Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong played large roles in an Arizona State offense that scored at least 50 points a school record six times last season.
They both return in 2014 to lead ASU for what will surely be Kelly’s last season in Tempe and potentially Strong’s as well. They will be counted on heavily, given the Sun Devils’ inexperienced and unproven defense coming into this season.
That’s part of why ESPN recently ranked Sun Devil duo amongst the top 100 players in all of college football. The Worldwide Leader asked 32 of its college football writers to judge each player on a scale of one to 10 when it comes to their “expected contributions” in 2014.
Strong tied for No. 76 with an average score of 6.81.
As a redshirt sophomore, Strong led the Sun Devils in receiving yards and will look to do the same — only bigger, better and more explosively — this season. With QB Taylor Kelly back, Strong will certainly have the chance to make a few very big dents in defenses across the Pac-12.
Kelly finished slightly higher, tied at No. 72 with an average score of 6.84.
He worked his way from third on the depth chart to all-conference performer. Kelly is a perfect fit for Mike Norvell’s system, and with talented playmakers like D.J. Foster and Strong around him, Kelly should be poised for another strong season.
Kelly is also on the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien preseason award watch lists, and Strong has been named a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award — given to the best wide receiver in college football each season. They were also recently named part of the best offensive trio in the Pac-12, along with running back D.J. Foster, by NFL.com writers.
Whether or not Kelly and Strong can live up to the forecasted success set for them remains to be seen. But if they pick up where they left off and continue to improve their production this season, both men should be walking across a stage to shake Roger Goodell’s hand next May.