Prior to last year’s spring camp, senior running back James Morrison contemplated transferring.
He reached out to FBS and FCS schools, but he didn’t get any scholarship opportunities.
Although he didn’t have any other option but to stay at ASU, the former walk-on dealt with another season buried in the depth chart on Saturdays.
When coach Todd Graham was brought in during the offseason, Morrison saw it as a fresh start entering spring ball. With injuries to senior running back Cameron Marshall and junior Kyle Middlebrooks, Morrison has stepped up in their place — and he’s been impressive, to say the least.
“I’m glad I stayed because, if I left, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now,” Morrison said.
Morrison had just 11 carries last season. While he did score his first career touchdown, he was mainly used on special teams.
“When you’ve got players on the defense asking me why I’m not playing — I practice every week, but on Saturdays, I don’t get any reps — I didn’t really have an answer,” Morrison said.
He remained positive despite the lack of playing time. Graham met with Morrison prior to spring camp. He liked what he saw on film and told Morrison he’d get his chance. Nicknamed “The Tank” by the coaching staff, Morrison’s style of play suits Graham’s physical offensive brand.
“He’s doing a great job,” Graham said after last Saturday’s scrimmage. “I’ve been really impressed with him.”
Morrison has the ability to truck defenders with his 5-foot-11, 214-pound frame. With two practices left, including Saturday’s spring game, Morrison feels he can be just as effective in the open field.
“I don’t want to change my style of running but just show different things in my repertoire too,” Morrison said.
He has kept the mindset of preparing like a first-string running back, even before Marshall and Middlebrooks were injured, but the Sun Devils will have a deep backfield this season.
Aside from Marshall, Middlebrooks and Morrison, sophomore Deantre Lewis continues to progress this spring. Throw junior college transfer Marion Grice and incoming freshman DJ Foster into the mix, and you’ve got a crowded backfield.
“Without a doubt, we’re going to have a lot of talent,” Morrison said. “I believe we’re going to have the best, talented backfield in the Pac-12. Like (running backs coach Larry Porter) says every day, ‘Spring is nothing but opportunity.’”
Morrison is certainly making the most of his reps. He knows it’ll be a competitive position during fall camp, but he remains optimistic.
“Who’s to say who’s going to get reps in the fall, so I’m taking this time to carry it over into the fall season,” Morrison said.
For Morrison, it feels good to finally be recognized.
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