As ASU Football’s offense develops an identity, it appears head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Billy Napier will lean heavily on the run game.
Senior Kalen Ballage, who tied the FBS record with eight touchdowns in one game against Texas Tech last September, is taking on a larger role in the offense and as a leader. In addition to Ballage, Demario Richard also returned for his senior year.
Heading into 2017, Ballage and Richard are arguably the best running back duo in the Pacific 12 Conference.
Last Saturday, during the annual scrimmage on the final day of Camp Tontozona, both players made explosive plays. Ballage broke away from a defender with a helmet-to-helmet hit near the right sideline for the offense’s first touchdown. Richard also broke off several big runs.
Realistically, expect Ballage and Richard to garner most of the carries. But the talent at the position does not end with the two seniors. Two members of Graham’s 2017 signing class are ready to contribute right away.
Since he arrived in Tempe, freshman Eno Benjamin has been drawing praise from Graham and the rest of the coaching staff.
“He is physically tough, mentally mature,” Graham said. “Very smart young man and he just
On Tuesday morning, during practice at the Kajikawa practice fields in Tempe, Benjamin physically beat freshman safety Ty Thomas at the point of attack during ball security drills. The four-star recruit from Wylie, Texas, impressed during the scrimmage.
During his four years at Wylie East High School,
Despite these accolades, Benjamin knows how much faster the college game is.
“Picking up blocks, blitz pickups, it is a bit more complicated than it was in high school,”
In addition to picking up blocks and reading blitzes,
Simon, who spent three years in the National Football League, said
“We sat down and had a conversation about what it would take to be great,” Simon said. “That is him coming in and learning from the veterans as much as he can. Learning from their strengths, their weaknesses, spending extra time in the film room and learning those extra details. He has done that.”
Simon said he is excited about where Benjamin is mentally and, although he was nursing a foot injury while his teammates practiced this spring, believes the time off allowed Benjamin to learn.
Right now, Simon said there is nothing he cannot do. The coaching staff is focused on developing Benjamin as a route runner and a blocker. But, Simon made it clear what he thinks
“He is an every down back,” Simon said.
As he adjusts his skill set to ASU’s scheme,
“Just to take some knowledge and learn from those guys,”
As he continues to work with
“He is a great running back as you guys can see,” Ballage said. “But, I have the experience and he doesn’t. I have just been able to give him little tricks of the trade and teach him little ins and outs of playing college football.”
As he continues to progress, Benjamin’s confidence might be his greatest asset. The 5-foot-10 200-pounder said he chose ASU because the inside outside zone scheme the Sun Devils plan to run fits his
“I think it is pretty much the same,”
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