Rice: Veteran Frank Darby Paces a Trio of Talented ASU Freshmen Wideouts

With improvement, Darby could land in First Round of NFL Draft, as the others take up slack

Posted on October 20, 2020

  By Wills Rice of Dash Sports TV for SportsPac12

The last two years the Sun Devils have had a wide receiver drafted in the First Round of the NFL draft. That has some fans in Tempe asking, Who’s next?

Well, the short answer is, No one.


Frank Darby | thesundevils.com

The Sun Devils have one player on their roster with more than 10 Division 1 catches, and that is Frank Darby. Although Darby is ready to take the jump as ASU’s No. 1 receiver, he’ll need to make a colossal jump to sneak into that First Round of the Draft.

The receivers in the first round in order last year were: Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson, and the Sun Devils own Brandon Ayiuk.  Only Reagor failed to reach 1,000 yards in his last season, though he had 1,000 yards the previous season.

Darby had a remarkable season last year, catching eight touchdown passes for 616 yards, but on only 31 receptions, averaging less than three catches per game. Although Darby is a deep-threat receiver, the Number One target for Jayden Daniels cannot be catching the ball less than three times per game.

Many people are picking ASU to finish third in the Pac-12 South for two reasons: a middle of the road defense, and/or inexperience at the skilled positions on offense. 

ASU not only lost Brandon Ayiuk, but also Eno Benjamin, one of the greatest Sun Devil running backs to step onto Frank Kush Field. In just two full seasons, Benjamin finished with 3500 yards from scrimmage and 31 touchdowns. 

The Sun Devils in years past may have shied away from even trying to replace these guys because ASU could not recruit well enough to compete for top skilled position recruits. That may have changed with this year’s class.

Johnny Wilson was a standout at Calabasas | Kevin Sullivan/Orance County Register via dailynews.com

One freshman wideout to keep an eye on is Johnny Wilson, a 6-foot-6, 224-pound receiver that could be a difference-maker for the Sun Devils from Day One.

Wilson was originally committed to the University of Oregon, but flipped to the Sun Devils when they acquired Prentice Gil, a recruiting and wide receiver guru, from the Ducks.

That’s a small storyline to keep an eye on the first game of the year, with coach Gil having landed his first division one coaching job with USC in 2014 as a grad assistant.

Gil may not be a household name, but with one of the best recruiting classes at the skilled position in ASU’s history, production from those positions shouldn’t be a worry.

Two other young receivers who hope to make a difference from the start are Chad Johnson Jr., son of Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, and LV Bunkley-Shelton, both highly rated recruits as well.

Although Johnson Jr. may not be an immediate impact player, his father’s impact on him and the rest of the receivers could be big.

Johnson, Jr.

Johnson Sr. has already been seen on the sidelines and has openly talked about his work with his son to beat certain press coverages that the defensive backs have been showing.

Although their impact is yet to be seen, these college kids will look up to one of the best receivers of our generation, and his presence of the sideline will be anything but negative.

Frank Draby has appeared to put on a lot of muscle in the offseason, and has some NFL scouts seeing him as a receiver with First Round potential.

We love Darby’s upside because coaches say he’s the team’s hardest worker,” says Jim Nagy, Reese’s Senior Bowl executive. 

Outside of yards per catch, Darby posted career highs in every category and the Sun Devils expect and need more of that from him.

You can watch Rice’s Devil Dash Sports Talk Show on Dash Sports TV, and read his other sports stories and columns at Cronkite Sports.

—More from Wills Rice—