ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly is the Pac-12’s leader in passing efficiency through eight games. That is the case despite the fact that his leading receiving targets do not play the wide receiver position.
Going into Saturday’s game against Oregon State, three of the top four leaders in receiving yards are a running back or tight end. Freshman running back D.J. Foster leads the team with 454 receiving yards. That’s followed by Chris Coyle, then wide receiver Rashad Ross and fourth is running back Marion Grice.
Furthermore, Coyle, Foster and Grice are top three on the team in receptions and the only three players to record more than 100 yards receiving in a game this season.
“It’s been us just being adaptive with the guys we’ve got,” said ASU head coach Todd Graham at his weekly press conference on Monday. “I think Coach Norvell has done a nice job of doing that…to get the ball to the best guys. So that’s what we are trying to do.”
While this is something that is very rare for a football team at this level, it is not something Coach Graham isn’t familiar with one his teams.
“We’ve always utilized our backs,” said Graham. “Since ’06 at Rice our guys caught a lot of balls out of the backfield. We’ve always done a lot of things utilizing them. The three-back is a statement in our offense.”
One area that Coach Graham mentioned that he isn’t surprised about is the fact that Chris Coyle is one of the leading receivers and scorers for the team. While tight ends under Dennis Erickson became somewhat of an after-though at ASU during his tenure, the numbers similar to what Coyle has put up this season has been a common trend in Graham’s past schemes.
“The tight end position has always been one of our top scorers,” said Graham. “When I was at Tulsa it was one of the top scorers in the history in the school. So the tight end, obviously that doesn’t surprise me.”
Depth and leadership at the wide receiver position has received on and off scrutiny this season and though players like Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier have emerged and played well at times this season, no one at that position is a primary target. Whether that is a product of the level of talent at that position or just the scheme’s ASU is running remains to be seen.
This notion however has not stopped ASU from putting up the third most points in the conference per game and allowing Taylor Kelly to be the eighth most efficient passer in the nation.
ASU and their odd but efficient attack heads out to Corvalis to take on the 13th ranked Oregon State Beavers on Saturday at 7:30 pm from Reser Stadium.