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October 2, 2013

Strong emergence benefiting other pass catchers




Arizona State's receivers are helping each other out.

After the USC game, junior quarterback Taylor Kelly said the big pass plays over the middle to senior tight end Chris Coyle and sophomore running back D.J. Foster were a success because of the bracketed coverage on sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong.

Bracketed coverage simply means the safety over the top was aligned over to Strong's side in order to help the cornerback contain him. The coverage left the middle of the field open to more opportunity for ASU's other receiving options.

"Anytime that you have a guy that's out there making plays and the defense has to account for him it's going to open up one-on-ones for other positions," offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said.

With the extra attention on Strong, Coyle finished his game against USC with five catches for 87 yards and some key first down grabs. Foster ended the night with three catches for 80 yards and one 74-yard touchdown catch.

Strong said once Coyle started making plays early the coverage loosened up on him in the USC game.

"They came out playing cover two which leaves the middle of the field wide open and that's why you saw Chris Coyle do what he did," Strong said. "First series he took one straight down the middle then he took another one straight down the middle. After that they started focusing on Chris so they went back to man which opened up things for myself."

When Strong got one-on-one man coverage from USC, he started hooking up with Kelly and their almost patented back-shoulder fade again. Strong finished his game against the Trojans with seven catches for 103 yards. It was his third straight game with over 100 yards receiving.

This has been the pattern for the ASU receiving corps all season.

Early in the season, not many defensive coordinators knew about Strong. But Coyle was no secret after catching 57 passes last season.

In the Sun Devils' first couple games Coyle said he was receiving a lot of double coverage.

"There was always multiple guys pointing me out," Coyle said. "Now it's kind of moving over to him [Strong] a little bit, he's getting a little attention. That's going to open it up for all of us because they're not going to be able to put attention on either one of us because [Kelly] is going to find the open guy and he does a great job of putting the ball right on them."

Having a few quality options is a good problem to have for Norvell. It is not a good thing for ASU's opposing defenses the rest of the year.

Strong knows with the numbers he has put up so far this season, he will continue to get more attention from opposing defenses. But he said he likes the challenge and the idea of freeing up not just Coyle and Foster but other receivers like senior running back Marion Grice and sophomore wide receiver Rick Smith.

"I'm going to see a lot of double coverage, a lot of cover two over the top so that's definitely going to help people like Chris Coyle, Marion [Grice], D.J. [Foster] and Rick [Smith] on the other side as well,
Strong said. "So it's going to be very exciting."

Because he was not cleared for practice and missed some practices early in fall camp, Strong had just about a month to prepare for the season.

There is a learning curve for any junior college transfer but it was impressive what Strong did in a short amount of time.

Norvell applauded him for his adjustment, but also said he has not reached his full potential yet.

"He's done a good job coming in and learning the system and learning what we're asking him to do," Norvell said. "Obviously he's making some nice plays. But he knows, like we all know, he's not even scratched the surface to where he can be at. For him he's coming to work every day working to get better and improve the rest of his game."

No upcoming defenses can double cover all of ASU's receiving weapons. Strong was very straightforward when he said the sky's the limit for the ASU receivers.

"I don't think anybody will be able to stop us this year," Strong said. "Anybody."

Notes

  • Sophomore defensive tackle Jaxon Hood (hamstring) was wearing a green jersey again in practice. He was able to jog during warm ups but appears doubtful to play again this Saturday after missing the USC game.

  • In the defensive walk-through junior Damarious Randall got some first string reps at the field safety position then was out with the first team defense in the team tempo period. ASU coach Todd Graham said Randall may get some playing time Saturday.

  • Freshman Matt Haack received first team reps on punt team. Junior Alex Garoutte took the second team punts usually kicking rugby style.


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