SP Sports Weekly: New running backs compete for starting role

The three running backs are competing to replace Eno Benjamin this season

Sports editors Alex Coil and Koki Riley chat with reporter Chris Fahrendorf about his most recent story on the three new running backs for ASU football and their competition for the starting role this season. 

Read the original story here, or listen to the story on Apple Podcasts.


ALEX COIL: 

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to SP Sports Weekly, your weekly roundup of State Press Sports content. Alongside Koki Riley, I am Alex Coil and we're the sports editors at The State Press.

KOKI RILEY:

Joining us on the show now is State Press sports reporter Chris Fahrendorf to talk about his latest piece on ASU football's new three-headed running back committee. Thank you so much for joining us today, Chris 

CHRIS FAHRENDORF:

Yeah, no problem guys. It's always great being a part of this podcast. 

KOKI RILEY: 

Thank you so much, Chris. So just to start things off, what about this story interested you?

CHRIS FAHRENDORF: 

The main thing that interested me heading into this 2020 football season, for ASU, the running back position was kind of wide open. The last two years have been held down by Eno Benjamin, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Arizona Cardinals. So, he stayed home in Arizona, but you know, that kind of left a wide-open spot for this ASU football team to fill and so they brought in some guys. Rachaad White, he has the most experience of the bunch and then two freshmen and DeaMonte Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata. It's looking like it's going to be a three-back committee, like you said. But yeah, that's kind of what interested me the most was who's going to try to take over that Eno Benjamin type role, if that's what they're going to try to do in this next coming year. 

ALEX COIL:  

Now you mentioned the difference in experience between the three of these. Two are freshmen, one's an incoming junior college transfer. Other than just sheer experience, what's the difference in how they're going to be used from what the coaches have said already in practice and what their roles might be?

CHRIS FAHRENDORF:

So, one of the main things is Zak Hill. He is the new offensive coordinator for this ASU football team and in a recent interview with him, he said, he's just trying to see which backs understand the new offense, and who is making the least amount of mental errors. That's kind of what he's judging it off of right now. Other than that, he said all three of them are getting fair reps. They're all essentially getting equal reps so far and they do like all three guys. Even head coach Herm Edwards has said, you know, all three guys, he expects them to all contribute this next year to some degree and he also said it'll kind of be game plan oriented. 

So, you know, if they're looking for more of a pass-catching back, they could lean more towards Daniyel Ngata. He's only 5’9”, but he's kind of like one of those classic backs that you kind of throw some screen passes to. He's got the best hands out of the bunch. But if they're looking for some hard hitters, Rachaad White, like you mentioned, not only does he bring the most veteran presence, but he's also a super hard runner and he’s also 6’2”, so he's a big, big running back. 

KOKI RILEY: 

I know you've touched on all three of these guys a little bit, but just to give the listeners some background info on all three members of this committee, like what, where did these guys come from? 

CHRIS FAHRENDORF: 

I mean, it's a fair question, Rachaad White like I said, he's a community college transfer from Mt. San Antonio. Last year he ran for over 1200 yards and ten TDs and all of these guys, when we're looking at stats, they're going to pop off the charts. 

Daniyel Ngata, he's the past catching back that I was kind of talking about in his varsity career. In high school, he had over 1200 receiving yards, so just kind of focusing on that aspect, I think is what they, as in the coaching staff, might focus on. 

And then lastly, Deamonte Trayanum, he's not a small guy either. He's 5’11” and in recent interviews, he said the coaches like when he hits the inside holes, he's really good at finding those, but bouncing it out. He's kind of had a little bit more trouble with. But just really quickly, his numbers, he was kind of injured senior year, but in his junior year, over 1300 yards and 26 touchdowns at Archbishop Hoban. They can all be workhorse backs if need be.

ALEX COIL:

Now in the past, especially in the first couple of years under Herm Edwards, ASU, especially on the offensive side of the ball, shifted to more of a professional style football, which meant more running, you know, relying heavily on that running game to set the tone before you can open up the passing game especially with a young quarterback in Jayden Daniel's last year. 

Now we see what Jayden was able to do and he's not a veteran, but he's the most experienced of any of the really talented players in terms of who's going to touch the ball on every play. How much do you think this office is going to rely on the run game? Is it going to be the same as it, as it has been in the past? Or is it going to be complimentary football instead of let's run heavy first?

CHRIS FAHRENDORF:

With the new offensive coordinator and Zak Hill, this offense could look a lot different than recent years. The main thing is for me talking about how they're going to look, I'm just as interested as the rest of everybody else. They've kind of kept it pretty close under wraps, what they're going to be running in their first game versus USC in the Pac-12 opener. 

Comparing last year to this year, Herm Edwards, he talks about limiting the chances that Jayden Daniels took downfield just to limit those turnovers, get some reps under his belt. Like you said, be a little bit more conservative on offense this year. He's said multiple times that with a full year under his belt, they're going to be looking to take some more chances with those deep balls then than they did last year. So, I think that's a new aspect that they're going to be adding to this offense comparing last year to this year. 

KOKI RILEY

So, as you've kind of touched on this a little bit, but with Ngata and Trayanum, they were both highly rated recruits coming out of high school. But at that same time, White is not, he's a junior college transfer. So, with that said, what has sort of caught the eyes of the coaches when it comes to White? What about White has sort of stood out?

CHRIS FAHRENDORF:  

Another thing that, that we haven't even touched on yet is just his veteran presence and the leadership he's bringing to the locker room. That's another thing the coaches and all three running backs have talked about in interviews is their camaraderie together, and Rachaad has specifically mentioned how he likes to be a leader in the locker room. He likes to help out these other freshmen running backs. And so I think Herm Edwards and Zak Hill are really appreciating the fact that Rachaad is taking the time out on the sidelines, when one backs in talking to the other one about what they could do better on the field in the running back rooms, when they're watching film from practice, you know, “Oh, you know, you could have bounced this one out. You could have hit this hole better.” And that's what he said is he likes leading by example. And so I think that's a big thing that the coaching staff has loved to see from, from more veteran presence in Rachaad. 

KOKI RILEY

So finally, Chris, when you were reporting this piece, were there any sort of indications as to who might win this running back competition?

CHRIS FAHRENDORF

That's the thing, Koki, is when you first originally asked me why I wanted to write this piece, I think a lot of ASU fans and even, you know, the media covering ASU has specifically been interested who is going to take over that that role, that gap that Eno Benjamin left? 

I don't think there's a clear running back right now. And like I said earlier, Zak Hill and Herm Edwards have, I think intentionally left out a mystery going into their week one match versus USC. I don't really think they want to give much way regarding the new offence at all, or even regarding the running back depth chart. So, I really do think it could come down to what they're trying to look for regarding the offense game-by-game depending on who they face, but we're going to have to wait until week one to see how all three backs are used.

KOKI RILEY:

Chris, thank you so much for joining us in the show this week to talk about your story. 

CHRIS FAHRENDORF

Thank you Koki and Alex, loved being on here, always a great time.

ALEX COIL:

Thank you all for listening to us SP Sports Weekly. For more State Press content, visit statepress.com, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at @statepress and @statepresssport. See you all next week for the next episode of SP Sports Weekly.


Reach the reporters at ancoil@asu.edu and kbriley@asu.edu and follow @anc2018 and @KokiRiley on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


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