Pickens begins to stand out

Pickens begins to stand out

Often in sports the production of a team's star players isn't what win games, rather it's the unexpected production from role players that makes the difference between winning and losing.

Pickens begins to stand out Junior WR gets first career touchdown last week Often in sports the production of a team's star players isn't what win games, rather it's the unexpected production from role players that makes the difference between winning and losing. Lost in the shuffle of big plays from Saturday's win, which included Jamal Miles' punt return for a touchdown and Cameron Marshall's Lynch-like run over five players, was the first career touchdown for junior wide receiver A.J. Pickens, a 17-yard strike from Brock Osweiler that got the Sun Devils on the board and on their way to victory.

Pickens, who backs up Miles, has looked solid since coming to ASU from Don Lugo High School in Chino, California, in 2008, but has only seen action in a handful of games the last two seasons, resulting in very modest totals of nine catches for 121 yards since 2009. Still, the 5'10", 168 pound receiver has always been there when called upon, and with three of those nine career receptions coming in last Saturday's win, he may be finally finding his stride.

"It was great actually," Pickens said of playing his best game as a Sun Devil. "I'm backing up Jamal Miles and I'm just happy for whenever I get the opportunity to use it.

"I'm in the rotation, hopefully I'll get more opportunities this week so I'm just ready and I'll keep my head up."

With players like Miles (24 catches, 172 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Gerell Robinson (19 catches, 302 yards, 3 touchdowns) in front of him on the depth chart, it's been hard for Pickens to find much time on the field, especially with an offense that spreads the ball around as much as ASU does. Not getting the ball on a consistent basis can be discouraging for a wide receiver, just ask Randy Moss, but Pickens seems to have the right attitude when it comes to his "Randy Ratio."

"We've got great wide receivers, so it doesn't really matter to me," Pickens said. "I just want to do what's best for the team and make plays.

"I've been playing slot since I've been here and I'm starting to get used to it, especially mentally. I just keep going hard and hope for the best."

While the offense doesn't appear fit for anyone to put up eye-popping numbers, it never hurts a receiver to have the trust of his quarterback, something that appears to be happening for Pickens and Osweiler.

"This year we're more close as a team than last year and offensively we just look at Brock and make sure he's doing the right thing and we'll be alright," Pickens said of his quarterback. "We've been working hard in practice and he's starting to find me so hopefully it'll carry over to the games."

With the way ASU has been bit by the injury bug this season (knock on wood), it would benefit the team and Pickens if he and Osweiler can continue to build their chemistry if need be. In the mean time, ASU's upcoming opponent, Utah, hasn't faired well against its two Pac-12 opponents, USC and Washington, especially in pass defense where it ranks ninth in the league.

This is something the Sun Devils will try to capitalize on, and maybe for Pickens, will present him with another opportunity to get in the end zone.

"They will probably play a lot of cover-8 and blitz us a lot so we have to get ready for the quick game and be alert," Pickens said of Utah. "We'll come up with plays to get the ball in our hands and do something with it, so we're just going to keep working hard in practice and hopefully I'll get the ball on Saturday."

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