This past Friday, after more than two months of increasingly painful and aggravating developments, fans of Arizona State football were giving a tremendous gift, as highly touted recruit D.J. Foster of Scottsdale Saguaro High School announced that he was going to commit to the Sun Devils. The reaction from fans has been nothing short of jubilant, and deservedly so; Foster's commitment is a major success for a much maligned program and a sign that there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
Since Foster made his decision Friday morning, I've received numerous questions from followers on Twitter, many of which were variations of the same inquiry. Here now are the six most common and pressing questions relating to Foster's commitment and the immediate implications.
Will Foster redshirt next season?
It's extremely unlikely that he will. Gone are the days that true freshmen spent a year on the sidelines, but a look at ASU's current running back situation shows a glaring need for Foster's services.
Starting running back Cameron Marshall is coming off a terrific junior season in which he became the first Sun Devil to top 1,000 yards since 2006 and his 18 rushing touchdowns tied the school record. He's the kind of workhorse back that Graham likes. Marshall has good size (5'11", 215 pounds) and has a great combination of power and speed that should take him to the NFL in 2013.
But behind Marshall are question marks.
Deantre Lewis had a sensational freshman season in 2010, proving to be an explosive force in both the running and passing games. However, last February, he was shot in the buttocks as an innocent bystander and the injury forced him to redshirt in 2011. His recovery seems to be going well, but it won't be known if he has fully recovered until at least spring camp.
Kyle Middlebrooks slumped badly last season after a promising freshman year in 2010. He tallied averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, and was a non-factor through the year. Senior James Morrison has been mostly a special teamer during his first three years and Marcus Washington only saw mop up duty.
Simply put, with losses of major contributors on offense and his dynamic skillset, ASU needs Foster in 2012.
What role can we expect from Foster in 2012?
A new coach most often means a new system will be installed, and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is bringing with him a different, yet in some ways similar, offense to the spread attack used by ASU under Noel Mazzone.
But for Foster, the learning curve will be significantly reduced, as Norvell's scheme is in many ways identical to the one he played in at Saguaro.
At 6'0" 185 pounds, Foster doesn't yet have the build to be an every down back, but with Marshall healthy, he won't have to be in 2012.
Look for Foster to be used in a similar fashion to how Lewis was in 2010. With Fosters' speed and agility, he will see time as a change of pace runner who sees runs designed to get him out to the edges and into the open-field. Foster is also an adept receiver, so look for quick passes either out of the backfield or when lined up at receiver to get him out into space where his skills should wreak havoc with defenses.
decision have any impact on potential recruits in this year's class?
After years of neglect by past coaches Dirk Koetter and Dennis Erickson, Foster's commitment is a major move by ASU to reconnect with local high school stars. Re-establishing that relationship with not just local players but coaches has been on of Graham's top priorities and Foster could very well be the first domino to fall.
The name most often mentioned in connection with Foster's signing is Peoria Centennial safety Zach Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir has been pursued by ASU, but has appeared to favor Cal and most recently Stanford emerged as the leader for the safety. The two players are friends, and Foster text Hoffpauir soon after his commitment on Friday. It's still very much in question, but recent developments haven't closed the door just yet on Hoffpauir following Foster to ASU.
Regardless of Hoffpauir's decision, Foster's commitment gives a great deal of clout to Graham and ASU as a destination for top recruits both in 2012 and beyond.
How close was Foster to going to Cal or USC?
Throughout the recruiting process, Foster seemed destined to be a Sun Devil. Even after the firing of Erickson, Foster remained likely to head to ASU. It was only after Mazzone left for UCLA and Cal made a strong push late did the decision come into serious question.
With USC in the picture, it was Cal that posed the most serious threat. The Golden Bears have an outstanding record with running backs and that made a large impression on Foster. Even on the eve of his press conference, Foster was reportedly torn, and on Friday morning, it was said that even his parents did not know Foster's decision.
Yet, it was a text message that seemed to be the clincher. Foster's father text a photo of himself and Foster's late sister, with his dad in an ASU shirt. Foster had long been an ASU fan and his decision was clear.
What number will Foster wear?
What does this decision say about head coach Todd Graham?
That not only is he "speaking victory", but he is living it.
Graham was hired on December 14th, and the situation he entered was chaotic, to say the least. Coupled with the end-of-year recruiting dead period, Graham and his newly hired staff had little time to salvage ASU's existing recruits-including Foster-and work towards their own targets.
Nevertheless, the effort of Graham and staff was remarkable. Nearly every official visit by recruits was met with glowing reviews, and most every observer of the program noted how much more aggressive this regime was than Erickson's. Graham still has a lot of work in recruiting as well as fixing a program with a terrible culture and recent history, but his effort through the first seven weeks has been encouraging.
Foster's decision is a major step in making the argument that despite not being ASU's first, second or third choice, Todd Graham may ultimately be the right one.
Follow me on Twitter @BDenny29 for the latest on ASU football or to submit future questions