D.J. Foster embraces leadership role for ASU football as spring practice begins

Video by Evan Webeck | Sports Editor

During ASU football’s first day of spring practice, junior running back D.J. Foster was heard motivating and instructing teammates while participating in drills throughout practice.

Now the “premier” running back, coach Todd Graham said, Foster is acting like a premier leader.

It’s something Foster admitted he needed to work on. In addition to leading by example, Foster is working on becoming a more vocal leader.

“Coach (Mike) Norvell and even coach (Bo) Graham — the whole staff — just wanted me to be more of a vocal leader and help the younger guys out,” Foster said. “Some of the guys haven’t been out here as long, and (it’s my job) to make sure our running back group is solid.”

His first two years at ASU, Foster hid in the shadows, behind vocal leaders like redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly, and shared time in the backfield with Marion Grice and Cameron Marshall.

Now, as the feature back, Graham expects more out of him.

“I call D.J. out about 15 times a day when we’re talking, because I tell D.J. he can be a great football player; he can be an All-American and not do everything I’m asking him to do,” Graham said. “If he’ll do what I’m asking him to do, we’ll win it all because his teammates will follow whatever he does, and he’s embraced that leadership role.”

Graham said Foster has always been a hard worker, but it was difficult for others to follow him because he wasn’t vocal about it.

This season, however, Graham is telling Foster to get on the other players about work ethic, and he thinks they’ll follow suit.

“You’ve got to stand up and be counted,” Graham said. “You’ve got to stand up and tell the guys, ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ (Foster) has got to stand up and make those statements, and he’s doing that.”

Junior running back D.J. Foster participates in drills at ASU football's first spring practice on March 18 at the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields in Tempe. (Photo by Evan Webeck)

Junior running back D.J. Foster participates in drills at ASU football’s first spring practice on March 18 at the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields in Tempe. (Photo by Evan Webeck)

Being the type of leader that Graham and his staff want him to be isn’t easy for Foster, though. He said it pushes him out of his comfort zone, but he welcomes it for the good of the team.

“I think, not even myself, but just a lot of guys — T.K. (Taylor Kelly) — everyone needs to be a little more vocal,” Foster said. “As an offense, especially, I think that will pay off in the long run.”

In addition to embracing the leadership role, being the Sun Devils’ feature back comes with more responsibility, specifically, carrying the ball 20-plus times per game. When Grice went down at the end of last season, it gave Foster a taste of what was to come in 2014.

“I knew myself that I could (handle that workload),” Foster said. “It gave me confidence in that other people knew I could do it as well. It definitely helped, going into the offseason; (it) gave me a little more motivation.”

However, to take that many carries for a whole season, Foster had to up his playing weight from 195 pounds. He said he’s up to 208 at the start of practice and hopes to get up to and stay at 210 before the season begins.

Additional notes:

—The first practice revealed some information on the depth chart for ASU. Missing nine defensive players from last year, there are many positions up for grabs.

Redshirt freshman Chans Cox played the majority of first-team snaps at Carl Bradford’s Devibacker position.

Redshirt juniors Demetrius Cherry, Mo Latu and senior Marcus Hardison comprised the defensive line.

Joining Cox in the linebacker corps were redshirt sophomores Salamo Fiso, Laiu Moeakiola and redshirt junior Antonio Longino.

Reshirt juniors Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood lined up at cornerback, while returning starting safety, redshirt senior Damarious Randall was joined by redshirt junior Ezekiel Bishop.

On offense, redshirt junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong was joined by redshirt sophomore Frederick Gammage and redshirt junior Gary Chambers.

Reach the reporter at ewebeck@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @EvanWebeck