clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ASU Football: RB Kalen Ballage practices on defense, could be two-way player

It didn't take long for ASU Football to experiment with putting players in different positions again.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

A sack, strip-fumble or a 95-yard touchdown run?

That was a question Arizona State sophomore Kalen Ballage was asked what he preferred most after the Sun Devils' first fall camp practice Wednesday.

"Definitely all three," he answered. "Hopefully, [I get] all three."

Achieving this hat trick is certainly possible for Ballage, as he already had a 95-yard kickoff return in the Sun Bowl last year. Despite playing all of his freshman season as a running back this season, Ballage started the first day of fall camp on defense playing the ever-changing Devilbacker position.

Standing 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, Ballage has the build to play both ways. Playing defense for ASU was something he's been trying since spring camp.

ASU coach Todd Graham said Ballage's first appearance at Devilbacker was "really good."

"We're going to look at [using Ballage on defense]," Graham said. "He can be one of the most dynamic tailbacks in the country and he can also be one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the country. There's no doubt in my mind.

It's not really new for Ballage, as he's played both ends before. You won't be hearing any complaints from him.

"I've always played every position my whole life, ever since I was little," Ballage said. "In high school I played defense and I played offense."

Ballage's reason on his desire to play both ways was an interesting response.

"To me, it's fun," Ballage said. "It's kind of boring to sit on the sideline and just do one thing. I like being able to get on the field and try out every opportunity possible."

It's an understandable situation considering ASU's current personnel. Demario Richard and De'Chavon Hayes are also expected to be major contributors at running back, while ASU is still lacking depth at its signature linebacker-defensive end hybrid position.

Ballage explained he has an opportunity to try a defensive position because the coaches thought he grasped the offensive concepts well in his first year.

The only challenge about playing Devilbacker that concerns Ballage is charging in the trenches considering the size of college linemen.

"I'm 225 pounds, and the linemen I go up against are 305 pounds," Ballage said. "They got a bit of weight on me, but I realize at the end of the day, it's not really about your weight or strength or anything like that. It's about your technique, and that's what I'm going to work on to really be effective."

Graham said the coaching staff will cautiously look into using Ballage both ways. ASU tried a similar experiment with tight end De'Marieya Nelson the last two years by putting him at defensive end, from which Graham is adjusting with Ballage.

"We're trying to learn from De'Marieya," Graham said. "We can always talk about the things we did good, however, it's the things we didn't do good. That was the deal that didn't. We really marginalized his play because he had some nagging injuries. We're going to evaluate that."

One solution Graham hopes will work is by allowing Ballage to practice with the defense one day, then the offense the next practice. Ballage will return to the offense for Thursday's practice.