's ready to elevate his game in 2007.

Derek Hagan finished his Arizona State career as not only one of the best wide receivers in Sun Devil history, but also the All-Time Pac-10 leader in receptions and second in career receiving yards. During his maroon and gold tenure Hagan rewrote the school's record book with 3,939 receiving yards, 258 receptions and 27 touchdowns.

It was undoubtedly a different reality for Hagan in his first year as an NFL player. The wide receiver caught 21 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. "It was a learning experience," he said. "I played behind two good receivers in Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. I obviously didn't get much playing time, but I know what I need to improve on so I get more snaps."

"It definitely took time to learn the mental side of the game, and get used to a different level of speed. I also had to learn the playbook and a whole different system last year, and now with the coaching change we have a brand new scheme and new terminology that we have to learn."

Ever since the legendary coach Don Shula retired from the Miami Dolphins, the organization has always had a defensive-minded person at the helm. This year the Aqua and Orange will have former San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron as their new skipper. "I'm definitely excited to have an offensive-minded head coach like Coach Cameron," remarked Hagan. "He did great things in San Diego and hopefully he can do the same here. I'm used to from college having an offensive-minded head coach that likes to throw the ball down the field a lot, so I'm happy about that…I also really like my new wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie."

Even though Hagan was able to go home to Palmdale (Calif.) and visit Tempe in the last few weeks, it surely wasn't much of an off-season, as the receiver spent most of his time in Miami working out. The hard work is starting to pay off as Cameron has been quoted giving much praise to Hagan during the team's spring mini-camp.

"As you get more experience, you just go out there and play instead of thinking all the time what you need to do," explained Hagan. "I have the new playbook pretty much down so that helped me play well and show what I can do."

The first round selection of Ted Ginn Jr. by the Dolphins sent shock waves across the league, given the apparent need for a quarterback to be drafted. Hagan admitted to be surprised too, but refuses to read this team personnel move as something that could impact his chances for increased time on the field. "No team in the NFL has one receiver on their roster," he said. "Each team has at least five receivers that can play. Even when I was at ASU, I wasn't the only receiver there making plays. We had Terry Richardson, Moey Mutz, Matt Miller…you have to have a lot of good receivers so when teams double-up on one receiver the others can make the play."

"I don't think the team drafting him (Ted Ginn Jr.) will limit my opportunities. I need to just continue to work hard and focus on what I need to do, and not look around and see who we drafted. If I take care of business and prove to the coaches that I can play, I'll have my chances." Hagan added that Ginn was also drafted as the team's main return specialist to replace Wes Welker who departed the Dolphins via free agency.

Hagan mentioned that he didn't have a chance yet to talk to former ASU teammate Zach Miller, but stated that he was definitely looking forward to playing against the first-year NFL tight end, along with another former Sun Devil, quarterback Andrew Walter, when the Raiders play at Miami this year. "If I had one piece of advice to give Zach his rookie year, it's to listen to everything the veterans say (laughs). It's that simple."

Naturally, Hagan is hopeful that his numbers will increase in his second season in the league. Yet more importantly, he talks about the feats his squad needs to achieve. "Obviously I want to play better than I did last year and get more playing time, but more than anything I want us as a team to win," he commented. "We missed the playoffs five years in a row and we don't want that to happen again. Whatever I do out there I want to help my team win more games than last year and turn this thing around."

And perhaps as Hagan's productivity turns around, maybe the fate of his team will follow…

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