Heading into the 2012 season, the general consensus was that the Arizona State offense would be led by its talented backfield thanks to the dynamic skills of one of the Pac-12's top playmakers.
But instead of senior Cameron Marshall—named to the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch lists after an 18-touchdown season—slashing his way through opposing defense, the Sun Devils have been led by an explosive true freshman.
To any who saw D.J. Foster play during his prep career at Saguaro High School, his success during his debut season comes as little surprise.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound running back has been ASU's top weapon thanks to his game-breaking speed, agility and versatility. Playing from the backfield and as a slot receiver, Foster has quickly overtaken Marshall as the go-to threat, and eight games into his collegiate career stands as one of the best players—not just freshmen—in the conference.
Foster's success comes two years after another true freshman made a similar impact on the program.
Coming to Tempe as a four-star recruit—the same as Foster—from Norco High School in California, Deantre Lewis wasted no time in showing he could compete at the FBS level. He scored three touchdowns and hit 100 yards receiving in his debut, and later ran for 100 yards in three straight games against Wisconsin, Oregon and Oregon State. Like Foster, Lewis showed off a rare burst and was a threat to take it to the house on any run or reception.
Lets take a look at how each freshman fared through their first eight NCAA games:
|Player||Carries||Rush Yds||YPC||TD||Rec||Rec Yds||YPC||TD||Touches||Total Yds||YPT||TD|
Those are exceedingly impressive numbers for any player, let alone an 18-year old true freshman making his debut at the FBS level. But what makes their performances all the more impressive is the manner is which they accumulated the yardage.
One trait shared by Lewis and Foster is the ability to turn any touch into a long gain or a dazzling touchdown. During the first right games, each made a habit of making multiple such plays each game.
|Player||Plays 10+ Yards||Plays 20+ Yards||Plays 50+ Yards|
|D.J. Foster||33||13||0 (Long of 49)|
Can you say "gamebreaker"?
As ASU fans know, Lewis was sadly unable to continue his success. Nagging injuries hampered him late in the season, and then tragedy struck. He was tragically shot as an innocent bystander in February 2011, and was lost for the season as he worked to not only get back to football, but to walk normally once again.
He battled his way back to the field for this season, but never regained the same explosiveness he once had. A true team player, he moved over to safety earlier in the year after being buried on the same depth chart that Foster now tops.
With the torch having now passed from Lewis to Marshall and now to Foster, the Sun Devils now have the next great hope to carry on the long backfield legacy in Tempe.
Whether Foster becomes the next J.R. Redmond remains to be seen over the next few years, but one thing is certain: this is going to be fun to watch.