The cat is out of the bag as last season's "secret weapon" Devaughn Vele took spring camp by storm and is on track to be a primary offensive contributor for the 2022 season. A former walk-on, Vele built on last years success and continuously proved that he is ready to lead the wide receiver room and be one of quarterback Cameron Rising's favorite targets.
During the 2021 campaign, Vele was a solid option on offense and was critical in the USC game with his dazzling touchdown catch right before the half. However, despite appearing in all 14 games, Vele recorded just 23 catches (1.6 receptions per game) for 389 yards and a single TD. Clearly, Vele was significantly underutilized but all of that is about to change.
All throughout spring camp, Vele caught the eyes of just about everybody with his impressive athleticism, sticky hands and almost telepathic connection with Rising. Time and again he proved himself to be the best receiver on the team and made tough passes look easy.
"I think I did pretty well," Vele said. "There's still a couple plays I could've made. Im a big perfectionist when it comes to football, especially as a receiver. Any ball that touches my hands, I believe that I should be catching it every time."
To no surprise, Vele caught the attention of wide receivers coach Chad Bumphis who had high praise for the sophomore receiver, stating that his abilities can "change the offense."
"Confidence, he's very confident, he's seen himself make some plays and he's comfortable," Bumphis said. "I'm not moving him around as much because it's so easy for guys like him, he knows all three receiver spots… put him at X and let him get comfortable. He's seen himself make some plays and it's been more consistent. He can be that player for us and he's special. He's a 6'5" guy with crazy athleticism, a catch radius that's unbelievable and he can do what we need him to do and it changes the offense."
Adding to what Bumphis said, confidence has been the key for Vele as he's taken his game to another level, and that was on full display all throughout camp. Having watched him in multiple practices, a closed scrimmage and the spring game, Vele's confidence was fully illustrated in his demeanor, which helped him make plays that few others would even dream of.
"I pride myself in taking it serious. Especially emphasizing my confidence in my play...I know I can be a great receiver but truly believing in that and having the confidence that I can do that everyday has been the biggest difference in the past couple weeks...especially hearing rumors about how we were the weak spot on the team. That definitely fuels me up and fired me up to start making the plays I know I can make, but even the plays that nobody thinks I can make," Vele said.
So while the secret is out and Vele will have a lot more attention from defenses this fall, his contributions should skyrocket. If spring was any indication of how Rising and the offense plan on utilizing Vele, he very well could see his yards double or more from last year. Additionally, given his 6-foot-5 size and elite athleticism, he very may well be a go-to in the red zone as he's shown the ability to go an get the passes that few others can.
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