With less than three weeks until the 2018 Arizona State football season officially kicks off, it seems like we’ve analyzed just about every aspect of this roster except perhaps the only unit that hasn’t seen much change. ASU’s 2018 wide receiver unit should be almost identical to that of 2017.
The depth of this unit is fronted by none other than N’Keal Harry, who accounted for almost 35 percent of the Sun Devils’ total receiving yards. Harry’s 1142 total yards placed him second in the Pac-12, just 122 yards behind UCLA’s Jordan Lasley, who is now with the Baltimore Ravens.
Behind Harry in 2017 were five other solid receivers, and the only change in 2018 is the shift of Jalen Harvey to safety. The remaining four consist of juniors Kyle Williams, John Humphrey, Ryan Newsome and redshirt sophomore Frank Darby.
Williams will definitely be a go-to in the red zone in 2018. With just 80 percent of the receptions that Harry had, Williams managed to score just one less touchdown. Together, the two receivers scored 15 of the Sun Devils’ 21 receiving touchdowns.
Although the rest of the receiving unit did not touch the ball as much as Harry and Williams, their experience and familiarity are going to be key in 2018. Darby had only nine receptions last year but managed to place fourth in total yards for ASU. He finished 2017 with the highest average yards per reception at 26 and also scored two touchdowns.
Throughout this offseason, we have established that running back Eno Benjamin is a beast and the core of the ASU run game, but he’s also only a sophomore. This means the Sun Devil offense will need to lean on their receiving unit a little more than usual coming into the 2018 season. New offensive coordinator Rob Likens should be beneficial in this transition.
Likens, promoted from his position as the wide receivers coach, knows the strengths and weaknesses of this unit better than anyone. Likens has expressed his concentration on the development of the passing game, as most of the focus has been on the run game the past couple of years.
The key to the development and efficiency of this unit in 2018 is going to come down to their progression from last year and being able to pick up where they left off. They are one of the only units actually able to progress in a continuum stemming from last year rather than having to pause and reevaluate. If this happens the way Likens intends, ASU could have one of the top passing offenses in the Pac-12.