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Broussard whipping wide receivers into shape

FIRM, FAIR, FLEXIBLE: ASU wide receivers coach Steve Broussard offers instructions during a spring practice earlier this month at Bill Kajikawa practice field. (Photo by Nick Kosmider)
FIRM, FAIR, FLEXIBLE: ASU wide receivers coach Steve Broussard offers instructions during a spring practice earlier this month at Bill Kajikawa practice field. (Photo by Nick Kosmider)

The talent level of the ASU wide receiver corps was supposed to have taken a tumble due to the graduations of Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha.

The duo combined for 113 catches, 1,488 yards receiving, and 12 touchdowns last season, and had been staples in the starting lineup since 2007.

ASU’s leading returning wide receiver, junior Gerrell Robinson, had only 26 catches last year.

But if this spring has been any indication, the wide receiving corps may be the best offensive unit on the team. Robinson, senior Kerry Taylor, juniors George Bell and Aaron Pflugrad and redshirt freshman J.J. Holliday have been impressive every day in camp so far, culminating in an impressive performance in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

One of the main reasons for the high level of play from the receivers has been new wide receivers coach Steve Broussard. Broussard, known as “Bruiser” in his playing days at Washington State and in the NFL, has instilled a new level of intensity in the wide receiver corps, demanding discipline and perfection at all times.

“He’s very demanding of them,” ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. “[He is] very demanding of them being very physical, and what we’re doing offensively demands that at wide receiver. Some offenses you don’t need that, but we do in what we’re doing. He’s done a good job of getting them disciplined and doing the right things.”

When last year’s wide receivers coach Eric Yarber left to take the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ASU brought in Broussard, who had played nine seasons in the NFL and led the Pac-10 in receiving yards his sophomore year at WSU and in rushing yards his junior year.

Broussard also describes his coaching philosophy as demanding, but used three words to describe his style.

“Firm, fair and flexible,” Broussard said. “That’s what I would like to describe my coaching philosophy [as] — firm, fair and flexible. Being firm in letting them know where I stand, flexible enough to change my ways and adjust to my players and fair in trying to treat them all the same. I believe in that and I would like that as a player.”

Taylor, the lone senior in the ASU receiving corps, credits Broussard for the improvement of the unit and said that he has really worked the unit hard.

“He’s been pushing us every day,” Taylor said after a practice last week. “Years in the past, we haven’t been really used to that, but he’s bringing the best out of all of us. He’s either going to make you or break you, so we’ve all taken on the challenge individually and as a whole wide receiver unit.”

A big improvement has been the blocking of the wide receivers on runs and screen plays — something that was lacking last year.

“[We have] to be able to block in the run game because we’re going to have to run the screen game and the run game is going to be vital to our offense,” Broussard said.

An indicator of what Broussard expects out of his wide receivers is his praise of Pflugrad, the undersized but fast and hard-working junior transfer from Oregon.

“He understands what it takes to grind and work hard,” Broussard said. “I think he’s a guy that you can look at and say, ‘hey, model your work ethic [after] him.’ [He] is the one guy that stands out in my mind.”

Injury notes

Bell (muscle pull) was held out most of practice Thursday, and Erickson said that he wasn’t sure if he would play in Saturdays scrimmage.

Senior defensive tackle Saia Falahola had a walking boot on his left foot after spraining his ankle in last week’s scrimmage, and senior cornerback LeQuan Lewis sustained what appeared to be a hand injury and was later seen with a cast on around his right arm and hand.

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