N’Keal Harry has lived up to the already high expectations of being a top recruit, but when his career is over, he’ll likely be the best receiver in Arizona State history.
When considering who the best receivers are in Sun Devil history, a few names come to mind. The last prominent receiver Arizona State had was Jaelen Strong but N’Keal Harry has also joined the group with an amazing three-year run in Tempe.
Strong, a JUCO prospect who joined Arizona State after his sophomore season, was a very good receiver with good size, decent speed, and solid hands. He was probably the biggest recruit the Sun Devils had as far as receivers go for quite some time. Additionally, he made an immediate impact and did a lot of things very well.
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Over his two seasons with the Sun Devils, Strong had 2,287 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns.
Derek Hagan is another player that comes to mind when thinking about the best receivers in Arizona State history. Hagan amassed the most receptions (258) and receiving yards (3,939) in program history before getting drafted in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft. As a pro, the four-year college star hung around for almost a full decade (2006-2014) with five NFL teams.
Right now, Hagan is the best statistical receiver in school history, then a few other names like Eric Guliford, Chris McGaha, and John Jefferson fill out the list. Harry, though, is climbing that group at an alarming rate.
His first season in 2016 he had 659 receiving yards on 58 receptions in 12 games, but last season was when he really caught fire. Harry’s 1,142 receiving yards were good enough for seventh all-time in single-season receiving yards for Arizona State.
But it isn’t just the stats that are going to push Harry to the top of the list; his playmaking ability will. Week one of the season showed just how versatile Harry can be with the ball. There were a few times Harry turned a play that should have been dead as soon as he caught the ball into a long gain because he’s so good after the catch.
He has an incredible center of gravity and knows how to keep his feet moving. It’s important to remember that half of the battle is just catching the ball, the other half is what separates good receivers from truly great ones.
Harry made a play during Saturday’s victory over the University of Texas at San Antonio that defined his playmaking ability.
Quarterback Manny Wilkins threw a pass to Harry on a short curl route that normally goes down three or four yards after it’s caught. Unbelievably, Harry shed the first tackler, and then spun out of the grips of a linebacker. From there, he didn’t see an opening, considering by this time the defenders had all collapsed on the short side of the field where Harry was.
No receivers coach on earth would recommend doing this but Harry reversed field and took the ball back a few yards before losing every defender on his way to a touchdown. He shed four tackles on the play en route to what was his second score of the night.
Granted, the Sun Devils weren’t exactly playing the best team in college football, but skills are skills, and players either have them or don’t have them. This game wasn’t isolated, Harry had a number of plays during the 2016 and 2017 seasons that were similar to the plays in week one of 2018.
Historically, the Pac-12 is famous for offense, and until now, Harry was really only known by those who follow Pac-12 football or Arizona State specifically. But 2018 will be the year Harry ends up a household name across the country.
Harry’s hands, vision, instincts, and playmaking ability are what will propel him into the top spot of Arizona State Sun Devil receivers when it’s all said and done.