TEMPE, Ariz. — As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham would like to add D.J. Foster to that list.
“The guy, in my mind, that just every single day has stood out to me is D.J. Foster. Unbelievable,” Graham said. “He’s really, really gotten faster; very, very explosive in practice.”
Guess that puts an end to the worries of a sophomore slump; though the bar has been set fairly high.
Coming out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro High School, Foster earned freshman All-American honors as a dual threat in the Sun Devils’ offense. He finished second on the team in all-purpose yardage with 1,026 yards (493 on the ground and 533 receiving). He was also second on the team in yards per carry (4.8) and was third in yards per catch (14.0).
“D.J. is so versatile,” Graham said.
That versatility will once again be featured this season.
“We’ve increased his role,” running backs coach Bo Graham said.
Foster isn’t playing any more positions on the field, but he will likely see his time on the field increased because of the 20 pounds he added in the offseason.
“It’s good weight that I put on,” he said. “It’s not like fat, so I still maintain my speed and quickness. It’s good positive weight. I was just so light playing a Division I running back at 175 pounds. That’s tough to do. It was just added weight that I wanted to put on and I know that I needed and could put on.”
Said Graham about Foster who is now listed at 195 pounds, “He’s bigger. He’s faster and stronger. He’s bought in to wanting to be a complete back, wanting to get in there and do the dirty work in pass protection; and then be able to split out, run the routes. His body size right now, he can pretty much do those things. He can be an every down back. He can be an every down receiver.”
Foster said he trained his “butt off” to add the weight and is open to whatever role the coaching staff asks of him.
“This year, since I didn’t lose any quickness, I still can go in the slot and play receiver and still have the added size and be more of a durable back in the backfield. The same amount if not more,” he said.
Aside from tight end Chris Coyle, Foster was the only other player with at least one reception in every game last season. Foster seemed a natural pass catcher either coming out of the backfield or off the line of scrimmage.
“Just like in high school, when I first started on varsity I played receiver,” he said. “I came in here and I was underweight so I played receiver. I’ve always played receiver my whole life, so I felt comfortable. I feel 100 percent comfortable at both positions. I have 100 percent confidence that I can go out there and do my thing at each position.”
With the increased depth at the receiver position, Foster will likely find himself more at running back, sharing time with senior Marion Grice. Both are listed on the preseason watch list for the 2013 Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s best running back.
“I think we just both complement each other very well,” Foster said.
And while his position may not be clear, Foster is clear about his expectations for year two at ASU.
“I just want to do everything I did but better,” he said, “take it a few levels up and just be more of a leader on this team; reach more of our team goals this year, which is a Rose Bowl and in my opinion a Pac-12 championship.”