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The Sun Devils’ offense lost its most productive player this past season. With a gaping hole at running back with Rachaad White declaring for the draft, production on the ground this year will likely come by committee.
Redshirt freshman running back Daniyel Ngata is the guy who’s been getting the bulk of the first-team reps during spring practice. The trend continued during the team’s fourth spring session on Monday.
“Got to take on that heavy role of carrying the ball, just that toll is going to be heavier,” Ngata said. “We all know that. Now I just got to take care of my body.”
Ngata carried the ball 56 times last season for 309 rushing yards and four touchdowns. In his 10 games with at least one carry in 2021, Ngata only had two games where he carried the rock 10 or more times.
The expectation this season is Ngata could find himself with six or seven carries in a row, depending on the situation.
“To be consistent, and that’s the biggest part,” running backs coach Shaun Aguano said. “Consistent mentally, consistent on the field, if you make a mistake we talk about what’s next and moving on to the next thing, and not dwell on what just happened. Getting better and better and better the more carries he gets.”
Time will tell if Ngata has what it takes to shoulder what figures to be an intense load this season. Regardless of what lies ahead, he’s played a workhorse role in the early parts of ASU’s spring practices.
Nevertheless, Wyoming graduate transfer running back Xazavian Valladay is far too talented to just play second fiddle to Ngata. That’s where the second half of the Sun Devils’ two-headed monster comes into play.
“Fast, twitchy, I think he has a little power in him,” Ngata said when asked about Valladay’s runstyle.
The former Wyoming Cowboys running back put up 1,070 yards on 209 attempts in 2021. Valladay didn’t have a single season at Wyoming where he averaged fewer than five yards per carry.
Aguano will have an abundance of talent to utilize in his fourth season as the ASU running backs coach. While Aguano said he realizes the opportunity in place for this year’s group of tailbacks, he understands there will be a bit of a learning curve for everyone involved.
“Hopefully they transition from the classroom and the application on the field,” Aguano said. “And that’s what I’m looking for the most. The fundamental part’s making sure they’re sound fundamentally, but again the transition from the classroom and applying it on the field, that’s what I’m most concerned about.”
Other Day Four practice observations:
- The ASU quarterback competition appears to be in the hands of redshirt junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet. Bourguet looked significantly more in sync with the wide receivers throughout Monday’s media viewing.
- Redshirt junior quarterback and Alabama transfer Paul Tyson overthrew a couple passes to wide receivers where defenders weren’t present. When Tyson and Bourguet swapped targets on route combos, Bourguet completed passes on the routes that Tyson struggled to hit.
- Special advisor to the head coach Marvin Lewis spent the wide majority of the team’s first period speaking with an ASU football recruit.
- The ASU offensive line spent a good chunk of the media viewing periods working on pulling. Pulling is usually when an interior offensive lineman pulls around the offensive tackle to become one of, if not the lead blocker on a play.
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