It will take more than the departure of one receiver to cool off the passing attack at Arizona State.
Even with wide receiver Richard Smith on his way out of Tempe, the Sun Devils should have no trouble staying hot on offense in 2014.
This is a team that scored 28 touchdowns through the air last season, and only two of those were caught by Smith. The majority of the scoring receptions fell into the hands of Jaelen Strong, who caught seven touchdown passes during the 2013 season.
Strong’s 75 receptions and seven scores were followed up by D.J. Foster, a running back who could catch as well as run. Foster caught the ball 63 times and had four touchdown receptions from quarterback Taylor Kelly, who was just as mobile and versatile.
The main loss for the team is actually Marion Grice, who finished off his senior season with 191 carries, 996 rushing yards, and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Luckily for the Sun Devils, they are deep in that position too because Foster is ready to take the reins as the primary rusher.
There is no doubt that Smith had an impact on the offense. His 5-foot-9-inch frame didn’t make him a consistent deep threat; rather, his 8.6 yards per catch made him a solid option for quick yardage when the other receiving targets were not open.
However, the Sun Devils picked up two highly-touted wide receivers in their 2014 recruiting class, which makes it easy to replace Smith. Eric Lauderdale is a four-star recruit who comes in ready to play after transferring from Saddleback College in California.
Jalen Harvey is an ESPN 300 recruit who also has garnered four stars in the process of being scouted by schools. Harvey stands at 6-foot-1, as does Lauderdale, so Arizona State will have no shortage of size in its receiving group in the upcoming season.
Perhaps it will choose to run more often, using Foster many times during a drive to either run or catch the ball out of the backfield. Kelly could use his dual-threat ability to gain yards if he can’t find an open receiver.
Kelly should have no problem finding a target, though, with Strong and Foster returning. If either Lauderdale or Harvey pans out, the Sun Devils will have enough stars on the field to sustain themselves. If both prove they can handle Pac-12 competition, Arizona State could be a force that could repeat its 10-4 performance from last season.
The Sun Devils can score, and they will find the end zone more than enough times in 2014 if they can utilize the other weapons they have remaining after Smith leaves.