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ASU Football’s Four to Flourish in 2022-2023: Xazavian Valladay

Next up at tailback.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Mark Henle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Remember just two years ago when Eno Benjamin’s departure felt like a monumental loss for ASU?

The transfer portal days were still raw, but Herm Edwards found a diamond-in-the-rough with Rachaad White coming out of juco. Combine White with a four-star recruit in Chip Trayanum, and the Sun Devils had the lightning-and-thunder tailback tandem that offensive minds covet.

White parlayed his success in Tempe into a third-round NFL Draft selection, and Trayanum returned home to his roots in Ohio, both positionally and geographically, by transferring to Ohio State to play linebacker where he dominated in high school.

Sophomore Daniyel Ngata (309 yards, four touchdowns in 2021) has steadily received more touches over his two seasons in Tempe, and incoming four-star freshman Tevin White also has some promise.

But Wyoming transfer Xazavian Valladay may be flying under-the-radar for how much success he has obtained at the Division I level.

Valladay was only a two-star recruit playing in arguably Illinois’ toughest conference in Chicago while dominating the running game. After taking a redshirt year at Wyoming in 2017, he appeared in all 12 of Wyoming’s games as a redshirt freshman in 2018.

In 2019, he broke out for a First Team All-Mountain-West honor, leading the conference in rushing yards with 1,265, and averaging 105.4 yards per-game. He bumped that total up to 110 yards per-game the next season, which also led the conference. His 131.0 all-purpose yards per-game ranked 27th nationally, albeit in a shortened season.

Wyoming’s offense in 2021 averaged 373.8 yards per-game. Valladay averaged 100.2 total yards each week, accounting for over a quarter (26.8) of the team’s total offense.

With multiple four-stars in the backfield—and ASU’s newest scholarship player George Hart III—the Sun Devil offense will likely not command the same workload for Valladay as he received at Wyoming. But a balanced approach may be beneficial for skill players desiring to keep their legs fresh.

The offensive skill talent on the outside remains one of the thinnest departments in Tempe, especially after the departures of Johnny Wilson, Ricky Pearsall, L.V. Bunkley-Shelton and more. The backfield, however, contains established success at one of the game’s highest levels, and depth in the form of high-level prospects.