The Arizona State football team some big shoes to fill at the wide receiver position for the upcoming 2015 season. Leading receiver Jaelen Strong is departing for the NFL and the projected number one target to his his spot, Cameron Smith, has season ending knee surgery.
Two big pieces out means opportunity for others to step up.
Insert redshirt junior Eric Lauderdale who spent all of his first season with the Sun Devils last year a spectator on game day. After high school, he went the junior college route attending Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. In two seasons, he was one of the most dynamic playmakers at the JUCO level tallying 114 receptions for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns. He then transferred to ASU last season and sat because of taking a redshirt year.
Being forced to sit out on game day was a great learning experience for Lauderdale as he focused on becoming a student of the game.
“Just getting in the film room and growing up as an individual,” Lauderdale said of his 2014 season. “Being around Gary [Chambers], Jaelen [Strong] that left, Ellis [Jefferson, D.J. Foster. They just helped me out.”
He and Jaelen Strong have many connections. For one, they were roommates last season so they grew close, worked out together and pushed one another. In addition, Lauderdale as mentioned went the JUCO route before coming to ASU just like Strong. Seeing now that Strong is being projected to go early in the upcoming NFL Draft, Lauderdale hopes to find the similar path to success.
“It gives me motivation and that was my roommate as well,” Lauderdale mentioned. “We talked a lot. I still talk to him every day really. That gives me a lot of motivation but I just want to go my own route really.”
Now Strong is out and then at the beginning of spring practice in Tempe, it was announced that Cameron Smith is done for the season because of surgery on his knee. A big blow for a team in need of a number one receiver. Lauderdale eyes this as a big opportunity and the receiving core as a whole looks to step up.
“Embrace the grind,” he stated. “We go by embrace the grind. ETG. Everybody just has to work hard. All the receivers just getting in the film room and paying attention honestly. Just do what we have to do.”
With spring ball in full swing for ASU in preparation for the upcoming season, Lauderdale is looking to apply what he learned about himself and the Sun Devil system to the practice field so he can cement his role in the ASU offense.
“I just need to concentrate,” Lauderdale explained. “Just get in my playbook. Be confident in what I do. Just listen to the coaches because I make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. And that’s it.”