Three new ASU running backs competing for starting role for 2020 season

Coaches say the position will be run by committee to begin the season, but they continue to search for a full-time starter

ASU football's running back job has been up for grabs since former ASU running back Eno Benjamin was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

However, after Benjamin left for the NFL, there was not a clear-cut replacement that could immediately step in and fill his shoes. So, the Sun Devils brought in three newcomers to compete for the starting role.

Junior community college transfer Rachaad White, freshmen DeaMonte Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata will make up most of the ASU running back corps this year. However, the Week 1 starter at USC is anyone’s guess.

Head coach Herm Edwards and offensive coordinator Zak Hill expect the Sun Devils to utilize a "running back by committee" at the position to start the year.

Even so, Hill said all three of the running backs are competing in every single repetition for the starting spot during practice.

“We feel really good about all three of those guys," Hill said. "They’re getting fairly equal reps and taking advantage of them. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and we can use them in different ways.”

White is a transfer from Mt. San Antonio Community College who rushed for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. Even though he possesses the most experience out of the three, the way he prepares for the season has not changed.

“I prepare like a starter. I want to be a starter," White said. "I know the competition I have in the room. We all push each other. My mindset is the same: win every day, no matter what.”

Although White has plans to be the starter, he has only good things to say about his freshman competition.

“(Their strong skillsets) are amazing to see because they’re freshmen, but they can play," White said. "They could go to other schools in the nation and play right now. They’re very talented. Very young, but they’re smart. They learn everything.”

Trayanum, a freshman from Ohio who rushed for 1,313 yards and 26 touchdowns in his last full season as a junior at Archbishop Hoban, said heading into this season, he has specifically been working on his versatility. 

“(I’m) really trying to be that every-down back, if I need to be,” Trayanum said. “Just being reliable to this offense and being available. That’s the main thing coach Herm was preaching to us, is just trying to be available for each other and that’s what my goal is: just trying to be available to the offense at whatever spot they need me to fit in.”

The other freshman running back, Ngata, recorded 697 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games his senior season at Folsom High School in California. Heading into this season, he has a more general goal than Trayanum.

ASU freshman running back Daniyel Ngata (4) catches the ball during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Tempe, Arizona

“My main goal is to stay healthy and win a lot of games,” Ngata said. “That’s our goal in our running back room and be the best we can be.”

Edwards believes the usage of the three running backs in-game will be “game-plan oriented.”

“I know Zak (Hill) believes in having three backs,” Edwards said. “We talk about that all the time, when you go into games you need to be a productive player. You’ll be judged on that.”

Although Hill sees all three running backs contributing to his team’s offense this year, he said the coaching staff is working to figure out which player best fits the system.

“We’re trying to see which guys fits which play, but also which of those guys can process what we’re doing and who’s making the most mental errors,” Hill said. “I think there’s a lot of backs and styles that will work. I’m not concerned with we need this kind of back. We just need a productive back.”

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