It wasn’t a major move — maybe a few feet, but it has produced major results, so far.
Through two games, Aaron Pflugrad leads all ASU receivers in catches (11), yards receiving (230) and touchdowns (4), results head coach Dennis Erickson was hoping for when he decided in the spring to move the senior from the slot receiver position to an outside wide receiver; a decision Pflugrad more than welcomed.
“In the offense [being on the outside] gives you a little bit of ability to run some more routes opposed to inside,” Pflugrad explained. “I still enjoy and I like playing inside, but in this offense outside there are a lot of man-to-man routes and that’s where I feel my strength’s at.”
No other Sun Devil player has more than six catches and Gerell Robinson is more than 100 yards behind as the second leading receiver.
Pflugrad’s success does not surprise quarterback Brock Osweiler. The pair spent quite a lot of time together over the last two years.
“[He] was a guy that whenever I wanted to throw extra routes during the summer he wanted to run extra routes. He would call me. I would call him. So that relationship really started to build then. And then last season he was my roommate on the road (and) for home games in the hotel. We really took that into this offseason. We were complete workout partners. We’d go and run South Mountain every morning together. He would never miss an optional throwing session I would have. He would always be there. He would come in and watch film with me.
“What Aaron did this offseason,” Osweiler continued, “especially in the summer months was something that I’ve never seen from a football player in my life. I just call him ‘little machine.’ He was like a robot. Nothing could stop him. That just goes to show: nothing can stop hard work.”
Erickson this week called Pflugrad a “maniac workout guy.”
The work has definitely paid off.
Against Missouri, Pflugrad finished with a career-high 180 yards — the most yards receiving by a Sun Devil since Derek Hagan had 182 yards in the 2004 Sun Bowl, while catching two touchdowns for the second straight game.
“That felt good to have a big game like that,” said Pflugrad, who’s already doubled his scoring total from last season. However, he’s not satisfied. “I just got to keep it going every week and continue to work hard even when the balls aren’t coming my way and just try to make plays when they throw me the football.”
Added Erickson, “Football is so important to him that everything he does in his life is to become a great football player. He’s worked very hard to get where he’s at. Obviously physically stature (5-10, 180-pounds) he’s not probably what you see a lot. He’s a playmaker.”