Plenty of question marks revolve around Arizona State’s defense this upcoming year. Todd Graham has the task of replacing nine starters from last year’s squad. While the offense returns plenty of talent, including quarterback Taylor Kelly and playmakers Jaelen Strong and DJ Foster, there are some key losses from last year’s team, notably running back Marion Grice.
ASU Deputy Head Coach Mike Norvell joined the Brad Cesmat Show earlier this week to discuss the state of the offense. He said now that DJ Foster is assuming the primary running back position, and most likely the bulk of the carries, his role will still have a similar look to last year.
“I would be foolish to lose what he brings when we move him around and put him in the slot at times,” Norvell said. “We play two backs a ton in this offense and it’s a great system for running backs to play for. To still have that versatility with DJ makes it tough on teams”.
So when Foster is in that slot receiver position, who will be in the backfield? Norvell is not short on options. Deantre Lewis and Kyle Middlebrooks both return to the team, and three prominent recruits come to Tempe in Kalen Ballage, De’Chavon Hayes, and Demario Richard.
The three recruits bring a different style of play to the field. Ballage stands at 6-3, 215 pounds and brings a combination of punishing power and speed to the field. Hayes has big-play capabilities and was described by Norvell as a “homerun hitter”. He is also supposed to be a factor in the special teams department for the Sun Devils as well. Richard reminds Norvell of DJ Foster in the way they are versatile as receivers and in the backfield.
“I’m excited about the tools that we have to work with and that’s what makes this offense go when you have those versatile guys that can take those carries like Marion did or what DJ does and be able to compliment and play off of each other,” Norvell said.
As the 2014 football season approaches, it seems as though Norvell has plenty options in the backfield to continue the offense’s success in the left lane.