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Next man up: ASU receivers must adjust with loss of John Humphrey

Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry, right, makes the catch in front of Arizona cornerback Lorenzo Burns during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov 25, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Arizona 42-30. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — In sports, injuries are part of the game. Unfortunately, Arizona State redshirt junior receiver John Humphrey is learning that the hard way after he tore his Achilles tendon March 20 during spring football practice.

For those on the team, it was tough to watch a teammate suffer like that, especially when the injury was non-contact.

“You feel for John,” receivers coach Charlie Fisher said. “He’s such a great young man and it’s a tough setback for him and then for all of us. Whenever that happens, it’s just a reminder to how quick the game could end for you with an injury. So you got to come to work every day really cherishing every opportunity you got.”

Humphrey is out for the season with the right Achilles tear. He underwent surgery Thursday.

The mentality of “next man up” and taking advantage of every opportunity has been fostered by this group of receivers, and they know it’s especially important on and off the field.

“Sometimes, I’ve had it happen to me when your name gets called and you’re not ready,” star receiver N’Keal Harry said. “It’s extremely important for our guys to know that if someone goes down, the same is expected of them.”

When it comes to replacing Humphrey, Fisher said that the receivers need to “step up” to replace him and are competing between each other for that spot. At the moment, sophomore Frank Darby is that next man up. Darby has been running with the starters, but Fisher said that the competition is far from over.

The reps with the top unit has been valuable for Darby, who lacks relative experience. Harry said that Darby has been making strides each day out at practice and is growing into an “all-around wide receiver.”

Darby said that when “it’s your time, that you’ve been waiting for all your life,” you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity, and that’s what he’s been trying to do.

“(Spring football has) being going great for me,” Darby said. “Right now I’m running with the ones, I’ve been making plays; yeah it’s just been really amazing.”

Darby has also received praise from Fisher, who said Darby is a tough, talented player with a “off the charts” work ethic. The room for growth, Fisher said, is being more consistent.

Darby isn’t the only to be taking that mentality to heart, as Harry also is taking a bigger step as a leader. Harry said that with him being one of the veterans in that locker room, he needs to step up as a “vocal guy” and not be as laid back as he was in previous seasons.

“I’ve been trying to help other guys that might not know some things and just make our receiver group better as a whole,” Harry said.

Having your top player be that leader is something that Fisher likes very much, and he said that doing so sends “a good message” to the locker room.

Harry has been coaching up his teammates in practice and trying to help them out as much as he can. He also said that this mentor/vocal role isn’t just to benefit receivers.

“I’m trying to do it with everybody,” Harry said. “I’m trying to be real encouraging, especially when we’re having moments, bad practices, dropped balls, I’m just trying to do it with everyone and I’m gonna continue do to that and continue trying to grow.”

With a new coaching staff, having all of this occur in the first month makes this time in spring football very important.

“I was looking forward (to it),” Darby said. “Knowing that we got a new coach, new position coach, I looked at it as a fresh slate like I got to show my position coach who I am, who I really am, that I’m good enough to play at the college level and feel like I should be playing more.”

Fisher and ASU fans are hopeful the work pays off come August.

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