TEMPE — “Physical burst,” “mental toughness to get it done” and a “true running back” are just some of the ways freshman running back Eno Benjamin is being described by his teammates.
The Sun Devils’ offense is loaded with talent across the board and they’re especially deep in their running back position, giving head coach Todd Graham a “good problem.”
Seniors Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard are expected to be the heavy lifters for this running game, but they won’t be the only guys carrying the rock next year. Benjamin is expected to have a role on this team right out of the gate.
“Eno is the most impressive young back that I’ve ever been around because of all the intangibles that he has,” Graham said. “And he has a gift which I really like so he’s going to play.”
The freshman has been with the team since this spring semester and though he was injured at the beginning of the semester, he felt that he’s learned a lot during that time.
“I got a full semester under my belt and got to go through spring ball mentally not physically and I’m pretty sure I got everything I need to know and it’s helping me now,” Benjamin said. “I was in meetings with them, I was in practice with them just watching what they were doing, just getting the mental rep and I think sometimes that’s just as important as doing it physically.”
The 4-star back from Texas had a lot of options to pick where to go for college as Baylor, Texas, Michigan and Utah were all gunning for the young man. He chose the Devils for the relationship he built with coaches and the offensive structure the team had. One of those coaches he built a relationship with — running back coach John Simon — said that he’s preparing each of his talented backs to be ready to be called upon on a moment’s notice.
“It’s about opportunity,” Simon said. “Everybody in that room has to prepare to be the guy. Your number can be called at any time. Anything can happen. It’s a long season… I’m preparing every guy to be ready to play at any moment.”
Benjamin has been turning heads over the summer, as he’s shown off his skill in practice and at the scrimmage, displaying his patience as he waits for his holes to open and develop and then attack it. As redshirt junior Quarterback Manny Wilkins put it, Benjamin is a “true running back with unreal vision and is doing things you don’t expect a true freshman to do,” and Simon feels similar.
“He’s not your typical freshman, he’s a 4.2 GPA, he’s never made less than an ‘A’ in a class… he’s been starting since the 9th grade,” Simon said. “As physical as he is, he’s a very smart kid and that allows him to see some things so he has some gifts, some special gifts of how he sees it... seeing the defense, understanding the blocking… Being able to mentally process all of that quickly, allows him to make really good decisions.”
Though the young man is talented, he isn’t the No. 1 option yet for the Devils. But Benjamin still plans to take advantage of his time with Ballage and Richard and learn from them.
“Just a little bit of everything,” Benjamin said. “Picking up the offensive playbook more and understanding the importance of college football and how that actually works.”
If Benjamin can continue to progress the way he is now, Arizona State may have another elite back in its hands.