ASU’s Todd Graham counting on big things from Jaelen Strong
If you’re headed to Arizona State’s scrimmage at Camp Tontozona Saturday, you may be asking “who is number 21 on offense.”
The answer is Jaelen Strong, a transfer from Pierce College in California. The wide receiver has only been with the Sun Devils for a short time, but his head coach is expecting him to make a big impact for his new team in 2013.
“Jaelen is really going to be a great force for us,” Graham said following Friday’s practice. “He hasn’t done anything yet, but he’s got unbelievable potential to do some great things.
“In pretty good coverage, he’s making some plays over the top of people, so he’s a guy that stuck out to me.”
Strong was rated as the fifth-best junior college wide receiver prospect in this class by 247Sports.com after catching 67 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
The Philadelphia native is being counted on to infuse some life into a unit that accounted for only 44 percent of ASU’s total receptions in 2012.
Strong got off to a slow start at Camp T, but according to Graham, that’s because he’s playing catch-up. The sophomore wasn’t academically cleared when the rest of his teammates started fall camp.
“He had to learn the system,” Graham said. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing, I think. The guy’s only been practicing for like five days or something like that.”
Strong agrees with his coach.
“I had a couple big catches, but I’ve still got a lot of things to work on,” he said. “I had some mental mistakes out there on the field, working with plays and stuff. The catching is going to come easy because I’ve been doing that since I was young, so that’s not really the main thing for me right now.
“The main thing for me right now is focusing on getting my plays right, stop making mental errors and just doing everything right and moving fast.”
Strong is part of a new-look receiving corps that will also feature his former junior college teammate, Joe Morris, along with freshmen Ronald Lewis and Cameron Smith.
Although he hasn’t been on the field long, Graham notices one thing that’s very promising as the Sun Devils creep closer to their season opener against Sacramento State in early September.
“You want to see a quarterback and a guy get a feel for each other and Taylor (Kelly) and him are starting to get a feel for each other,” he said. “So they’ve got to do a whole bunch at the end of practice — you’ll notice every day we do fade work and ball drill work and things like that.
“He is a phenomenal, gifted player, the kind of player that we want in our system that we have not had is a big, physical receiver like that.”
The Sun Devils’ annual Camp Tontozona scrimmage will start at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning.