All throughout Arizona State's fall camp, the running backs have shined and dazzled, particularly during last Saturday's Camp Tontozona scrimmage. With DeMario Richard, Kalen Ballage and De'Chavon Hayes excelling, the running backs appear to be the Sun Devils' deepest position heading into the season
We checked with ASU running backs coach Bo Graham to assess the position and asked his thoughts on specific topics leading up to the sept. 5 opener against Texas A&M.
Q: There has been a lot of attention around the running backs this fall camp. How would you assess your players' performance and development so far?
A: I think DeMario [Richard], Kalen [Ballage], the guys that kind of came on last year, they continue to get better. In the offseason, they're physically a little further along. I think we've dominated so far. Every day, we've produced, and from here on out, it's just polishing things up and getting really specific as what we want to do in game one [against Texas A&M].
Q: It seems like this year, you have so many players who are talented to play both in the backfield and in the position. Do you feel there will be a challenge to try and get all of them on the field at some point in games?
A: Definitely. In the past, we've had 70, 75 percent of the time, we got two backs in the game, whether one's at wideout or one's in the backfield, so we got to have at least four guys ready. Last year, we traveled six. Right now, we feeld good about five of them right now. That's why we try to snap the ball at least 100 times a game and it gives everybody an opportunity to carry it. That's our job as coaches is to divvy up those carries and making sure it's spread out amongst everybody.
Q: With Ballage expecting to play defense, are you working with the defensive assistants to make sure there's a proper balance along with his running back duties?
A: Yeah. Every day, we have a plan with Kalen. He's going to have a heavy special teams load, with both offense and defense. He's a guy that we want to get on the field. No matter what we're doing, we're trying to get our best 11. If he's a pass rusher that can help us, then he'll get over there and help the defense. Every day, we come out here with a plan, and whatever his emphasis is, then he spends a little more time on whichever side of the ball. Offensively, we're not expecting anything less. He's still going to have a big-time role in whatever we're doing right now.
Q: How much are you still working with D.J. Foster, despite moving to wide receiver?
A: With DJ, we're still doing things where we're putting him in the backfield. He's dangerous carrying the football, so we put him in some personnel groupings where he's getting back in there and running it. Just polishing up on those things. He's got a great understanding of the backfield. We're working with him a little bit, but he pretty much knows what we're asking him to do.
Q: With Jason Lewis being cleared late, how much of a disadvantage is he in for playing in less time?
A: I think it's similar to DeMario's situation last year. You can't expect a guy to have a mastery of the offense. He's only been here about a week, but right now he's absorbing knowledge, he's getting coached up by myself, the rest of the guys in the room, and the quicker he picks things up, the more we'll ask for him to do. It really depends what his progress is from here on out.
Q: What do you expect his role to be if he can get on this season?
A: I think he's a big back. I think he's got a similar skill set as Kalen. He's got a great power and speed combination, so mentally is the whole deal there. Physically, he doesn't have any problems. He can go out there and compete with the big boys. I think mentally, we just got to bring him along in the offense so he knows what he;s doing.