ASU football receivers jostling in spring to earn playing time
The Arizona State Sun Devils’ best receiver in 2020 was a running back.
Rachaad White led the Sun Devils with 151 receiving yards and caught eight passes, the latter of which was second-most on the team in the four-game season.
It’s safe to say the wide receiver pecking order is an open competition heading into 2021, and two Sun Devils who didn’t play last year are using spring to grab their coaches’ attention.
Current freshmen Chad Johnson Jr. and Elijhah Badger are in a position to be in the mix for playing time in the fall, according to wide receivers coach Prentice Gill.
Johnson, who is the son of former NFL star Chad Johnson, has improved the most in the eyes of Gill and has added some size since last spring.
“Chad has come a long way,” Gill said via Zoom on Monday. “It looks like he belongs now. It looks like he’s in college, so I’m really excited about him. I think he’s made the biggest turn.”
Badger was academically ineligible in 2020 and couldn’t suit up. According to Gill, if Badger can clean up his route running, paired with his athleticism, then the Sun Devils will have a real offensive force on the outside.
“He’s superior athletically. Really we just got to clean up a lot of technical things, but he plays hard,” Gill said. “He’s definitely a playmaker, and I think when we’re going live, we haven’t even seen his best ability which is when he gets the ball in his hands.
“We just want to clean up some stuff technically, he’s a little raw at the receiver spot. … His ceiling is high we just have to keep working on him.”
Last year, the receivers room consisted of Frank Darby, who is off to the pros, plus three freshmen and two sophomores. L.V. Bunkley-Shelton, Geordon Porter, Ricky Pearsall, Andre Johnson and Johnny Wilson all contributed last season and return to an offense led by quarterback Jayden Daniels and directed by offensive coordinator Zak Hill.
Outside of Darby, Porter and Pearsall were the oldest receivers of the group as sophomores, so there is still plenty of competition and opportunity for a young group to earn themselves playing time, according to Gill.
Johnson and Badger will compete with those five returning receivers from last year as well as incoming transfer Bryan Thompson and four-star recruit Junior Alexander.