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New WR Melquan Stovall looks to make his mark with Arizona State

Arizona Republic 3/22/2023 Michelle Gardner, Arizona Republic

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham has preached the benefits of competition.

It's evident in practice with the energetic head coach running with a microphone during team sessions to give the defense a point for a stop or the offense the point for getting two or more first downs.

While much has been made of the competition at quarterback, there is also plenty of competition as to who will be catching passes from whoever emerges as the starter.

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The Sun Devils return their top two receivers in junior Elijhah Badger and senior Giovanni Sanders, but they have a handful of newcomers who could be impact players as well. Among those is graduate transfer Melquan Stovall, a 5-foot-10 speedster from Colorado State, who also had a previous stop at Nevada.

Stovall played just three games before opting for the transfer portal. ASU proved to be a good fit. Stovall said he liked the young dynamic of the coaching staff, headed by Dillingham, the youngest head coach at a Power 5 school. Playing in the Pac-12 was also appealing. There was yet another factor. Stovall's older brother Melquise played for current Sun Devil offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin when both were at California in 2106.

Sun Devils wide receiver Melquan Stovall (22) catches the ball while guarded by defensive back Xavion Alford (2) during an ASU football practice at Kajikawa Football Practice Fields on Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Tempe. © Antranik Tavitian/The Republic Sun Devils wide receiver Melquan Stovall (22) catches the ball while guarded by defensive back Xavion Alford (2) during an ASU football practice at Kajikawa Football Practice Fields on Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Tempe.

"I really like the coaching staff," Stovall said after the Sun Devils wrapped up their fourth spring practice under cloudy skies at the Kajikawa practice fields. "It really had a lot of the things I was looking for. I always wanted to play in the Pac-12 and I was a little familiar with what they run from my brother so it all really just worked out. I'm excited about the opportunity here."

Stovall played for three years at Nevada, then headed by Jay Norvell. He recorded 108 catches for 1,064 yards in his time with the Wolf Pack. As a junior in 2021, he caught at least one pass in every game, tallying 643 yards on the season, with his longest catch going for 65 yards. His best game came against New Mexico when he managed seven receptions for 155 yards. At the team's year-end awards banquet he was given the "Hustle" Award.

After that season, Stovall ended up following Norvell to Colorado State. He was second on the team in receiving yards when he opted to enter the portal a second time.

While ASU had Badger and Sanders back, as well as Andre Johnson, it was looking to some depth and experience and Stovall fit that bill.

"You just meet the kid and you can tell he has that look in his eye that, `I just want to go.' There's something to say about an older guy in the room setting the example and that is what Melquan does every single day," new wide receivers coach Ra'Shaad Samples said. "He doesn't talk much, not very much of a vocal leader but he leads by example. He works his butt off. He doesn't ask questions. He doesn't care about reps. He doesn't care about anything. He's just going to play balls to the wall."

While there are some returning veterans, Samples says everyone came in with a clean slate and he likes the competitive environment he has seen thus far.

"We've got some competitive guys in the room, we've just got to continue to raise the bar," Samples said. "We constantly talk about competing at the highest level. Nobody has reps. Everybody is out here earning reps. So to earn reps you have to play the game as hard as you can every snap. That's what I challenge those guys to do."

ASU spring football: Players adjust to Kenny Dillingham's increased workload, intensity

Stovall is one of 25 Division I transfers, most of whom enrolled in January so they'd be eligible to participate in spring drills. Stovall brings a blue-collar work ethic to the job, but he's not the most vocal athlete in the room.

"Quan just works," Samples said. "He doesn't ask questions. You put a lot on him and he takes it in stride, never blinks. That's what has been special about him. He started out kind of slow to be honest, then he picked it up and he continues to get better every single day. He stays after practice. Melquan just being an older guy, going through the maturation process he's able to take on more fast."

Stovall said he hasn't gotten any specific goals in mind as far as offensive production. His sole focus is on helping his team improve on the disappointing 3-9 finish in 2022.

"We all get along and we really push each other," Stovall said. "If our offense is moving the ball, we're al going to have our opportunities. This is my last year of college football so I really just want to have fun and I want to be a good leader and hopefully the wins and the catches will come."

Odds and ends

Tuesday was the fourth of 15 spring sessions and it marked the first in which the players were in full pads.

"I was happy with how the guys practiced today. Saturday was a little soft. Today I thought they responded and there was some intensity and some physical-ness about themselves. That's what it takes in football to win, physicality, " Dillingham said.

Dillingham has said several times that this is his "dream job" since he grew up here. But he says when he's on the field the notion that he is in that dream job doesn't really enter his mind.

"When I'm in it, it's just football. When I'm off the field and I see people I coached high school with nine years ago that live in Illinois and they're back for work and they're out at practice, that's where I think, `Wow, this is pretty cool.' But not when I'm out there on the field and I'm coaching. It's just what I do."

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: New WR Melquan Stovall looks to make his mark with Arizona State

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