CAMP TONTOZONA, Ariz. — When you talk to anyone about the 2012 Arizona State football team, invariably two of the first items up for discussion will be the new coaching staff and the new quarterback.
Todd Graham replaced Dennis Erickson, who was fired after five seasons on the job, and has dominated national headlines — mostly because of his abrupt exit from the University of Pittsburgh.
One of the first things Graham talked about after being hired to guide the Sun Devils was the importance of getting quarterback Brock Osweiler to return to school for his senior season. We know what happened — Osweiler bolted for the NFL, where he became a second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos and left Graham with three inexperienced candidates for this year’s starting job.
Further down on the list of concerns for Arizona State is the wide receiver position. Gerell Robinson, Aaron, Pflugrad, Mike Willie and George Bell are all gone, so replacing a quartet that was responsible for 66.3% of ASU’s receiving yardage and 59% of receiving touchdowns is a huge issue for Graham and company.
Enter Alonzo Agwuenu.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound transfer from Mt. San Antonio JC in California is improving every day and figures to see a lot of time once the regular season begins August 30. It’s pretty rare to see a junior college player acclimate to his new surroundings so quickly in fall camp, especially when they weren’t around for spring ball.
“Fundamentally, he had a lot to learn, and he’s still got a long way to go fundamentally, but he’s a talent,” Graham said. “He has really come on since he’s been at Camp Tontozona — he’s hit three or four long touchdowns in the last couple days.”
Agwuenu, who posted huge numbers at Mt. San Antonio last season with 76 catches for 1,125 yards and 19 touchdowns, feels there’s something about Camp T. that agrees with him.
“I just knew it was time, the coaches were harping on Camp T. the whole time,” he said. “I’m not saying the practices in Tempe weren’t serious, but when we got here, I knew I had to come with another mindset so I could really achieve my goals.”
Agwuenu was a major factor during Friday’s practice — the team’s last at Tontozona before Saturday’s camp-ending scrimmage. The junior caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Bercovici before being on the receiving end of a 45-yard touchdown strike from Michael Eubank.
Despite his growing confidence in the Sun Devils’ offense, Agwuenu admits it wasn’t there right from the get-go.
“The first week or so, the playbook was so big, I was kind of confused on my assignments and alignments, that I was forgetting about the little things,” he said. “But as it came on more and more, and I got more into film study and talked more with the coaches individually, it’s starting to click.
“I’m feeling pretty comfortable right now. I’ve got a whole week or so to really get prepared, but I’m on the way. I’m close.”