Aaron Pflugrad found immediate success at Oregon. He earned playing time as a true freshman and in two seasons he recorded 23 receptions, 247 receiving yards and one touchdown. Three of those receptions came against the Sun Devils. Pflugrad also worked with the special teams unit returning punts and kicks.
Now a redshirt junior, Pflugrad took advantage of his transfer year to improve his skill set.
"I just tried to work on every part of my game," Pflugrad stated. "Going up against what was the number one defense in the Pac-10 everyday last year in practice helped me. Going hard against those guys really helped my game."
Pflugrad's experience in Oregon may have him slightly ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the wide receivers. Under the direction of new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the offense has taken on a new identity. An identity that is based more on speed, the shotgun and multiple receiver sets. Pflugrad has found immediate success working in the slot with the offense and when asked to comment the difference between the two offenses, Pflugrad responded:
"It feels pretty similar with Coach Mazzone. It's all high tempo. Practices feel pretty much the same but I feel like we're going to throw the ball more down here. (Mazzone) brings a lot of energy to our program. He's great to have around and with his scheme offensively, that also brings a lot to us."
Pflugrad's skills as a player also seem to perfectly tailor to an offense based on timing and consistency.
"I'd say my route running and ability to catch the ball (are my biggest strengths)," Pflugrad noted. "I always play hard. I'm going to try to be the punt returner and maybe get some work in at gunner as well."
After only four practices so far, the quarterback battle between Brock Osweiler, Steven Threet and Samson Szakacsy continues to rage on. All three signal callers have looked comfortable and able to run the new speed based offense. Pflugrad says he has trouble picking a favorite quarterback of the three.
"I like all of them," Pflugrad said. "They're all stepping up as leaders. All of them are grabbing you and saying ‘Hey, let's go throw extra.' It's going to be a tough decision (to decide on a starter) but I feel comfortable with all of them. I'll feel good going into a game with any of the three."
Collectively, all the wide receivers have been drawing rave reviews. First, second and third teamers alike are stepping up and getting productive reps every practice. A hamstring injury has kept Pflugrad out of the last hour or so of the last two practices and in his place AJ Pickens and Kyle Middlebrooks have been making their presence felt.
"I think we have a lot of depth," Pflugrad stated, "which is something that not a lot of people realize. We have two or three guys who can play at every position and we're all working on it because we want to win."
While the defense has been garnering most of the media attention, the offense is starting to fight back and show that they don't want to be victims every practice.
"It's pretty tough (going against the D)," Pflugrad confessed. "They're always flying around. But I think it's hard for them to practice against us, too."
With a slick new offense in place and several new faces ready, such as Aaron Pflugrad, to contribute, look for the trend of the Sun Devils offense making it hard on opposing defenses to continue.