TEMPE, Ariz–While many college football athletes were gushing over young running back talents such as De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon and Giovani Bernard of North Carolina, Arizona State running back D.J. Foster was putting up big numbers in a hurry as a true freshman. Now entering his sophomore season, he’s hoping to put the whole world on notice.
As a rotational running back and slot receiver last season, Foster was dynamic, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and 14 yards per reception while also scoring six times and having over 1,000 all-purpose yards. With Cameron Marshall (ASU’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns) graduating after last season, Foster and senior Marion Grice will have to step up to take the majority of the carries in Mike Norvell’s spread offense, and are ready to take on the challenge.
“It’s good to know that my game is becoming more dependable and can be used to last long drives,” Foster said. “Me and Marion (Grice) just have to endure, and we’re definitely preparing ourselves for that.”
Both Grice and Foster are “home run hitters” as far as running backs go, as Foster scored once avery 22 times he touched the ball last season. Grice would have an astounding season himself, scoring once every 7.5 touches, and insane ratio.
“Our coaches really put us into position to be those explosive guys, to be those home run hitters. The way coach Norvell and our coaches set our offense up really puts us into position to make some big plays,” he said.
Foster’s versatility could be what makes Arizona State’s spread unique to others in the Pac-12 such as Arizona and Cal. Only Oregon, with De’Anthony Thomas, has an offensive weapon that can be used in as many ways as Foster. Foster saw time last season as a running back, slot receiver, split back, wide receiver, and returner.
“(My versatility) just helps to get the offense to where it can be. With the more recruits we have coming in Jaelen Strong, Marion (Grice), and Deontre (Lewis) as weapons on offense, the sky is the limit with our offense,” he said.
The Sun Devils are entering their second full season in the Todd Graham regime, as well as their second year with offensive coordinator and spread guru Mike Norvell. Returning starters Grice, Foster, and quarterback Taylor Kelly have been outspoken about their new comfort within the system.
“I definitely feel more comfortable,” Foster said. “Everything is starting to slow down for me, and leadership-wise I’m just trying to be more vocal. I know me and Marion definitely are trying to take on a bigger challenge in leading the offense and the team as well.”
Foster has prepared for the extra carries this offseason by bulking up in his offseason workouts, and trying to keep his incredible foot speed and agility.
“I’ve worked on every part of my game: my hands, my speed, and my weight. Hopefully it can help me out this season to be more durable and hopefully it all pays off. I’ve worked hard for it,” he said.
Luckily for Todd Graham and Sun Devil fans, they still have Foster for at least this season and next season, and will get a chance to watch this talented back hopefully develop into a budding star and big name in college football.