‘Smooth' Sophomore Having a Solid Preseason

During a recent practice wide receiver T.J. Simpson made an effortless catch in a drill, hauling in a ball that wasn't all that perfectly thrown. The play elicits a "T.J. Smooth" call from his position coach Eric Yarber, and is just one more example of the fine performance Simpson is displaying in the pre-season.

"I'm feeling really good right now," said the 6-1 189 T.J. Simpson. "I'm practicing at all wide receiver positions, getting everything down pat. Just trying to get ready for the season and I think as a team we are prepared for it. We have some stuff we still to work on but we're doing pretty good."

With Brandon Smith out for the season with a torn ACL, the sophomore is arguably the fastest wide receiver on the squad and is also physical enough to fight off defenders. Simpson is a natural for the ‘Z' (aka flanker) position which he usually lines up at, but he has been displaying his versatility at all positions.

"I like both the inside and outside (wide receiver positions)," Simpson admitted. "Whatever gets me on the field is fine by me. My skills help me on the outside, but when you play the inside that's where you get mismatches sometimes, having a linebacker or a safety covering you."

As a redshirt freshman Simpson was seldom used. He did play in all 12 games, but caught just two balls, one of them for a touchdown, during the 2008 campaign. Nonetheless, the wide receiver credits the experience he got that season to his overall development and current play.

"I had a lot of players in front me that taught me a lot," Simpson recalled, "Guys like Mike Jones and Rudy Burgess. I really improved on catching the ball and route running. Those are skills I've been working on a lot."

Even though Simpson hasn't been able to elevate himself from the second team to the starting unit, he knows that despite a deep wide receiver group he should get a respectable number of game reps in an offensive system that often features three and four wideouts.

"We (the wide receivers) are really looking forward to playing in that system and spread the field," Simpson commented. "With so many wide receivers we know that we all are going to rotate in and out a lot. It's all good competition and we all push each other. We know the best players will be on the field and when your number is called you have to be ready to make a play."

Even a casual follower of Arizona State football this year is aware of the fact that the wide receivers group is easily the strongest unit on the offense. Yet, Simpson doesn't feel that his group has added pressure to carry an entire offense that currently has its fair share of question marks.

"Our mindset as receivers is that when our number is called we have to make a play," Simpson stated. "That's all we try to do. So sometimes we're asked to make a catch, sometimes we block for the running backs. We just have to execute whatever assignment they give us."

At Peoria high school Simpson was one of the best local wide receivers of the 2007 recruiting class. In his junior and senior years he totaled 74 catches for 1,621 yards and 16 touchdowns and averaged nearly 22 yards a catch.

Naturally Simpson has a good following of friends and family during the contests played at Sun Devil stadium, and Simpson is anxious for them to see him in action this season.

"They didn't that much of me last year in games," Simpson acknowledged. "I'm very excited to have them watch me play this year."


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