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Friday, February 17, 2012
ASU's Rashad Ross knows how to finish

By Kevin Gemmell

Fortunately for Arizona State wide receiver Rashad Ross, starting blocks aren't required for running routes. If they were, the junior might have a hard time getting off the snap. And let's be honest, the shoulder pads and helmet would probably just get in the way.

Yet even on an indoor track, Ross still hasn't really mastered those pesky starting blocks.

"Honestly, I don't really know how to start all that good," Ross said. "But I can end good."

Rashad Ross
With three of ASU's top 4 receivers from 2011 not returning next season, Rashad Ross has a golden opportunity for playing time.
And at the end of the race -- if you're the one crossing the finishing line first -- no one is going to care how you started.

Of all the collegiate football players in the country who also run track, Ross has the fastest time in the nation in the 200-meters indoor with an altitude-adjusted mark of 21.25. That's also the sixth fastest indoor mark in ASU history. Overall, he ranks 24th in the nation among all runners.

"I like the 200 because I know if I screw up the start, I have time to make it up," he said.

That should give you some indication of just how fast this guy is -- slow starter, huge finisher. It's that way on the football field as well. One needs only to look at the opening kickoff of the second half in the Las Vegas Bowl, when Ross took it back 98 yards, to see what happens when he gets it going. It was one of the few highlights on an otherwise off night for ASU against Boise State.

The Sun Devils and new head coach Todd Graham are going to need plenty of speed at the wide receiver spot next year. They lose three of the top four receivers from last season; Gerell Robinson (77 catches, 1,397 yards, seven touchdowns), Aaron Pflugrad (44/665/5) and Mike Willie (36/455/3). Which means the fleet-footed Ross could be the next big thing.

Aside from his track training, he's been working out on the side with a couple of the quarterbacks who will be in line to replace Brock Osweiler. Michael Eubank, Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly are all in competition for the starting gig.

"A lot of people say quarterback is going to be an issue for us next year," Ross said. "We'll see. I have faith in all of them."

Ross knows nothing is going to be handed to him. And Jamal Miles returns after finishing second on the team with 60 catches and six touchdowns last year. Ross' track training keeps him in shape for football and if he wants to build on his 18 catches from last season, he's going to have to win over Graham and his new staff.

"When I first met [Graham], I thought he was nice -- not like what everybody else was saying and I didn't see what everybody else was seeing," Ross said. "And then I heard him talk when he was mad and I was like 'OK, he's not playing around.'"

For now, he's focused on getting that 200 time down even further. If he can get to 21 flat, he'll have a good shot at qualifying for nationals and a 20.73 would make him an automatic qualifier. He also has the eighth fastest time in the conference in the 60-meter at 6.82. His slower starts are even more noteworthy in a quick sprint like the 60, because he is still able to make up time on the finish.