Omarr Norman-Lott, Daniyel Ngata and Elijhah Badger met their freshman year at Folsom High School in Northern California.
Norman-Lott recalls seeing Badger for the first time as a lanky, water jug-toting receiver who hadn’t grown into his 6-foot-2 frame. The three became fast friends, and even though Norman-Lott transferred from Folsom a year later, they remained close throughout the years.
That community in the Sacramento area helped them grow up. Badger and Ngata were 2020 Under Armour All-Americans and announced their commitments to ASU on ESPN a few months after Norman-Lott made his pledge to Tempe.
Three years later, all three are staring down expanded roles in 2022. Ngata will pair with Wyoming transfer Xazavian Valladay, the FBS active leader in rushing yards, in what should be a potent run game in 2022. Badger looks to be the home run hitter for new quarterback Emory Jones. Norman-Lott is further entrenching himself in the middle of the Sun Devil defensive line, arguably the team’s best position group, as a more complete lineman.
It’s become evident that these three high school friends will have their fingerprints all over the 2022 Sun Devil football season.
“He’s the guy I’m most excited about.”
Ngata’s recruitment came down to the wire between the Sun Devils, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. He saw opportunity when he looked at the Arizona State running back room heading into the 2020 season. Eno Benjamin was headed to the NFL draft, and Ngata’s all-purpose skill set would link up with the fellow commit DeaMonte Trayanum’s power running style. Throughout the COVID-shortened 2020 season, junior college running back Rachaad White emerged as the every-down back for the Devils and became Arizona State’s most prominent weapon in 2021.
Over the past two years, Ngata has accounted for 417 yards and five touchdowns. Running backs coach Shaun Aguano has pointed to Ngata’s focus on the details this offseason and expects him to be featured early and often in 2022.
“We’ve had some pretty good wide-outs. He’s in that category talent-wise.”
Coming out of high school, Badger could have played on either side of the ball and was part of a prolific wide receiver class heading to Tempe. He was a matchup problem on the scout team after being ruled academically ineligible for his freshman season but has since been a standout in the classroom. His athleticism was on display in 2021 as he had two rushing touchdowns on jet sweeps. The focus now is to become a steady presence in the passing game.
Badger possesses the ability to blow the top off a defense and be someone who always has to be accounted for by opposing defenses. Herm Edwards-era offenses have thrived when there is a go-to receiver like N’Keal Harry, Brandon Aiyuk or Frank Darby, and ASU coaches say Badger has the talent to be that target in a wide-open receiver room.
“Honestly, I think he’s going to be the best player on the team this year.”
Omarr Norman-Lott was recruited by his uncle and then-ASU defensive line coach Jamar Cain coming out of high school. Cain has since moved on to Oklahoma and LSU, but Norman-Lott has a strong connection with the man who replaced his uncle in Robert Rodriguez. There is an obvious mutual respect between them, and Norman-Lott said the main reason he returned to Tempe after a short stint in the transfer portal was to continue to be developed by Rodriguez. Norman-Lott made the most of his time on the field last year with 30 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in 11 games.
In training camp, Rodriguez said his defensive tackle has the makeup to be the toughest interior matchup in the Pac-12. His position coach has also praised Norman-Lott’s maturation physically and mentally over the past year and wants him to continue to lead a very deep position group this year.
This trio has walked the same path. They’ve been patient with their opportunities. They’re about to take the next step in their journeys. And, as always, they’ll do it together.