A season ago ASU football fans watched senior running back Cameron Marshall trot into the end zone 18 times. This season, Marshall has three rushing touchdowns but does not appear to be the same halfback.
Through three games, the California native has 25 carries for 81 yards and has four receptions for 44 yards.
This is likely not the start Marshall would have expected, but it is something coach Todd Graham plans to change.
“We’d like to get him in a lot more rhythm,” Graham said. “I’d like to get him more touches of the football.”
Prior to the season Graham hinted at getting Marshall between 20 and 30 carries per game. While the coach said it is still possible, Marshall missed a lot of practice in both the spring and fall, which may be a factor in his slow start.
With junior running back Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster, the Sun Devils (2-1) have plenty of depth in the backfield, but know Marshall is a workhorse and is someone that must be involved in the offense.
“We want to get the ball to whoever we need to get the ball to (in order) to win games, but we no doubt want to get (Marshall) the ball and get him going,” Graham said.
Graham impressed with Kelly’s performance
There is a plethora of things about Saturday’s 24-20 loss to Missouri that ASU would prefer to forget about, but there were a number of positives to come from the loss.
Although he made some mistakes – two interceptions and one fumble – redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly made impressive plays with his arms and legs. On a couple of plays Graham was admittedly yelling at Kelly to throw the ball away, but the quarterback used his legs to extend the play and ASU’s offensive possessions.
“Wow,” Graham said. “I call (what he has) an ‘it’ factor and he showed me that. He made mistakes in this game, no questions about it, but we have a real quarterback.”
Following the game Kelly was clearly disappointed with the turnovers, but he did have a remarkable second half and lead an impressive comeback.
“He’s a winner,” Graham said. “He has that ‘It’ factor. You look him in the eye on game day and see it … You can look at him and say ‘That’s a guy that you can count on.”
Lewis adapting into new role on defense
On the other side of the ball, the ASU defense did a few things people hadn’t seen before. The Sun Devils played with four down linemen and redshirt sophomore Deantre Lewis made his debut in the secondary.
“We’re a hybrid defense, so we’re going to adapt,” Graham said of the four-man front. “I thought the defense played exceptional. It could have been 35-0 at halftime.”
Lewis did not see a lot of game time, but impressed Graham with the reps he did take. The former running back moved to defense last week meaning he only had a few days to learn the schemes.
“I asked him about two hours before the game, ‘Do you have any idea what you’re doing?’” Graham said. “And he said, ‘Yeah I do,’”
While Graham did not close the door on Lewis playing offense, he did reiterate the lack of depth in the secondary. He said as Lewis continues to learn the defense, his role will continue to expand.
Graham addresses mistakes against Mizzou
Amidst all the mistakes ASU made against Missouri, one in particular stood out to Graham.
“After looking at the film, the biggest thing that was concerning to me was just how poorly we played and the mistakes (on) special teams,” Graham said.
The Sun Devils’ special teams had one turnover – a fumble by senior receiver Jamal Miles on a punt return – but two glaring mistakes were just as costly.
In the first half, senior punter Josh Hubner mishandled a snap and somewhat salvaged the play with an 11-yard punt. Graham commended Hubner’s effort to get a punt off in the dire situation, but that doesn’t make the play any better for the Sun Devils.
Sophomore quarterback Mike Bercovici is the team’s best holder according to Graham. However, ASU wants to redshirt Bercovici this season, so junior quarterback Ryan Woods has been holding on field goals and PATs. This worked fine for ASU in its first two games, but in the fourth quarter against Missouri, Woods failed to catch the snap on a PAT that would have brought the Sun Devils within three.
“We’ve got to catch the ball,” Graham said. “You can attribute some of that to the atmosphere and the setting, maybe some nerves. We hold the ball and kick it, and we probably (would’ve gone) into overtime.”
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