ASU football’s backups, newcomers excel at practice

ASU’s musical chairs of a backfield were missing a D.J. on Thursday morning.

D.J. Foster, who was expected to be the starting running back for the Sun Devils this fall, sat out for the second straight day with a reported migraine. This opened up first team reps for senior running back Deantre Lewis, who ran for 301 yards and a touchdown last year.

“Deantre is a very similar back to D.J.,” said head coach Todd Graham. “I think D.J.’s breakaway speed is probably a bit more (than Deantre), but no. We run the same plays, same stuff. Obviously, that’s a position that’s going to get a lot of touches.”

Foster had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last year behind Marion Grice, combining for 10 total touchdowns as a running back and wide receiver.

Players take the field for drills on Aug. 7. (Photo by Fabian Ardaya)

Players take the field for drills on Aug. 7. (Photo by Fabian Ardaya)

Redshirt senior safety Damarious Randall has been talked up by Graham during the first several practices of the year.

Randall has multiple interceptions during practices and coaches said they have become more impressed with him.

He didn’t have any interceptions on Thursday, in part because redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly was smarter with the ball.

Randall is only in his second year with the program, having played at Butler Community College in Kansas and Mesa Community College.

He said he couldn’t play football because of a shoulder injury in that first season. However, he was able to play in a few baseball games.

“That was kind of like a wasted year,” Randall said. “That’s the year I’m basically trying to get back from the NCAA so I might be considered a junior coming up soon.”

When he went to MCC, he gave up baseball for good, allowing him to specialize in one sport.

“Football’s always been like my second love,” Randall said. “But I’ve always been just as good at football as I was at baseball.”

He redshirted his first season at MCC, effectively making it two consecutive seasons where he hadn’t played a football game. In 2012, he played well enough to get a scholarship from the Sun Devils and he became a starter last season.

He had three interceptions last season, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and is just one of two returning starters for the team’s defense.

Despite the success he had last season he said he’ll always have “something to prove” until the teams wins the conference or national title.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

- Freshman D.J. Calhoun, who turned heads as an early enrollee during spring camp, remains behind sophomore Carlos Mendoza at the Will linebacker spot. However, with many young players expected to play on special teams, it is possible that Graham will not redshirt Calhoun.

- Sophomore wideout Fred Gammage made arguably the best play of the morning session during 11 on 11 drills, hauling in a slant pass and going all the way to the end zone, drawing applause from the coaching staff.

- Junior linebacker Antonio Longino practiced with the Devilbackers for the first time during fall camp and is expected to compete for playing time this fall.

- Following practice, ASU announced the hire of Gould Evans and HNTB Corporation to work on the continued renovation of Sun Devil Stadium. The renovations are expected to continue through the 2014 season. Around 5,700 seats have already been removed from the stadium as part of the upper north end zone demolition.

Reach the reporter at fardaya@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter  @fardaya15